Rigan A. Khan

Rigan Ali Khan is project officer for the Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Programme in Bangladesh

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Posts by Rigan

  • Pumpkins against poverty and climate change in Bangladesh

    October 26th, 2017

    Pumpkin farming in Bangladesh helps some of the most vulnerable people to cope with floods & climate change and so escape poverty. This reveals critical lessons for some of the biggest problems our world faces.

    How is climate change creating poverty in Bangladesh?

    Bangladesh is repeatedly named as the country most vulnerable to climate change. In particular, more frequent and intense rainfall plus rising sea-level is making flooding much more likely. While for some countries coping with climate change is a problem for the future, impacts are already being felt in Bangladesh. The Asian Development Bank reports that more rain is falling and extreme events, such as floods, are becoming more common and severe. Rural areas are being caught in a devastating cycle of droughts and floods. In a country where 70% of the population directly depend on agriculture this is a serious problem.

    Weather events have cost Bangladesh $12billion in the last 40 years, says The World Bank. By 2050, it’s likely that climate change could further reduce the amount of food farmers can grow by up to 30%. As the impact of climate change becomes more severe, it will hamper any attempts to improve the poverty and malnutrition that effect vulnerable people across the country.

    To make matters worse, the most vulnerable people are often forced to live in the most dangerous areas. For example, the poorest families are often only able to build their homes and farms on the very edge of riverbanks, which are washed away during floods. As floods become more common people are more frequently losing their homes, livelihoods and food supply – trapping them into cycle of poverty and food insecurity.

    How can pumpkins fight poverty?

    The Pumpkins against Poverty project run by Practical Action is working with 6,000 of the most vulnerable people in 26 villages across Bangladesh. The aim is to help build their ability to cope with flooding and climate change.

    While floodwater washes away riverbanks, homes and fields, it also creates new islands (called sandbars) in the middle of the flooding rivers. Practical Action is helping communities to turn these sandbars into pumpkin fields. With the time it takes to dig a small hole, and the addition of a small amount of compost, individuals who lost their fields to floods are guaranteed a harvest. Even better, women are actively participating in pumpkin farming around their household tasks – supporting themselves and their children.

    Practical Action is also helping farmers to sell the pumpkins they do not eat. Pumpkin selling can offer a great additional income for families, especially in the monsoon season when prices are three times higher than at other times in the year.

    The project has generated huge employment for some of the poorest people in Bangladesh, and especially for vulnerable women. Pumpkin growing has increased food security and the ability of communities to cope with flooding and the impacts of climate change. It has also transformed individuals into agricultural entrepreneurs, helping them to escape the trap of poverty and malnutrition.

    Why is this an important lesson for the rest of the world?

    The Pumpkins against Poverty project is a clear example of how simple technology can build communities’ resilience to the disaster events climate change brings. The project hopes to support the most vulnerable individuals in Bangladeshi society by actively involving women and children, and so strengthen communities from the bottom-up.

    It is widely recognised that local and bottom-up innovations, such as the Pumpkins against Poverty project, are crucial to both cope with the impacts of climate change and to reduce the contribution to the cause. Despite this, there is a large gap in our understanding of how practical technology can be turned into successful projects on the ground. To be effective, projects need to carefully consider the local context and involve the community at every step. Practical Action’s Pumpkins against Poverty project is helping individuals suffering from the impacts of climate change. Moreover, it provides critical lessons for some of the biggest problems our world faces: hunger, nutrition, employment and gender inclusion.

    Find out more…

    If you would like to read more on technological solutions for climate change in Bangladesh see the Adaptation Technology in Bangladesh report by the Gobeshona sub-group.

    Alternatively discover other solutions to increase flood resilience on the Flood Resilience Portal which is dedicated to providing specialist advice and guidance.

    More of Practical Action’s work in Bangladesh can be found here.

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  • The magic trick and resilience: can it work?

    August 28th, 2017

    If you are a citizen of any country exposed to natural disasters, you may know that flooding, cyclones or hurricanes are some of the words that first come to mind when anyone talks about natural disasters. When we talk about disasters, either natural or man-made we all think of one thing – how we can survive?

    We are putting all our effort into finding that magic trick which we believe that will save us from all disasters. What we need, is to recover quickly from difficulties or be strong in the face of disasters. That magic trick is called Resilience. Global efforts are now focused on building resilience in order to reduce the impact of these disasters which is a continued threat to people’s life and livelihoods around the world. However, when we talk about natural disaster and disaster resilience there are no proper or clear tools which can start to lead us towards that magic trick. In a previous study for the United Nations Development Programme, researchers concluded that “no general measurement framework for disaster resilience has been empirically verified yet.” This finding highlights a key challenge for any resilience building efforts: if resilience cannot be empirically verified, how do you empirically measure whether a community is more resilient as a result of your work?

    It is neither simple nor easy to know whether efforts focusing on what we believe builds resilience are correct. However it is necessary to try to measure that the impact of our work is leading to more resilient communities or at least that they are more stable and adaptable to the disasters than before. In that scenario the flood resilience measurement tool (FRMT) developed by the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance designed to quantify the flood resilience of the community. The tool has been trialled in numerous communities across 10 different countries including Bangladesh, by various implementers. It has already demonstrated that it can be a great complementary tool to flood resilience community programming.

    For Bangladesh, a country at the forefront of the battle for flood resilience, the tool can provided valuable insight. Where the tool has been implemented recently in a running project, it has started to help us identify not only the community trends of floods resilience but also the gaps in resilience by looking into the strength and weakness of the communities from the data analysis. This tool also allows the organisation to understand the community better by analysing interdependencies and by understanding it through different lenses. This process helps us and our partners to work on addressing the gaps. Our hope is to gather this evidence and feed into the national level for better advocacy and lead to more informed policy makers.

    Currently the tool is in development phase; key parties test and feedback on strengths and weaknesses of the tool to make it as robust as possible for measuring the flood resilience.  Through continued use and improvement of this tool we can begin to increases the resilience of the community by considering the all key areas. The use of the FRMT can begin to identify changes in resilience over time and verify through post flood assessments whether our interventions are managing to strengthen communities. So that at a time in the future we can not only say that the magic trick is working through the development work of the organisation but also the people’s ability to resist and recover from the disaster is increased.

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  • Communities building resilience

    January 9th, 2017

    Bangladesh has a population of 16 million in a small area. It is on a journey with the aim of becoming a developed country. Apart from the challenges and barriers, Bangladesh has become better known globally for using  effective measures to build more resilient communities.

    Being a delta country, Bangladesh is vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods, riverbank erosion, cyclones and drought. All these hazards are expected to increase in intensity and frequency under a changing climate. In addition, increased temperature, erratic monsoon rainfall, sea level rise and salinity intrusion not only increase the frequency and impact of hazards to become more dangerous but also are expected to have a serious effect on lives, livelihoods and food security.

    resilience

    So it is vital in Bangladesh to build communities that make lives and livelihoods more sustainable.

    But do we give equal attention to the people who live in these communities and to society as a whole? “Sometime yes but sometime no” is the reply from those of us who work in this field.  And there are are a few reasons for saying that that. Community based organizations (CBOs) play a major role in building resilience by performing two major activities.

    Firstly they organise community meetings to discuss issues, to raise awareness, to review action plans, prepare plans in advance for disaster emergency fund and many other things.

    Secondly they are active in response to a disaster by helping in the distribution and management of relief, saving lives from the disaster and sheltering affected people.

    CBOs also look after income generating activities, social welfare, deal with social crises, network with service providers and much more.  This emphasis on community led work through mobilizing to build better resilience is where the community based organization provides a vital platform for a vulnerable community to take the initiative in capacity building alongside both Government and Non-Government Organizations.

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  • Less is more when building a resilient community

    December 1st, 2016

    To improve the resilience of flood vulnerable communities in Bangladesh, Practical Action has been working in the north-west of the country on a Vulnerability to Resilience (V2R) project under the Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation programme.

    This project, funded by the Zurich Insurance Group, has piloted new practices such as developing Local Resilience Agents (LRA) to sustain the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable flood prone communities by providing an early warning system voice SMS service and delivering vaccination campaigns.

    V2R has trained 181 LRA in 15 flood-prone areas of Sirajgonj and Bogra on services requested by the communities: crop management, livestock service, fisheries and paramedical services. These agents combine entrepreneurship and volunteerism to serve their community with skills that supplement other extension agents. By providing these services they are also earning, which is improving their livelihoods.

    resilience agent Mohamed KhalequeOne LRA is 38 year old Mohammad Abdul Khaleque from Thakurpara village in Sirajgonj. After starting the V2R project in Sirajganj District in 2009, he was selected as a volunteer to provide support for community resilience by minimizing the loss and damage of livestock from flooding. He received 18 days training which included 15 days technical training on livestock health services and three on disaster preparedness and response in 2010. The project provided equipment to help him perform his duties. In 2015 he was selected to a LRA and had refresher training to give more comprehensive support to the community. He has extended his livestock treatment service to eight neighbouring villages and earns 400-500 TK a day by providing treatment to cattle.

    He was also selected for training for the Bangladesh Water Development Board’s Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) and received equipment to disseminate the Flood Early Warning System (EWS) as a Gauge Reader. He collects water level readings five times a day and sends them to the FFWC.

    “Now I am well known as “Doctor Khaleque” in the surrounding community of Takhurpara village and different people, officials and service providers come to me and contact me which makes me proud and feel that I am doing good for my community”

    He now has a well-built, tin house, some savings and sufficient food for his family. He has also purchased cows, installed a tube well for safe drinking water and set up a latrine to ensure a healthy life for himself and his family. While he was unable to finish his studies, he is making sure that his children are going to school regularly. Asked about his future plans, he replied, “continuing and expanding my livestock services to more communities.”

    For faster communications, he is thinking of buying a motor bike and for quick response he also provides emergency information via his mobile phone.

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