Climate resilient and empowering livelihoods for women – Bangladesh

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Executive Summary

Bangladesh is known globally as one of the most vulnerable country under climate change. The government of Bangladesh, the development and climate change practitioners has been trying to make the development strides resilient.

Rather than a techno-fix discourse, climate variability/ change have been evolved as a development issue since last one and half decade. The concept of “Community Based Adaptation” started to shape up into reality from early 2000, that too in Bangladesh, for the first time at global level. It is also revealed in the process of identifying “climate change activities” that Bangladesh has been practicing institutional adaptation since ages in its development initiatives.

Different theoretical approaches have been used to address both the modalities of adaptation. Acknowledging the limitation of adaptation within an uncertain regime of future Green House Gas (GHG) emission scenario, it is now widely accepted that adaptation has its limitations.

In this back drop, different concepts and frameworks have been tossed to substantiate this limitation. “Resilience” is one of the recently evolving jargons by the development practitioners through “mainstreaming” climate change/ variability issues in development initiatives. The linkages between climate resilience and women’s livelihoods are gaining relevance in the light of the climate change debate and its increased impact on development. Gender differences are continuously reinforced by the impact of climate change and the response provided in their aftermath. It has been documented in the literature that women are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change/ variability in Bangladesh.

The South Western Region (SWR) is judged to be the region with the highest vulnerability to climate change within the country. The hydrology of the SWR is affected by the tributaries of Ganges, creating a vast network of waterways. Most of the SWR, with the exception of a few parts of Jessore District, is having an elevation of less than 3 meters above mean sea level, and have been subject to natural disaster such as flood, cyclones and tidal waves.

As such, no specic climate change scenario for the SWR is found in the literature.
A number of studies, based on Global Climate Models (GCM)- driven scenarios, suggest that the average change in temperature for the entire country over a 100-year period can be as high as 3.6 0C. Using more rigorous Regional Climate Models (RCM), the following climate scenario can be found for the country;

• The will be a general rise in surface temperature, ranging from 1.0 to 2.40 C between 2030 and 2100;

• Rise in mean winter (December, January and February) temperature will be slightly higher than that for monsoon (i.e., June, July and August);

• The peak-monsoon rainfall will increase signicantly, with a range of 4.7 to 11.8% within the time frame of 2030 to 2100;

• There will be a general reduction in already low winter rainfall; and • The mean sea level will rise in the order of 43cm by 2070

Reduction in winter rainfall will likely to reduce available lean river ow further and subsequently it will increase salinity intrusion throughout the SWR. Crop agriculture requiring surface irrigation will be further constrained due to a combination of salinity and drought, particularly in the western parts of the country (and also the south western parts of the SWR).

A rise in sea level along the low lying coastal zone will cause permanent inundation of low-lying coastal lands outside embankment areas and a higher susceptibility of coastal embanked areas to tidal inundation.
Coastal morphological balance will also be disturbed due to effects caused by sea level rise, having severe consequences in terms of drainage congestion, water logging and coastal erosion.

Reduction in winter rainfall will likely to reduce available lean river flow further and subsequently it will increase salinity intrusion throughout the SWR. Crop agriculture requiring surface irrigation will be further constrained due to a combination of salinity and drought, particularly in the western parts of the country (and also the south western parts of the SWR).

A rise in sea level along the low lying coastal zone will cause permanent inundation of low-lying coastal lands outside embankment areas and a higher susceptibility of coastal embanked areas to tidal inundation.
Coastal morphological balance will also be disturbed due to effects caused by sea level rise, having severe consequences in terms of drainage congestion, water logging and coastal erosion.

Salinity has been one of the major impediments of developing agriculture in the coastal zones with a likelihood of increasing significantly under future climate change scenarios. In this backdrop, a host of initiatives have been taken in the SWR as institutional as well as community based adaptation.

Any primary measure for adaptation must consider that these are suitable, acceptable and implementable responses to climate-induced vulnerabilities in a bid to stabilize the income and livelihoods of the local vulnerable population. The current ongoing practices by the communities themselves and the NGOs demonstrate a number of traditional and innovative measures for alternative income generation. The traditional measures are slightly modified that suits to local vulnerability contexts and conditions. Greater emphasis is found to be attached to simple improvisations using traditional knowledge and locally available tools so that the larger majority of the uneducated strata of farming households can adopt techniques that will help them combat the increasing climate variability and extremes and simultaneously ensure income. Since poverty is perceived to be the primary concern, such adaptive measures primarily look into modalities that will help maintain unabated access to various forms of assets (streams of services and goods), enabling the participating households to build resilience. Many of these activities are innovative, simple, easy to use and replicable, socially accepted, and environmentally suited and non-destructive.

Promoting new practices through best use of the given hydro-geophysical Condition is one of the effective modalities for adaptation. Few alternative livelihood options have been recommended for the SWR (depending on the extent of salinity in different locations and time). For example: grass cultivation, Koera nursery and products, Cage agriculture. Homestead gardening and hanging vegetables, Floating garden, Mele cultivation and products, Embankment cropping, Livestock rearing, Poultry/ duck rearing, Poly culture.

Community led initiative is recommended. Few options (among others) are discussed. For example: Honey processing SME industrial set up, Products from Kewra , Tailoring (skill training) and set ting up of Mini-garments, Handbag production and marketing, Pottery, Bakery, small-scale food processing,
Commercial scale handicraft production, Tree Plantation on embankment side (suitable saline tolerant variety), Organic compost prepare (vermi compost) as small scale commercial activity, Training on Solar Home System installation and maintenance.

Livelihood Options for less saline areas (along with practiced approaches) are also marked among which:
Alfalfa production in Fallow Lands, Dairy at commercial scale, Embankment vegetable production and marketing, Chili production at commercial scale, New high value crops (capcicum, strawberries, zuccini, …)
Horticulture garden (jujube, guava, …), Saline tolerant varieties (maize, paddy such as BINA-8),Promotion of early varieties of crops (early beans), Promotion of summer varieties of winter/Rabi vegetables, Year round Napier grass production (feeding into local dairies).

Inclusion of women specic issues or gender related activities in current CBA practices in the SWR are found to be limited only to the inclusion of women as target group and provide them with a minimal grant (also in cases provide skills), mostly restricted to the activities within domestic periphery. While doing so, there is hardly any initiative for market linkage, widening mobility sphere, or to address related access and ownership issues.

There are efforts in Bangladesh to enhance adaptive capacity of men and women in vulnerable areas under climate change Community based Adaptation since early 2000. Bangladesh has been pioneer in this.
Involvement of women with different income generating activities is also tried. However, there is a general lack of understanding how to address women empowerment through such activities. Combining income generating activities in a way which will help poor women in the communities to graduate from certain degree of poverty, help them to become independent and contribute to address empowerment- there is hardly any initiative through community based adaptation, even at the global level.

Unlike, many other “women only” development work” or “development work with women’s engagement among others”, a gender sensitive adaptation program can initiate few innovative initiatives to address women empowerment through climate change adaptation projects. Formation of CBOs can be helpful to create ample scope for community members to regularly meet and interact on common issues and raise voices in a collective manner. The project must explore beyond domestic periphery, connect market through value chain support, and also give attention to other components of women empowerment. A holistic approach, also involving advocacy with different actors can contribute in a major way. Women in the community are one of the major drivers of this advocacy.

An adaptation project addressing women’s empowerment can set a mark to graduate from poverty in a signicant way. A holistic approach is required to achieve women’s empowerment through adaptation activities. Adaptation must be seen as a development activity and it should be interconnected to different development strides. Activities around women’s empowerment coupled with engagement of women in income generating activities in the given context of the SWR needs to be integrated.

Individual household level project assistance often fails to help poor men and women to graduate from poverty. Small scale industrial production, if possible large scale production are recommended where women can get engaged. Formal employment is an important modality to address empowerment which functions beyond domestic periphery. At the end, adaptation project must incorporate/ connect to different development activities in a given context.

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