Heifer International is expanding its agricultural community development model in South Asia by expanding its work into Bangladesh and opening a country program office there.

Bangladesh is considered one of the poorest countries in the world.

Heifer’s Nepal country office began to work with Bangladeshi nonprofit partners in 2006, but due to the country’s widespread poverty, Heifer decided to increase its efforts by opening a country program to oversee project planning and implementation.

The first project in Bangladesh will assist 4,000 families by working through women’s groups to organize savings and credit programs. Additionally, the project will assist participants with cattle farming, provide technical training and community empowerment.

“We have recognized that when the women receive this kind of training, the family benefits a great deal,” said Mahendra Lohani, Vice President of Asia/South Pacific Programs.

The project will also pilot a program to determine whether additional training in community organization and civic engagement can make small loans more effective.

Bangladesh is the epicenter of microfinance, also known as microlending, in which small, affordable loans are made to the poor to help them expand family businesses. Project managers will compare the performance of microloan beneficiaries with and without the training to test results for possible microlending improvements.

Bangladesh, a country approximately the size of Iowa, supports the eighth-largest population in the world with 162 million people. More than 43 percent of its population lives on less than $1.25 per day.

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