“Monga,” a pre-harvest seasonal famine that occurs nearly twice every year, hits the rural northwestern districts of Bangladesh especially hard. Faced with fewer job opportunities, many residents with the means of moving migrate to other towns. However, those living below the poverty line or close to subsistence–nearly 5.3 million people–end up starving.
In an effort to solve these inequalities, Mushfiq Mobarak, Professor of Economics, and his team at the Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale (Y-RISE) have been researching the effects of cash grants on seasonal out-migration. Their recent study–encompassing 1,900 households across 100 villages in the Lalmonirhat and Kurigram districts–provided $20 cash grants to subsidize the costs of moving and uncovered substantial benefits.
Overall, the results point to the importance of microfinance in overcoming the economic uncertainties of migration and poverty. Financial support increased caloric intake, food expenditures, and promoted migration even after it ended. Migration rates increased from 34% to 57% in the presence of cash incentives, while daily food intake increased as much as 500-700 calories. Implemented on larger scales, this could offer a promising protective measure against widespread famine and poverty.
In collaboration with Yale’s Innovations for Poverty Action, Bangladesh (IPA-B) initiative, this research was scaled up by Evidence Action to provide over 200,000 loans in 2021. Similar trials are currently being planned for regions in Indonesia and Nepal.
The multimedia presentation “Ending Seasonal Hunger” shows the faces and stories of participants of the microfinancing project.
PhD, Jerome Kasoff ‘54 Professor of Management and Economics, Yale University, Yale School of Management, Founder and Faculty Director, Yale Research Initiative on Innocation and Scale
PhD, MA, MA, MPP Assistant Professor of Political Science, Research Fellow, Institution of Social and Policy Studies