In Bangladesh, the rains no longer come on a predictable schedule, and local people are struggling to grow enough food. But new community-based methods are helping Bangladeshis adapt to the new reality of climate change.
Kuhinor is a teacher at the local kindergarten in the village of Fulbaria, Bangladesh. Together with her husband and daughter, they grow some vegetables and fruits to feed themselves and make extra income for their family. Over the past several years, the rain patterns have become erratic and the region is facing both dramatic increases and decreases in their water supplies.
Because of droughts and floods, our fields are infected by insects and our paddies are damaged. The eggplants are infected with insects. When the fog comes, the buds of mangoes and lychees are ruined. For this reason, we face several problems. Yesterday, I went to the beel [marsh] area, where I own some land. In that land, I had a fishery project. When there was water, we could catch fish. Now there is no water. We used to sell the fish or eat them. It was profitable. Now, our profit is decreasing, and our income is decreasing. There are many problems in agriculture, and because of this many people are going abroad.
But Kuhinor is not giving up on the land her ancestors have lived on for generations. She is taking action by participating in a community mapping workshop -- a joint project of the United Nations University and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
AHSANUL WAHED [IUCN Bangladesh]
If you are involved in agriculture and know agricultural problems, explain those problems. If you know the problems of fisheries because of disasters, please explain those too. Okay? We will make a list of all these problems, and with this list, we will put it to a vote. Then we will discuss how we can solve these problems.
CHUN KNEE TAN [United Nations University Researcher]
What are the climate problems they're still facing?
Insect infestation, dense fog, then flooding, but it does not occur every year...
United Nations University researcher, Chun Knee Tan has been assessing the gap between government policies and their implementation at the local level.
CHUN KNEE TAN
The main purpose of this whole exercise is to actually bring the communities to come in, to explore their own problems, and also we try to explore what are the resources they already have in the community that they can further utilize to solve their own problems. In the mean time, we ask them to map out spatially so that they will be able to visualize their problems. Then we ask them to really look into what are the changes in the past, and the present and what you want to do in the future. How you want your community to be, moving forward. So we help them to visualize using the tools such as mapping.
CHUN KNEE TAN
In adaptation normally we have NAPA, which are the national adaptation policies that have been set by the government. Then a country like Bangladesh is the first one to submit their NAPA proposal to the Climate Change Convention. However, last year when we came to study what is really happening on the policy level and also the ground level, we found that there's a lot of gaps. We noticed a lot of the action being mentioned in the NAPA is not really being implemented and the worst is most of the communities, still they don't have a very clear idea on what is climate change.
Yesterday, I participated in a workshop where I learned about my problems and the problems of others. Then I also learned how to solve these problems. Because of these problems, we need training from the government and NGOs. If we get help, we can be saved from these disasters.
CHUN KNEE TAN
We have started to look at how this community-based adaptation can really help to build the capacity of the local people to be really adapted to climate change. Then we will put them in one report that will convey that message back to the local governance or even to the national governance. It will help bring their message up, and this is very important to interlink between the top-down approach, the policy level, and also the bottom-up approach.
As the workshop concluded, two assessments were made. One was the need to build a canal from the neighboring ward to meet their irrigation needs. The other was the need to cultivate medicinal plants to deal with the health problems occurring due to the fluctuating temperatures. With this newfound understanding, Kuhinor hopes that policy makers will listen directly to the needs of the local people.
I'm unsure about my daughter's future because our situation is uncertain. I have a big dream. I hope I can educate my daughter as much as possible.