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Climate-Resilient Livelihoods

When there isn't enough food

Is it normal to have to skip one meal a day? Since the handful of rice has to be begged for and spinach leaves are picked from the dusty wayside - and in the end even that is not enough. Or the meals are so one-sided that they lead to deficiency symptoms and illness. This is not how it should be but it is still a daily occurrence for many people.

Structural poverty

Studies by the Food and Agriculture Organization show that 23 million people in Bangladesh were malnourished even before the Corona pandemic. That's 23 million individual stories of women, men, children in unbearable situations. Most of these people live in the northwest of the country. We know: No one in the world has to go hungry, because enough food can be produced. So why is the situation in Bangladesh the way it is?

We work with people who are affected by structural poverty. Corruption, abuse of power, and inequality of distribution keep these people trapped. Social or development programs that exist in Bangladesh do not reach them or exclude them. People have no advocates, support, and usually not even access to simple information about their own rights. How are they supposed to free themselves from poverty?

How does NETZ work?

How can families break out of the vicious circle of poverty?
How can acute hunger and disenfranchisement be managed at the same time? In our work with the poorest, we have developed a model for how to do this. By having our partner NGOs always do three things at once: Imparting knowledge, improving the economic situation and building solidarity structures.

At the beginning of a project, there is an exchange with each other. The women who attend the projects with their families discuss their skills and problems, exchange knowledge and find their common interests. They discuss what it means to get seed capital from the project. How they can deal with it, what it means for them in practical terms but also in perspective. This is important, because otherwise there is a danger of being overwhelmed by the new opportunities.

The women decide for themselves whether their source of income should be a vegetable garden, a small livestock farm, egg sales or small businesses such as a tea store or basket weaving. The families' start-up capital is financed by NETZ. Their economic success, which almost all of them can show after some time, means in concrete terms: the families provide for themselves, act cooperatively and revive handicraft traditions.

Strengthened as a family, the project participants take on social responsibility and form a self-confident civil society in remote regions - in other words, where women, children and indigenous communities are often repressed. This is achieved by the women forming local groups. This is an important aspect of every project, because it creates long-term structures. In this way, the women advise each other, help each other and are contact persons for other disadvantaged people. The groups are an expression of community and inclusion, but also provide a very practical space for meetings, joint training sessions or courses on important topics such as health care, food storage and social services.

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With a one-time payment of 135 €...

a family gets the start-up capital it needs to generate a sustainable, climate-resistant income.

With a one-time payment of 135 €...

a family gets the start-up capital it needs to generate a sustainable, climate-resistant income.

With a one-time payment of 135 €...

a family gets the start-up capital it needs to generate a sustainable, climate-resistant income.

What women and families have achieved in 2020

    • 13,824 women generated income independently and are organized in village groups
    • 55,072 people have secured their food during one of the worst crises in decades by relying on existing self-help structures
    • 6,979 women have attended training in agriculture, finance, women's rights and disaster preparedness and are applying their newly acquired knowledge
    • in 8,485 cases, 654 village groups have ensured that people receive the social services to which they are entitled
    • More than 8,500 families were able to have their livestock vaccinated against diseases
A total of 64,425 families

have built new livelihoods through NETZ projects

249.759 people

have overcome poverty and hunger as a result

85 percent

of people have sustainably consolidated their living situation

Learn more
about food security and our approach

  • Why does NETZ not provide microcredits?

    The microfinance system has been established in Bangladesh and India since the mid-1970s and was considered a minor revolution at the time: for the first time, people were given the opportunity to borrow money from development organizations on a short-term basis without becoming dependent on the often dubious local middlemen who worked with interest rates of up to 250 percent. Since then, microloans have become a fixed part or even main focus of business for many organizations.

    But even with these micro credits, the work must yield a profit in order to secure a livelihood. Consequently, these credits are primarily granted to people who are able to repay at least a small amount. This reduces the risk. A major problem here is that the people concerned cannot always use their microcredits productively. Instead, they will use them for food and subsistence - and thus use up the money in the short term. As a result, they have to keep borrowing new money and are driven into debt. In comparison, people who are already living in extreme poverty and have neither property nor income are unable to repay interest amounts from the outset, no matter how small. They are therefore considered uncreditworthy and do not even get the chance to receive the organizations' quick loan.

    For NETZ and its local partners, the focus is on working with precisely these people: single women, indigenous communities, people with disabilities, and families who suffer from chronic malnutrition and whose average daily per capita income of less than 30 euro cents is far below the international poverty line. Because repayments are not feasible for those affected due to their living situation, especially at the beginning of the cooperation, NETZ and partners have developed the approach of start-up "capital". This means: The affected people receive productive goods - mostly animals or agricultural goods - with which they can build up an economic existence. In return, they do not have to pay anything back and thus have neither a debt to pay nor time pressure - so that they can concentrate entirely on the sustainable development of their homes.

  • Why are women the main project participants?

    NETZ's work focuses on the most disadvantaged people who fall through the cracks even in other poverty reduction projects: People with disabilities, in extreme poverty, without their own land, the elderly or indigenous people. Among these groups, women are particularly vulnerable because they are structurally disadvantaged and have no voice in Bangladesh's male-dominated society - and especially in rural, socially and religiously conservative areas. Within families, too, the position of many women is weak because they are dependent on their husbands or older sisters-in-law, do not have their own money and are sometimes only allowed to leave the house with their consent.

    Due to the economic and social situation of many women in the NETZ working areas, women are selected as project participants. They are responsible for managing the start capital and the project results. However, this benefits the whole family anyway - including the husbands. Surveys show that husbands support their wives and, in the vast majority, do not feel disadvantaged or dishonored in their position within the family. This is because, until then, the family has mostly shared the living situation and challenges of poverty. Moreover, many women in NETZ projects are single because their husbands have left them or they are widowed. In this case, women have a much harder time within society and are then part of NETZ's most important target group.

  • What happens to the village groups after a project ends?

    The core of the NETZ approach is the establishment of groups in which project participants organize themselves. These groups serve as a central platform for exchange, cohesion and further development of the women. They meet regularly, learn work and cultivation methods, for example, or save small amounts together and keep records.

    The groups are an expression of solidarity, but they also have a principle: because they are the basis for later independence after projects are completed. Starting from village groups, associations on higher levels also develop in the course of the projects. An example: Each village group from a district sends a representative to found a district group, so-called federations. This group then represents the interests of all project participants within an entire district, for example in discussions with regional politicians. When a project ends, the federations remain in existence and receive limited financial support from NETZ - until they are financially independent through their own income (e.g. membership fees). In order to be able to continue their important work on political-structural issues and poverty in the region, they apply for licenses to be able to continue as small social organizations in their own right. So far, ??? federations have continued to develop independently after the project has ended.

Our principles


NETZ works together with experienced local partners. Projects are designed and implemented together.


Women and families decide for themselves how to participate in projects. Their knowledge and skills come into play.


Particularly disadvantaged social groups are focused on and are strengthened by the projects.

Do you have any questions about us?

Hello, I am Habibur Rahman Chowdhury, Country Director of NETZ. Don't hesitate to contact us.