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Innovative solutions for climate resilience: Lessons from Bangladesh's coastal communities

Tasin Islam Himel, Munira Afroz Tithi, and S M Akramuzzman from Khulna University's Urban & Rural Planning (URP) Discipline. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh
By Tasin Islam Himel, Munira Afroz Tithi, and S M Akramuzzman from Khulna University's Urban & Rural Planning (URP) Discipline
View the original blog on the UNDP Bangladesh website here
Recently, as final year students from Khulna University's Urban & Rural Planning (URP) Discipline. 3 of us were given the incredible opportunity to visit two of Gender-responsive Coastal Adaptation (GCA) project's areas. This allowed us to gain an understanding of how this project is helping the coastal communities especially women in the southwestern coastal areas of Bangladesh to cope with climate change and rising sea levels. We were amazed to witness how local people are utilizing their knowledge to adapt to changing conditions.
Women's burden in the coastal region is tripled by climate change. For which the 'Gender-responsive Coastal Adaptation' project was launched in January 2019, with the intent of strengthening the adaptive capacities of coastal communities - women in particular - to better cope with climate change induced salinity. To achieve this objective, we learnt that the project has three main output goals: creating climate resilient livelihood opportunities; ensuring safe & reliable drinking water; and strengthening institutional capacity of the relevant stakeholders. The project is jointly funded by Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Government of Bangladesh (GoB) and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). By benefitting around 67,000 households, this initiative covers five Upazilas across Khulna and Satkhira districts: Dacope, Koyra, Paikgacha (all in Khulna); and Assasuni, Shyamnagar (both in Satkhira).
Our visits were in Wards from two Upazilas (i.e., Dacope and Paikgacha) of Khulna, where we got to learn about both community and household livelihood support programs.
On our first day we visited Tildanga Union of Dacope Upazila where got to see the Community-based Rainwater Harvesting System installed by the GCA project which is benefitting 25 households. We observed the process of how this system operates. Beneficiaries use cards to swipe for water, which cost about 0.04 BDT per liter and can be recharged. We were also given the chance to meet the beneficiaries of the Household based Rainwater Harvesting Systems, which has the capacity of 2000 litre/ tank and which serves 106 households in that area.
The project is not only implementing ideas but is also creating employment opportunities to empower the women as leaders at the forefront of climate action. To manage the rainwater-harvesting systems the project has created a groundbreaking role titled "Pani Apa." The climate vulnerable women in the area are selected and assigned in this role, who are then responsible for maintenance and teaching the beneficiaries how to maintain their rainwater harvesting by themselves. This is truly an innovative way to enhance the knowledge of the community overall. The project currently has 101 "Pani Apas" working in 101 wards in 39 unions of the 05 upazilas. We got a chance to speak to the beneficiaries who expressed deep gratitude for the project, mentioning how difficult it was obtaining water before this system was put in place.
On the second day of our visit to Garaikhali Union from Paikgacha Upazila, we were lucky enough to witness the Project Coordination Specialist in the field. We visited a group who processes fish-feed, a climate resilient livelihood option promoted by the GCA project. All the 25 members of this group, employed and benefiting from this livelihood support took us through the entire manufacturing process. They informed us they can generate 15-20 kg of fish feed per day. Not only were they learning how to operate the machine to make feed from raw ingredients, but also how to sell them in the markets for profit. Unfortunately, frequent power outages appear to be a barrier for them; therefore, they expressed that would benefit if this project aided with solar power installation.
Through our visit we have noticed the increased participation of men in domestic chores to help their female partners in the household. We learnt how GCA is also sensitizing the coastal community about sharing the 'unpaid care work'. Through activities and discussion, men are being taught to break traditional gender roles and help around the household to ease their wives' burden. This truly is inspiring and empowering at the same time.
GCA project is promoting eight climate-resilient livelihoods and providing the necessary support for it. The livelihood options are- Crab Farming, Crab Nursing, Aqua-geoponics, Hydroponics, Homestead Gardening and Crab & Fish Feed Processing, Sesame Cultivation and Plant Nursery. Alongside, the project is also ensuring safe drinking water for the community by installing rain water harvesting systems to solve the water scarcity due to climate change induced salinity.
What we found to be the crucial aspect of this project is its empowerment of women to lead the communities to effectively perform and thus enhance their institutional capacity. By engaging the affected communities, they are building their knowledge and capacity so that they can be sustainable on their own, long after the project ends. With proper scaling and knowledge sharing we believe the project can touch lives of many in the coming days.
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