Research reports


Research is central to the work we do. We like to see that BRAC programmes have a quantifiable impact.

BRAC’s independent research department is unrivalled in the magnitude of research it produces and where possible we partner with Universities. If you’re interested in working on a research project please get in touch with our team. Here is a selection of reports. You can find more on our research portal.



Labor Markets and Poverty in Village Economies

Author(s): Oriana Bandiera, Robin Burgess, Narayan Das, Selim Gulesci, Imran Rasul, Munshi Sulaimany
Date: March 2016

Abstract: We study how women’s choices over labor activities in village economies correlate with poverty and whether enabling the poorest women to take on the activities of their richer counterparts can set them on a sustainable trajectory out of poverty. To do this we conduct a large-scale randomized control trial, covering over 21,000 households in 1,309 villages surveyed four times over a seven year period, to evaluate a program that transfers livestock assets and skills to the poorest women. At baseline, the poor mostly engage in low return and seasonal casual wage labor while wealthier women solely engage in livestock rearing.

The program enables poor women to engage in livestock rearing, increasing their labor supply and total earnings. This leads to asset accumulation (livestock, land and business assets) and poverty reduction, both accelerating after four and seven years. These gains do not come at the expense of others: non-eligibles’ livestock rearing businesses are not crowded out and wages received for casual jobs increase as the poor reduce their labor supply in such labor activities. Our results show that: (i) the poor are able to take on the work activities of the non-poor but face barriers to doing so, and, (ii) one-o¤ interventions that remove these barriers lead to sustainable poverty reduction.

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Author(s): Dariusz Dziewanski
Date: May 2015

Abstract: The scale of the outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa has decreased considerably since its peak in 2014. In Sierra Leone, the number of new cases dropped to a total of eighteen confirmed cases per week at the beginning of May – from almost four hundred in November 2015. As the most-affected West African countries move closer to zero cases of Ebola, their leaders have called for a plan for long-term regional reconstruction; stressing, in particular that the “most important long-term response to Ebola… rests in plans and strategies for economic recovery”.

With an eye on post-EVD recovery, BRAC – Sierra Leone – in partnership with Oxfam UK – implemented an extensive assessment of the effects of EVD on select districts in Sierra Leone. The objective of the Assessment of The Impact of EVD in Five Districts in Sierra Leone was to examine the effects of the EVD outbreak for the purposes of designing and implementing recovery-focused interventions in a variety of sectors in Sierra Leone. It used a two-pronged mixed methodology that consisted of household questionnaires and community-based focus group discussions (FGDs).

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Title: Contributing Factors for Low Consumption of Animal Food among Children Aged 6-23 Months in Alive and Thrive Intervention Areas of Bangladesh

Author(s): Umme Salma Mukta, Barnali Chakraborty, Umme Sayka Md. Raisul Haque, Md. Moslem Uddin Mia
Date: April 2015

Abstract: In Bangladesh about two-thirds of total food consumption is rice as main staple food, especially for the poor, in addition to some vegetables, pulses and small quantities of fish, meat, egg, etc. if and when available. The similar dietary pattern and practices were found for under-two children in the intervention areas of Alive and Thrive (A&T) project where mothers were counseled on appropriate complementary feeding practice as a component of Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF). BRAC-RED intended to explore these issues to recognize the gaps that might
be addressed to increase the consumption of protein from animal foods among the children through the IYCF interventions in A&T areas.

This study aims to identify the barriers leading to low consumption of animal foods by children aged 6-23 months in A & T intervention areas; and to assess their knowledge and practices of dietary intake through 24-hour recall.
Methods: Mixed methods were chosen to find comprehensive information in 12 upazilas, 3 from each of Barguna, Sylhet, Chittagong and Dinajpur districts. The Pusti Kormi (PK),Shasthya Shebika (SS), and mothers/caregivers enrolled in the A&T

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Title: A multifaceted program causes lasting progress for the very poor: Evidence from six countries

Author(s): Abhijit Banerjee Esther Duflo, Nathanael Goldberg, Dean Karlan, Robert Osei, William Parienté, Jeremy Shapiro, Bram Thuysbaert, Christopher Udry
Date: 2015

Abstract: We present results from six randomized control trials of an integrated approach to improve livelihoods among the very poor. The approach combines the transfer of a productive asset with consumption support, training, and coaching plus savings encouragement and health education and/or services. Results from the implementation of the same basic program, adapted to a wide variety of geographic and institutional contexts and with multiple implementing partners, show statistically significant cost-effective impacts on consumption (fueled mostly by increases in self-employment income) and psychosocial status of the targeted households. The impact on the poor households lasted at least a year after all implementation ended. It is possible to make sustainable improvements in the economic status of the poor with a relatively short-term intervention.

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Title: Good intentions don’t save lives. How do development agencies measure the effect of their aid?

Author(s): Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhurya, Andrew Jenkinsb* and Marziana Mahfuz Nanditac
Date: December 2014

Abstract: BRAC started out as a limited relief operation in 1972 in a remote region in Bangladesh and has become probably the largest nongovernmental development organisation in the world. Organising the poor using communities’ own human and material resources, BRAC has developed a holistic development approach geared towards inclusion, using tools like microfinance, education, healthcare, legal services, community empowerment, social enterprises and BRAC University. Its work now touches the lives of an estimated 135 million people in 12 countries in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. BRAC established a Research and Evaluation Division (RED) in 1975 that, over time, has grown and developed as a multidisciplinary independent research unit. The division has been playing an important role in designing BRAC’s development interventions, monitoring progress, documenting achievements and undertaking impact assessment studies. It provides an analytical basis for BRAC’s programmatic decisions, fine-tuning it for better performance and making development efforts evidence-based, effective and community-sensitive. This article uses specific examples to demonstrate how a close link between evaluation and research, and project planning and implementation can drive a dynamic process of ‘development’, both in the sense of economic and social development of communities and in the sense of institutional change and innovation within BRAC itself.

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Title: Achievements of BRAC Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme Towards Millennium Development Goals and Beyond

Author(s): Nepal C Dey and Sifat-E-Rabbi
Date: May 2013

Abstract: It is evident that the risk of death can be lessened by ensuring access to safe water, sanitation and improved hygiene practices. With this propitious wisdom, BRAC WASH programme envisage improvement in health by ensuring access to safe water, sanitation and by providing hygiene education to all including men, women, adolescent girls and boys, and children. But it is given that poverty and physical facilities for life living and the environment act as impediments towards improving this situation. Thus, to overcome such constraint and to improve health status of the rural poor, BRAC WASH programme has been launced in 150 upazilas (sub-districts) in three phases effective middle of 2006. The BRAC Research and Evaluation Division conducted baseline, midline and end line surveys in 50 upazilas of the first phase. The study evaluated the impact of the programme on various issues related to water, sanitation and hygiene at household and educational institutions.

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Author(s): Marcella McClatchey1
Date: April 2013

Abstract: This paper uses survey data and quantitative analysis to assess the economic impact of BRAC Uganda’s microfinance program on participants. The study finds that BRAC’s program seems to confer significant positive benefits to borrowers. These include an increase in total savings and assets, greater consumption in the form of more expensive and nutritious food, and the resources and incentives to start a household business. My results also suggest that participating in microfinance increases welfare and could be a valid strategy for promoting development in Uganda. The results of the analysis vary considerably depending on the statistical technique used. These non-robust results, combined with issues during data collection that prevented proper randomization, make it difficult to make causal claims about the effect of BRAC’s microfinance program in this context. In addition to ensuring proper randomization, future studies should be spread over a multi-year period to determine the long-term effects of microfinance on borrowers. Additionally, because BRAC’s strategy often involves using microcredit as a platform to deliver other development services, more studies are needed that examine the effects of microfinance combined with the other interventions BRAC Uganda promotes. Lastly, future work should seek to better understand the population BRAC’s programs are reaching.

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Title: can basic entrepreneurship transform the economic lives of the poor?

Author(s): Oriana Bandiera, Robin Burgess, Narayan Das, Selim Gulesci, Imran Rasul, Munshi Sulaiman
Date: April 2013

Abstract: The world’s poorest people lack capital and skills and toil for others in occupations that others shun. Using a large-scale and long-term randomized control trial in Bangladesh this paper demonstrates that sizable transfers of assets and skills enable the poorest women to shift out of agricultural labor and into running small businesses. This shift, which persists and strengthens after assistance is withdrawn, leads to a 38% increase in earnings. Inculcating basic entrepreneurship, where severely disadvantaged women take on occupations which were the preserve of non-poor women, is shown to be a powerful means of transforming the economic lives of the poor.

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Title: Empowering adolescent girls: evidence from a randomized control trial in Uganda

Author(s): Oriana Bandiera, Niklas Buehren, Robin Burgess, Markus Goldstein, Selim Gulesci,
Imran Rasul and Munshi Sulaimany
Date: October 2012

Abstract: Nearly 60% of Uganda’s population is aged below 20. This generation faces health challenges associated with HIV, coupled with economic challenges arising from an uncertain transition into the labor market. We evaluate the impacts of a programme designed to empower adolescent girls against both challenges through the simultaneous provision of: (i) life skills to build knowledge and reduce risky behaviors; (ii) vocational training enabling girls to establish small-scale enterprises. The randomized control trial tracks 4, 800 girls over two years. We find the programme significantly improves HIV and pregnancy related knowledge, as well as corresponding risky behaviors: among those sexually active, self-reported routine condom usage increases by 50%. Furthermore, from a baseline of 21%, there is the near elimination of girls reporting having recently had sex unwillingly. On outcomes related to vocational training, the intervention raised the likelihood of girls being engaged in income generating activities by 35%, mainly driven by increased participation in self-employment. The findings suggest combined interventions might be more effective among adolescent girls than single-pronged interventions aiming to change risky behaviors solely through related education programmes, or to improve labor market outcomes solely through vocational training.

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Title: Social Network and Financial Literacy among Rural Adolescent Girls: Qualitative Assessment of BRAC’s SoFEA Programme

Author(s): Md. Kamruzzaman, Nusrat Zaitun Hossain, Anindita Bhattacharjee, Arifeen Akter,Wameq Raza, Mohammad Abdul Malek, Narayan C Das
Date: September 2012

Abstract: NBRAC’s innovative initiative ‘Social and Financial Empowerment of Adolescents’ (SoFEA) launched in 2009 works to empower adolescent girls both socially and financially through creating “social network” among its members. Apart from providing social interaction opportunities, the clubs also provide the members with social and legal awareness lessons, as well as trainings on life-skills, livelihoods and financial literacy. This qualitative exploration attempts to gauge two important issues: to what extent the social networks of the girls are transformed due to the intervention, and effect of the financial literacy training on participant girls’ lives, especially in the forms of knowledge retention, implementation and planning for the future. It also aims to identify the extent to which these girls have formed networks within the community, and finally analyses the members’ institutional network and involvement with income generating activities (IGA) through using the financial literacy training. Following a qualitative exploratory framework, it was found that clubs have been quite successful in making the relationship between the girls and their parents, relatives, neighbours, friends and community people stronger despite various obstacles, such as- early marriage, misconceptions of kith and kin, and concern for daughters’ safety and betterment-which are quite common in the rural context of Bangladesh. Findings also suggest that the girls have developed a sense of ownership towards the club over time, although they usually do not yet feel confident enough to be able to run the club by themselves. BRAC SoFEA programme thus still has a substantial responsibility left in fostering the girls’ sense of independence in this regard.

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Title: Manoshi: Community Health Solutions in Bangladesh. Impact Evaluation Surveys in Dhaka Urban Slums, 2007, 2009, & 2011

Author(s): Nurul Alam, Dilruba Begum, Syed Masud Ahmed, Peter Kim Streatfield
Date: Dec 2011

Abstract: As part of the impact evaluation activities of the Manoshi project, three community-based cross-sectional surveys (baseline, midline, and endline) are conducted in Dhaka urban slums in 2007, 2009, and 2011. A two-stage random cluster-sampling was used for selecting 100 slum-clusters (50 each from the project and the comparison areas in baseline survey and 67 from the project area and 33 from the comparison area in the midline and the endline surveys). The sample-size in the baseline survey was 2,874 [(1,284 women having infants and 1,590 having children aged 1-4 year(s)]; the sample-size in the midline was 3608 [(1,549 women having infants and 2,049 having children aged 1-4 year(s)]; and that the endline survey was 3,226 [(1,549 women having infants and 1,677 having children aged 1-4 year(s)]. Each survey obtained data from two groups of respondents in the project and the comparison areas.

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Title: Assessment of the Short-Run Impact of BRAC’s Agriculture and Livestock Programme in Uganda

Author(s): Proloy Barua
Date: September 2011

Abstract: Agriculture constitutes a key sector for the Ugandan economy, as it does in many developing countries. It contributes 21 percent to Uganda’s gross domestic product, 90 percent of its total export earnings, 73 percent to national employment (UNHS 2005-06), and about 50 percent to household income (UBOS, 2010; 2006). Moreover, agriculture is the major source both of food for the population and of raw materials for Uganda’s industry. Despite the importance of agriculture to the economy, the sector has not performed consistently well in recent years. Agricultural sector growth declined from 7.1 percent in 2000-01 to less than one percent in 2005-06 and 2006-07, before recovering to 2.6 percent in 2008-09 (MFPED, 2010). It is important, therefore, that the agriculture sector receives special focus in order to improve its performance. BRAC Uganda is a relatively new arrival, joining NGOs and bilateral agencies such as FAO, Catholic Relief Services, Self Help, Send a Cow Uganda, Kulika Charitable Trust, DENIVA, Techno Serve, and World Vision, many of which have been working in Uganda for more than 10 years (Kabbiri 2010).

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Title: Sustaining Health: The Role of BRAC’s Community Health Volunteers in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Uganda

Author(s): Laura Reichenbach, Shafiun Nahin Shimul
Date: September 2011

Abstract: This study fills an important gap in current understanding about a critical aspect of BRAC’s health programmes – the financial sustainability of the community health volunteers (commonly referred to as Shasthya Shebikas in Bangladesh) that are the cornerstone of BRAC’s health programmes. Shasthya Shebikas (SS) are a cadre of female volunteers that are recruited and trained by BRAC to provide a range of essential healthcare services to their communities. What is unique about BRAC’s approach is that, while these women can be considered volunteers they do not receive a salary or monthly stipend, they are provided with financial incentives on the sale of basic medicines and selected health commodities to their community. This sets BRAC apart from other health programmes that rely on either entirely salaried or volunteer cadres of community health workers (CHW) and raises important questions about the financial and programmatic sustainability and replicability of BRAC’s approach.

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Title: Economic and Social Analysis of Primary Education in Bangladesh: A Study of BRAC Interventions and Mainstream Schools

Author(s): Alia Ahmad, Iftekharul Haque
Date: July 2011

Abstract: Bangladesh has achieved significant progress in enrolment in primary schools including gender parity. Currently, two major problems are dropout before completing primary education and poor quality of education with low attainment of basic competencies. These problems are especially acute among children of poor families. While the government of Bangladesh has the major responsibility of primary education, and it aims at universal access to education through government schools, the needs of the very poor are largely catered by non-formal and religious schools.

BRAC has, in the past two decades, made significant progress in providing primary education to poor children through targeted interventions. The type of education provided by diverse actors is likely to have different impact on individuals and society. There are, however, very few studies on economic and social analysis of primary education in Bangladesh, especially with respect to education provided by different types of schools. There is also a lack of cost-benefit analysis of primary education, and cost-effectiveness study of specific interventions. This study focuses on the diverse outcomes of primary education, and private and social costs of providing primary education by BRAC and mainstream providers in rural Bangladesh.

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