15 The Story of Green Hill: Breaking Through the Challenges

Moung Thowai Ching


Since its inception March 02 1994, Green Hill, a Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region-based NGO in Bangladesh, has been actively engaged in empowering the poorer and deprived communities with special focus on women, children, marginalized people, extreme poor and Indigenous communities living in the hard to reach and unserved areas. While working in the community for over28 years, the organization has gained multi-sectoral working experience in the areas of: WASH[1], livelihoods, improving the quality of primary education, enterprise development and promotion, women empowerment, strengthening the LGI[2]s, basic and reproductive health, market development, research, nutrition, social protection, value chain, good governance, community legal services, democracy, climate change resilience, Covid-19, disaster risk reduction and emergency response.. Green Hill NGO has been supported by a large number of international organizations including: FCDO[3] (formerly DFID[4]), USAID[5], CIDA[6], GTZ[7], AusAID[8], UKAID[9], SDC[10], ICIMOD[11], Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, UNDEF[12], UNICEF[13], ADB-MOCHTA[14], UNFPA[15], UN Women, Start Fund, ActionAid Bangladesh, Water Aid Bangladesh, Plan International Bangladesh, Save the Children Bangladesh, Give2 Asia, Community Partners International-CPI, SAWF[16], and Cord-UK.

Following is the highlight of some achievements:

  1. Sustainable change of the life and livelihoods of the ethnic communities through diversification of fixed market days:

During the military regime (1983-1990) of the country, the CHT experienced massive human rights violation including a series of genocides, deprivation, oppression many other atrocities and lack of freedom of speech. To subdue the democratic demand of the Indigenous communities for self-determination and also to cripple their life and economy, in the name of security, “Saturday and Wednesday” were forcibly introduced as fixed days of the week in the CHT so that the local hilly people were forced to sell their agricultural products to the powerful market syndicate without having a fair price. Green Hill, with the support of Action Aid Bangladesh, mobilized the local communities from a human  rights-based perspective. Through empowerment, they  united with other relevant stakeholders with the demand to diversify the market days according to the local people’s choice and context. 30 villages submitted a memorandum to the Chairman of Rangamati Hill District Council which was accepted by the council as special priority. The council called a meeting with all concerned in the department on February 20, 2002. In that meeting, it was decided that the local Upazila administration along with local elected representatives, traditional leaders, bazar Chowdhury and relevant others would determine the market days according to the local need. Since then, the local communities in the Rangamati hill district started having significant benefits out of this important decision .

  1. Good governance improved the quality of primary education

We at Green Hill believe that the good education is the backbone of a nation .  However, there were concerns with the education in Green Hills. Proxy teaching[17] practice was the growing burning issue. Very sadly, it was further perpetuated by the local hill district council (HDC) when the primary education department came under the supervision and management of the HDC (it applies only in the CHT, not nationally). HDC was supposed to be electing teachers, but it only had one election at the beginning and then till to date it didn’t happen any further . Under that circumstance, appointing incompetent teachers through fixing maximum bribery and systematic manipulation of the test and thereby consciously disregarding the competent candidates who might not have been so solvent to offer higher amount of bribery became the set practice . Green Hill, with the support of ActionAid Bangladesh, stocked the voice and recommendations of teachers, students, parents, education officers, scholars, educationists and media and finally organized a seminar with the HDC, policy makers and all major relevant stakeholders on 2nd June 2002 and reflected the findings, issues and recommendations. Dr. Manik Lal Dewan, was the Chairman of Rangamati HDC and before that he also served as Dean for a government university. He heard all issues and recommendations from the audience with deep patience. Finally, he declared his deeper commitment, firm determination and requested all teachers, officers and parents and local leaders to pay serious attention in this regard.. He duly kept his word. Heled the entire process of teachers’ appointment. For the first time, a significant number of competent teachers got hired for teachingwithout any bribery.. Within the next 1-2 years, for the first time ever, students from these remote schools were excelling and some were getting scholarships. The whole system rapidly improved.

  1. Changing the life and livelihoods of remote hilly people through safe water, sanitation and hygiene promotion:

Conventional tube wells and ring wells are not feasible for the Grass Hills people, who live in the hills. Rural women would need 3-4 hours per day to fetch water from distant sources, experiencing severe hardships and risking their lives. Many adolescent girls would need to drop  out of school because of the time needed for collecting water. In 1998, access to safe water in the CHT was about 15%. Open defecation was common phenomenon in the rural areas. The Grassy Hills community connected with  WaterAid Bangladesh (WAB) and shared their innovative idea of a Gravity Flow System (GFS). To make this happen, WAB generously helped Green Hill to receive technical training in Nepal . Having returned to the country with the further support of WAB, the organization for the first time in Bangladesh successfully supplied safe water to the remote hill people through an innovative Gravity Flow System (GFS). GFS subsequently proved to be an effective water solution and very soon it stirred the mindset of the policy makers and other donors. The model was

Women and children enjoying water supply from the tap stand of GFS. Photo: Moung Thowai Ching

shared in the WWA[18] contest organized by WWC[19] in Kyoto in 2003. Later, with the support of DANIDA, DFID, AusAID, SDC and UNICEF from 1999-2022, Green Hill implemented the GFS in 3 hill districts and supplied safe water to more than 2 million people. The organization  created locally specific education and communication materials.

4.: Graduating the extreme poor from their extreme poverty:

Due to various reasons, the CHT region is one of the poverty-stricken regions of the country. Like many other parts of the country, the extreme poor are always vulnerable, voiceless and powerless. Till 2009, there was no special provision of support exclusively for the extreme poor from the end of GOB or NGOs. So, the extreme poor always suffered in their vicious cycle of extreme poverty. From 2009-2016, with the support of UKAID through national SHIREE[20] program, the organization directly supported  10,000 extreme poor families to lift themselves out of extreme poverty through awareness building, skill transfer, conditional cash grant support, agriculture and market development, village savings and loan and financial inclusion. The experience was shared at the Tripura University in India.

  1. Improving the health condition of the remote hilly people through midway home clinics

To deliver the basic health service due to geographic challenges and departmental limitations, the effort of GOB and NGOs is mainly limited to district and upazila level. Therefore, because the poor people live in the remote and hard to reach areas, access to health services in not possible. Women, children and extremely poor people are the most vulnerable. As well, due to geographic distance, lack of awareness, information and transportation support and also lack of financial ability, poor villagers from the remote areas do not even usually want to come to receive health services from the government Upazila/sub district-based hospital. However, since 2010,  with the support of USAID through Pathfinder International followed by national NGO health Services, Green Hill has been implementing the health project in 3 hill districts by engaging local community and providing them information and training. Initially it was limited to only the Rangamati hill district. Later, it was extended to 3 hill districts and came under the national programmatic platform, Smiling Sun. Locally, it is known as Midway Home, and the health services focus on basic and reproductive health. As well, Midway Home provides a  mini test lab service.

As part of the implementation process, UNFPA also has been providing complementary support for the last few years. Last year, CPI also provided a complementary support. So far, more than 0.2 million people have been served by Green Hill health workers and community organizers. At the moment, the project being titled, Advancing Universal Health Coverage (AUHC) is being implemented in 3 hill districts with the support of USAID complemented by UNFPA through Chemonics International and Save the Children International respectively .

  1. Delivering Community legal services:

Increasing gender-based violence is a growing burning issue in the CHT. Green Hill, with the support of UKAID through the national Community Legal Service (CLS) program, implemented a project in 2 hill districts through which more than 35,000 people, mainly women and adolescent girls, were benefited. They received much needed legal services. As well, significant adolescent girls were supported to end their unwanted child marriage. The organization received BEACON award at the national level for providing legal services in the CHT.

  1. Helping survivors get back to normal life affected by disaster:

In June, 2017, the CHT experienced an unprecedented deadly landslide disaster which snatched the valuable life of at least 131 people and left many people with injuries. Out of 3 hill districts, Rangamati had the worst experience. It was a big challenge to support the survivors  in recovering from their psychological trauma.. Green Hill, with the support of UNFPA and followed by Start Fund through Action Aid Bangladesh, started responding to the emergency situation in terms of providing psycho-social counseling to the affected people living at the temporary shelters, as well as providing referral service to the victims of sexual abuse or harassment to get medical and legal help. Later, girls and women (13-50 years) were given a women dignity kit . Later, UNICEF and UN Women joined in the process to support other affected people living in the Rangamati and Bandarban hill district. UN Women published their contribution in their UN Women portal[21]. More than 15,000 affected people from Rangamati and Bandarban district were supported.       

Questions for Reflections:

  1.  What are the issues experienced by the Indigenous communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh? Do you see any similarities among the issues that Indigenous communities experiencing in your country? If yes, what are the similar problems?
  2. What types of agencies/funders support community development initiatives by Green Hills? How do the partners work in the community development initiatives in the Chittagong Hill Tracts? Discuss their approaches in community development.


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[1] Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

[2] Local Government Institutions

[3] Foreign Commonwealth Development Office

[4] The Department for International Development

[5] US Agency for International Development

[6] Canadian International Development Agency

[7] Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit GmbH (German: German Agency for Technical Cooperation)

[8] Australian Agency for International Development

[9] United Kingdom Agency for International Development

[10] Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

[11] International Center for Integrated Mountain Development

[12] United Nations Democracy Education Fund

[13] The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund

[14]Asian Development Bank and Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs supported for the project, Chittagong Hill Tracts Rural Development-CHTRDP-Phase-2

[15] United Nations Population Fund

[16] South Asia Women Fund

[17] Proxy teaching means that a  local person, most cases incompetent and less educated, serves on behalf of the government appointed school teacher. This happens because trained and regulated teachers do not want to teach in remote communities.

[18] World Water Action

[19] World Water Council

[20] Stimulating Households Income Resulting in Economic Empowerment. A UKAID challenge fund exclusively supported to the extreme poor families in the country.

[21] After the landslides-Bangladeshi women build resilience in the face of escalating climate disasters Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2018


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