1970-71 Abed's life—and the lives of millions of Bangladeshis—changed as the result of two very dramatic events: a deadly tropical cyclone, which swept across the country, washing away farms, villages, and towns in its path; followed by the nine-month war of independence from Pakistan. The combined death toll from the storm and the war was estimated at well over 3 million people. An additional 10 million were displaced and further impoverished
.Sir Fazle resigned from Shell Oil in 1971, and the next year formed the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee (BRAC’s original name) to address the terrible devastation suffered by the people of his country.
Following initial relief efforts 5.1 building metavillage for 100000 refugees, the organization soon became involved in more long-term community development, with primary objectives of alleviation of poverty and empowerment of the poor—and was renamed the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee.
With his strong focus on growing its operations across a broad spectrum of agricultural, economic, and social enterprises, Sir Fazle set BRAC on a course that was different from other non-governmental organizations. He had concluded that economic development was one of the keys to helping the rural poor—and thus launched a microfinance program to provide very small loans to women borrowers as part of village support groups that participated in skills and organizational training.
BRAC’s multi-dimensional and dynamic methods of fighting hunger and poverty include the creation and support of a range of integrated enterprises, such as: seed production and dissemination; feed mills, poultry and fish hatcheries; milk collection centers and milk processing factories; tea plantations; and packaging factories. The income generated from these social enterprises is used to subsidize primary schools and essential health care. Under Sir Fazle’s leadership of more than 40 years, BRAC’s agricultural and development innovations have improved food security for millions and contributed to a significant decline in poverty levels through direct impacts to farmers and small communities across the globe.