Crisscrossed by numerous small and big rivers, the low-lying delta plain which is Bangladesh, battles countless climate calamities over the years. The increasing rate of climate impacts such as cyclones, thunderstorms and flooding are creating long-lasting problems in the region, which is already one of the most climate-vulnerable in the country.
Most of the coastal people depend largely on natural resources for economic survival. As resources get depleted or destroyed due to climate calamities, so do their livelihoods which pushes them into deeper pockets of poverty.
To support these climate vulnerable communities, particularly women in their fight against climate calamities, Local Government Initiative on Climate Change (LoGIC) project has been designed meticulously to support roughly 400,000 most vulnerable households in 72 unions in seven most climate vulnerable districts of Bangladesh– Khulna, Sunamganj, Kurigram, Bagerhat, Barguna, Patuakhali and Bhola. LoGIC project is a joint initiative between the Government of Bangladesh, European Union (EU), Sweden, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) which is promoting local-led climate-adaptive livelihoods by providing a Community Resilience Fund (CRF) to the most vulnerable climate women. This CRF of approximately USD 340 (BDT 29,000) is allotted at a beneficiary level to the most hard-hit climate vulnerable individuals as a means of direct support to undertake climate adaptive livelihoods with immediate benefits for their income.
Tondra Mollik, wife of a daily-wage laborer and a mother of two, was struggling to undertake rice cultivation due to increasing flooding in her area. The constant floods and increased salinity intrusion in water destroyed her crops- which is her only means of income. Tondra, along with 24 other vulnerable women in Joykha village under Sonailtala Union, in Mongla Upazila, Bagerhat district, each received BDT 29,480 (US$ 349) in their bank accounts which were opened with the support of the project. These 24 women jointly formed a group to pool their individual grants for investment in a climate adaptive business model, while keeping aside some of the grant for individual activities such as homestead gardening and poultry. Together these women leased land with advice and support from the local government and project staff and invested in saline and flood tolerant rice cultivation as a climate adaptive livelihood activity.
“Together, we have developed a climate adaptive business plan and accordingly leased 4.6 hector lands from landowners within our surrounding neighbourhood and prepared the land for seedling production of saline and flood tolerant rice varieties such as BR-11 and BRRI dhan-52. As a group we obtained around BDT 6.5 lac in rice production by investing BDT 2.5 lac with a culture period of only 120 days during the monsoon season. The climate adaptive cultivation through a group-based approach is surely life-changing for us. This would not have happened if all of us women didn’t pool the money and invested jointly,” she said.
Evidence supports that, in many ways, the CRF utilized through a group approach has given positive results in being much more effective and sustainable. In the group approach, the accumulated budget soars high, which allows the members to invest big, ultimately resulting in higher revenues. When these women work in a team, they are much more active; leadership and team spirit create a big thrive in the business. From management to risk mitigation, bookkeeping to accounts, everything is easier and more organised in this way.
However, the current group-based approach that these women are undertaking are not formalized, as they are not registered with any institution and lacks documentation which may threaten its sustainability, legitimacy, and accountability. Hence, the aim of the LoGIC project was to go one step further by ensuring that these groups of vulnerable women can permanently lift themselves from impacts of climate change by engaging in long term climate adaptive business solutions by linking them to long term formalized government institutional arrangements. To ensure that group-based approaches and the entire business model planning are not susceptible to discontinuation once the project tenure ends, LoGIC ensured the formalisation of these women groups into institutional women’s cooperatives.
This will ensure that individuals do not terminate their participation from business or use the profit for their personal expenses instead of rolling it back into the business. Moreover, future loan prospects, legal documentations, available training and capacity building and any aid from the Government will be easily accessible and available for these women groups once they are registered as women’s cooperatives and formally institutionalised.
The vital objectives of this initiative of institutionalisation were to capacitate these marginalised women with the long-term access to financial institutions and loan facilities from different financial institutions through a credit guarantee scheme, develop their knowledge and skills, and ensure justified values of their produce. Moreover, the cooperatives will contribute to the supply chain, link the women entrepreneurs with markets so that they are able to identify vendors and ensure fair distribution of the profits. Hence, LoGIC Project is ensuring a sustainable mechanism for entrepreneurial and business development which enables marginalized and climate vulnerable women to permanently lift themselves out of climate change shocks and undertake alternative long term climate adaptive livelihood activities. Women’s cooperative is notably an innovative initiative designed to create a positive impact not only on the member women, but also on the entire socio-economic ecosystem and broader climate vulnerable communities.
“By developing this women’s cooperatives, LoGIC project has successfully engaged these groups of climate vulnerable women into formalized institutional arrangements. The cooperatives play an authoritarian role here and the women members are more motivated and active because of this. We believe that this long-term mechanism will support these women even beyond the project tenure,” said A.K.M. Azad Rahman, Project Coordinator, LoGIC project.
“We feel extremely grateful to be a part of this journey. LoGIC has been a shadow over our head, and finally, this cooperative will ensure that we progress sustainably without any support. The unity of our group has strengthened significantly because of this cooperative entity. Even though we apply climate adaptive techniques in our businesses, there is still always a probability of loss. Before this cooperative, risk mitigation was very difficult and as a result, minor inconveniences used to cause big haphazard. But now we know the overall risk and profit will be shared between us, I am not alone,” said Rikta Roy, one of the beneficiaries of the women’s cooperative.
“Before we took one step forward and got pushed back by a hundred steps due to climate change impacts. But we have a strong permanent footing now. Climate change impacts can affect us, but it will not ruin us like it did before. This women’s cooperatives have given us the techniques, skills, and financial support to adapt to climate change,” says Sima Saha, another beneficiary from the women’s cooperative.
As of now, LoGIC is supporting a total of 247 women’s cooperatives in seven most climate vulnerable districts of the country. The project is playing a catalytic role in our society by empowering left behind communities, especially women, by enabling them to rise out of climate vulnerability.