Today, climate change disrupts traditional weather patterns and exacerbates many of Bangladesh’s existing climate calamities. In the last two decades, low-lying coastal areas such as Khulna, Satkhira, Patuakhali, Bagerhat and more, have become one of the climate-change hotspots in South Asia. With the rise of climatic adversities, these areas are increasingly battered by frequent floods, droughts, riverbank erosion, salinity intrusion, sky-high freshwater crisis, cyclones, and storm surges, creating shock waves of poverty, misery, destruction of livelihoods and displacement. Climate-induced disasters often challenge and disrupt climate-vulnerable people’s access to a stable income generation source.
“8-10 years ago, we were able to cultivate fish and agriculture properly. But now, all around our community, there is high salinity intrusion in water and ponds. Some ponds have also started to dry up. Lands remain barren due to salinity as well. This has led to instability of our income sources, and as a community, we do not know how to manage this financial burden since all our income depends on our water and soil,” says Koruna Bala, who has been a farmer all her life residing in the Kuruperdair village, Juidhara Union, Morrelgonj Upazila of the climate prone Bagerhat District in Bangladesh.
This additional stress from climate change impacts dampens the community’s confidence and increases their insecurity. Poor people with less land are especially vulnerable to such uncertainty, increasing their displacement potential. There are minimal options to pursue alternative livelihoods or generate income. Hence, many like Koruna Bala migrate to urban cities working as day labourers in construction sites, domestic help, street vendors, and EPZ etc., hoping to earn a stable income.
“We are extremely fearful about taking any risks with our livelihoods because we do not have any surplus or savings. We do not know how to shift to any alternative source of income while still residing in this climate-prone area. We feel very helpless and struggle to make ends meet,” said Shumi Begum, also a resident from the same climate-vulnerable village Kuruperdair in Bagerhat District. Most families lack the capacity, technology, and finance to try and test new alternatives to expand their livelihood options.
To enable the climate-vulnerable communities to build resilience against climate change, LoGIC project is providing a Community Resilience Fund (CRF) for them to undertake local-led climate-adaptive livelihoods. It is a joint initiative led by the Local Government Division (LGD) of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development, and Cooperatives, supported by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Sweden and the European Union (EU).
The LoGIC project conducted a survey to identify the most climate-vulnerable women, particularly widows, single-headed households, and indigenous people in Bagerhat District’s Morrelgonj Upazilla. Through a group-based approach, these women were clustered into smaller groups. Moreover, each of them was provided with a bank account and received a CRF of approximately BDT 25,000 each.
By using a group approach, LoGIC project plays a catalytic role in bringing the community together as they support in developing a unique climate adaptive business model.
The project is fostering group-based approach to the CRF groups to avail funding for a more significant investment, purchasing bulk inputs at fair prices, getting low transport costs, using collective efforts and skills in business, making own saving, and selling products at good prices etc. The community is enabled to work together with the local government for land or pond leasing for cultivation, building capacity by providing adequate training in a group, technical assistance, networking, market linkages and engagement with financial institutions.
“We accumulate the individual grants provided to us into one group account at the bank and use that collective money as capital to invest in a climate adaptive business model. We have learnt that working as a group will strengthen our businesses. We have named our group “Kuruperdair LoGIC Project CRF Group # 02,” says Showpna, also belonging to the same group.
Through this collective approach, the women invested a total of approximately BDT 1,50,000 and leased out an 80 Shatak (0.8 Acre) pond for two years with BDT 50,000 to establish a climate-adaptive saline and flood resilient brackish water fish polyculture.
“We call it a group-based approach because we decide on what is a climate adaptive livelihood which is conducive for our current climate together as a group. We also get support from the community and Upazila line and extension departments such as trainings on how to do this fish cultivation,” explains Monzu Rani Bachar, as she proudly boasts about working together as a community.
The 10 group members of “Kuruperdair LoGIC Project CRF Group # 02 were soon informed about the saline tolerant white fish variety (rui, catla, mrigal, mirror carp, bata etc.) which is comparatively a strong type of fish with high tolerance towards increased water current during floods. Through training these women also learnt how to make the sides of the ponds and fishnets higher to make it climate adaptive during flood water intrusion.
“The direct support to pursue climate-adaptive brackishwater fish polyculture has given us immediate income benefits. Together as a group we raised 200 Kg of Ruhi fish to sell at the market and got a profit worth BDT 55,000 in just 6 months. To expand our business, we further invested BDT 1,50,000 for the second round of cultivation and still could make savings from the first round in our bank accounts,” says group leader of Kuruperdair LoGIC Project CRF Group # 02, Showpna Rani Bachar. This savings money was further used for their family expenses, better health and children’s education.
LoGIC also established a co-financing mechanism for these women through which they each contributed USD 58 (approx. BDT 5,000) from their personal funds to ensure strong community and beneficiary ownership for long-term sustainability. The group is further working together to develop a year-round climate adaptive business plan to utilise the profits from their business most effectively.
This was a massive step for the group and the bigger community in very many ways. This is the group’s first step towards breaking out of the vicious cycle of poverty and climate change which always pushed them behind to start from scratch. They are now confident as they progress towards developing climate adaptation. Engaging themselves with such businesses have earned them social recognition and highlighted their empowerment and successes within the community. This also has a broader positive social impact as other women from the community learn from this knowledge of climate adaptive businesses.
“We do not feel alone and scared anymore. We are part of a bigger network now, and we have our own comrades to support us to cope with the climate adversities,” says Koruna Bala.
Achieving the SDGs by 2030 will depend on ensuring that sustainable development begins at the local level. LoGIC seeks to instil the SDGs’ values among communities left behind and assist them in overcoming climate vulnerability by sowing the seeds of resilience among Bangladesh’s most climate-vulnerable demographic.