Hunger, place and seasonality : understanding Monga vulnerability in northwest Bangladesh
Ansari, Mohammad Nayeem Aziz
MetadataShow full item record
This research sets out to understand risk and resilience from the perspective of very vulnerable households in Rangpur region of northwest Bangladesh, who are exposed to the Monga. The local term ‘Monga’ is defined as seasonal hunger and food insecurity or most commonly a famine-like situation that hits every year in two spells: the severe period during the Bengali months of Ashwin – Kartik (Mid September – Mid November), and the less severe one from Chaittra – Baishak (Mid March – Mid May). A group of people, particularly female headed households, agriculture wage labourers, marginal and small scale deficit farmers are the most Monga affected due primarily to seasonal unemployment and lack of cash, related with the local single to two rice crop economy that is entirely inadequate to meet their needs in those two periods. The Monga situation is more severe some years because of wide scale impact of natural disasters like floods, riverbank erosion, drought and, the worst situation is to be found on the river (char) islands. Recent Monga severity suggests that the situation is not markedly different from what it was. Situating this seasonal hunger, the research argues that the interpretation of Monga is not independent of an understanding of the socio-economic, political and their relational interactions that ultimately configure and reconfigure it. The research motivation thus derives from the need to examine Monga vulnerability and so deepen our insights into the seasonal hunger and food insecurity experiences of the affected households. This thesis explores the underlying multiple factors that (re)shapes food vulnerability at the household level and, how the affected households cope with and how their strategies are played out in their own particular risk and resilience contexts. Eventually, it aims to create a new vocabulary around the old problem of the Monga by examining how Monga vulnerability contributes to chronic poverty and food insecurity at the household level and vice-versa. This research is entirely qualitative in nature. Empirical evidence was collected from five villages in the Rangpur region and associated GO-NGO sources using different ethnographic and qualitative methods. The findings highlight that the Monga predisposes the households to multi-sphere experiences of hunger (i.e. qualitative, quantitative and physiological) and poverty. It is not just one consequence of income poverty; rather, the social and livelihood mechanisms of poor households are dysfunctional, multiply rooted in their entitlements, capabilities, their ways of living and coping, and the negotiations they have with the complex network of institutions that affect households both singly and synergistically. The macroeconomic constraints limit the political economy choices at the micro level and the existence of Monga can be explained by the limited, inadequate and indifferent performance of the different actors that reproduce poverty and chronic food insecurity. The present research reveals that breaking the recurrence of Monga requires its repoliticisaiton. Important factors in this regard are the establishment of food rights and an increase in household resilience.