Bangladesh | Blogs

  • Flood resilience offers dignity to disabled people

    Halim Miah

    February 21st, 2017

     

    Co authored with Gurudas Biswas, Monitoring & Documentation Officer, V2R+ project, Bangladesh

    The extreme poverty status of Bangladesh (those with a per capita daily income of less than US$1.25) is reducing significantly in rural areas, but rural poverty is still higher than urban poverty in Bangladesh.

    Among the rural extreme poor, people with disabilities are the most marginalized. They are often excluded both from their communities and from development initiatives. Women and children are most vulnerable. They are the poorest of the poor.

    disability graphWHO and World Bank estimates that about 10% of the population in developing have a disability.  However, there is lack of nationally representative study or survey on disability in Bangladesh.  Other available studies like the Population Census 2011 and Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2011 show that the prevalence of persons with disability ranging from 0.90% to 1.41%.

    Disability and disaster

    Disasters like cyclones, tornadoes, thunderstorms and injuries from road accidents, and workplace accidents increase the number of disabilities. A study of Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, conducted in Bangladesh in the aftermath of super cyclone SIDR in 2007, revealed that most deaths occurred from drowning and multiple injuries. Among the nonfatal cases there was around 10% who were at risks of permanent disability if there were not treated properly.

    Including disabled people in flood resilience initiative

    disability graphThe mighty river Jamuna flows through Sirajganj.  It has a population of 3,215,873, (51.14%  male: 48.86% female. Most of the areas of Sirajganj are eroded by the Jamuna (river) and newly developed areas on the river are known as Char. The people of Char areas face discrimination in all sorts of areas of modern society. Moreover, they are often attacked by natural disasters like flood, windstorm, thunderstorm, drought and heavy rain. Floods, tornadoes and thunderstorms cause both fatal and nonfatal injuries. Besides, this district bridges the northern and southern parts of Bangladesh with rivers and roadways. Therefore people are at high risks of road traffic injuries too. Besides, flood and river bank erosion are recurrent phenomenon adversely affecting the socio-economic conditions of the people, most of whom are farmers.

    The Vulnerability to Resilience (V2R) project of Practical Action Bangladesh is working to build the resilience of flood vulnerable people of Sirajganj and Bogra District. The project has emphasized the inclusion of disabled people to improve their livelihoods. From the design stage of the project people with disability have been targeted.  A short survey in the communities found that 10.34% of households are holding with disability including physical disability such a lameness, or speech, sight or hearing loss.

    It was also revealed that people with disability were less happy.  A disabled person is seen as curse on the family and treated as a family burden and often neglected.  If the disabled person is the household head or earning member then the whole family goes is vulnerable.

    In the monsoon the project organised preparedness and awareness raising events including disabled people. Community Based Organizations (CBO)were trained to do emergency and response work with disability. Dduring search and rescue work the Community Based Organizations (CBO) move them first. The Local Resilience Agents (LRAs) also provided close and comprehensive assistance on preparedness, search and rescue work. In resilience building initiatives uplifting the incomes of poor people is important. So when an income generating initiative is underway, we give priority to families with members with disability as they are most vulnerable to any disaster.

    Food stall V2R+Md. Nur Hossain(45),  Ranipura Village of Belkuchi Upazila is paralyzed and has no land. The five members of his family were dependent on his wife’s (Morshida Khatun) income. She used to work part time in a weaving factory as daily labourer, selling clothes from house to house.  Her income was not enough to cover household consumption so that they had to depend on gifts from relatives.

    In 2014 when the V2R+ project began in Ranipura Village, as a flood vulnerable community Murshida Khatun’s household was included as project beneficiaries. In 2016, Murshida Khatun got 8000 Tk (£80) with one-day of training on business management from the project. She provided her husband with a tiny stall of of dry food and fast food items. Her husband can easily handle those as he does not need to use any fire or lift heavy weighst.  He is now planning to buy a digital weight measuring scale that is easy to use for people unable to carry heavy weights.  Having an income from both husband and wife is helping them to find their way out of misery and inspiring them to live with dignity.

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  • What is the key to building a resilient community?

    Anwar Hossain

    February 16th, 2017

    The modern concept of social capital has renewed academic interest in social science: the relationship between trust, social networks and the resilient development of a vulnerable society.

    Aldrich (2012) found that “participation among networked members; providing information and knowledge to individuals in the group; and creating trustworthiness.” He showed that “higher levels of social capital work together more effectively to guide resources to where they are needed.”

    community training BangladeshMany studies confirm that after disasters, most survivors see social connections and community as critical for their recovery. Researchers found that “higher levels of social capital reduce transaction costs, increase the probability of collective action, and make cooperation among individuals more likely.” Social capital is therefore “an asset, a functioning propensity for mutually beneficial collective action.”

     

    Research findings shows that “less resilience fails to mobilize collectively and often must wait for recover guidance and assistance”.  This implies that vulnerable populations are not solely characterized in terms of age, income, etc., but in terms of “their lack of connections and embeddedness in social networks.” In other words, “the most effective—and perhaps least expensive—way to mitigate disasters is to create stronger bonds between individuals in vulnerable populations.”

    Daniel Aldrich (2012) suggested in his case studies that social capital is more important for disaster resilience than physical and financial capital, and more important than conventional explanations.

    The people of coastal areas of Bangladesh regularly face extreme weather events. These areas are most vulnerable to climate change due to sea level rise, salinity intrusion, flooding, increased frequency and intensity of cyclone and storm surge, and increased coastal and riverbank erosion.

    Super cyclone ‘SIDR’ in November 2007 and cyclone ‘AILA’ in May 2009 are recent examples of extreme events that affected the thousands of people, many of whom are women and children and destroyed the livelihoods of millions of coastal people. Government response can take up to a week with insufficient aid and coordination capacities due to the poor transport system. (WASH CLUSTER , 2009) High population density is another problem the government needs to address properly. The period between when a disaster hits and institutional response is a crucial time for the people.

    In Bangladesh at this time people help each other without discriminating between rich and poor, race or any other conflict issues. Humanitarian lessons of social and religious value play a vital role in helping each other even to the extent of putting one’s own life in danger. When the river bank collapses, people rush to the spot without waiting for institutional assistance because of shared humanity. This humanity and values become vulnerable when institutional assistance comes to the community through political and power channels.

    With the objective of measuring the vulnerability and strength of a community for their resilience in terms of social capital I conducted a study. The area was purposely selected as it had faced several climate hazards recently. This study was conducted in the village of Kalinchi (Population 5000), Union: Ramjannagor (Total population 29368, Male-14168, Female-15200) under Shyamnagor Upazilla of Satkhira District; an Aila affected coastal community of Bangladesh. This study was conducted during June 2015-December 2015. The village has a male-female ratio of 1.07. (BBS, 2011) living in about 1000 households.

    Three focus group discussions were held where 25-30 respondents were selected to represent ten houses each of the selected vulnerable community. Women and different livelihood groups were considered in the participant selection. Vulnerability risk assessment protocols were used to facilitate the groups and were verified by the key informants.

    Results and discussion:

    Family integrity: This was considered an important variable as good family relationships make a person more secure than any other options. Most respondents said that their strength in family integrity was medium and vulnerability is increasing day by day. Following the recent cyclone, water surge and saline water intrusion made their crop production system vulnerable and increased their food insecurity that forces them towards seasonal migration and shifting of family members to other livelihoods.

    graph

     

    Value system: A society becomes more resilient when it has a strong value system.  This ideology defines what is right or wrong and guides ethical behavior based on those beliefs. A person’s values determine his or her character and actions, even in situations where negative consequences might exist for doing the right thing. People mentioned the vulnerability of the value system was medium and future risk more than medium. The community people knows the difference between right and wrong but sometimes lose their grip on this when influential power behaves unethically during the distribution of institutional aid support. Continuing ill practice reduces the moral strength of a community and makes the community vulnerable.

    Trust in each other: Trust can be explained as the relationships between people. Conceptually, trust is also the relationships within and between social groups (families, friends, communities, organizations, companies, nations etc.). To frame the dynamics of inter-group and intra-group interactions in terms of trust is popular. Without trust all contingency plan become paralyzed.

    In this study it was found the vulnerability and future risk of trust was increasing. People explained that the people of this area were strong in religious faith and in social harmony. Following the several natural hazards the stress, anxiety, and unrest and other difficulties made life complex. Village politics, discrimination and diminishing religious practice are the inevitable result of deteriorating trust.

    Friendship: Mutual understanding is very necessary among neighbours, groups, and the community for a peaceful, sustainable society. It helps people help each other during a disaster.  In ancient times when people lived in groups they used to share their food and shelter among themselves in order to survive. This study revealed that the vulnerability of friendship is below average that means somehow good. The villagers gave the example that in the village there was only one well constructed mosque and when Aila hit there was no place to take shelter except this mosque. All the villagers – Hindu and Muslim all took shelter under the roof of the mosque without considering any religious differences.

    Government aid and policy: It was found that Government aid and policy was more favorable to the resilient due to the awareness program, social mobilization of different NGOs and the influence of civil society.  Government has established different departments and ministries to respond to disasters quickly.  Local Government is also sincere regarding this issue. Government has generated policies and formed different committees from national to community level. Planning, CRA, RRAP and financing in DRR are now a participatory process with the local community that is why the community people feel more resilient than ever before.

    Information services: Communication, network and access to information is very important for development even in times of disaster. Due to the lack of early warning systems, people did not know in enough time to take shelter which caused a huge toll on lives and property. Now this community are risk free and feel resilient as they have a well established early warning system, trained volunteers, cyclone and flood shelter. Certainly it is a positive impact of the efforts of government and NGOs.

    Conclusions and recommendations:

    This study shows that the Government aid and policy as well as information services are favorable in building a resilient community. The investment of government and donors emphasises relief and the strengthening of institutional capacity but attention to other human and social attributes are also very important for a resilient community and should be given priority.

    If social and religious values could be strengthened to energize people’s humanity then the situation would be better and the resilience of the community would be strengthened. Stronger social capital might serve as informal insurance to overcome the constraints to becoming more resilient.

    References:

    Daniel P. Aldrich (Aug 22, 2012), Building Resilence: Social Capital in Post- Recovery

    Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2011

    Learning and Knowledge Sharing Workshop on Response to Cyclone Aila, WASH CLUSTER, Khulna, Bangladesh, December 2009

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  • An interview with Nazmul Islam Chowdhury

    Elizabeth Dunn

    January 12th, 2017

    The Pumpkins Against Poverty appeal has been a major success, raising an incredible £1 million from people just like you.  This was then matched pound for pound by the UK Government.

    Almost every year monsoon rains cause the three major rivers of Bangladesh to swell, resulting in devastating floods.  They wash away fertile land and destroy homes and livelihoods.  Families are forced to find a new place to live and a new means of earning a living without land to cultivate.  Sandbars emerge as the rivers recede; the soil is barren but can be made productive by using the technique of pit cultivation for pumpkins and other crops.  It’s a simple solution that is truly changing lives, thanks to your support.

    "A small dream is now a big dream" Nazmul Chowdhury

    Nazmul Islam Chowdhury is the Head of the Extreme Poverty Programme in Bangladesh and manages the Pumpkins Against Poverty project.  Nazmul came up with the idea of using the barren land in this way many years ago and has gone on to develop and implement the solution in communities across Bangaldesh.  Below he explains just why this project is so important.

    “Firstly, I want to say thank you so much for everyone’s generous support of Practical Action and the Pumpkins Against Poverty project.  You are helping to reach thousands of people.

    “When I initially came up with the idea of sandbar cropping, I thought something is better than nothing, but we have been able to develop and improve the project. It now has a huge impact on the ground and there is potential to bring this innovation to other countries. The pumpkin is like a magic golden ball; it is a solution for food security, vitamin A deficiency, income and gender equality.

    “I have many stories from the people the project helps but there is one that sticks in my mind. In 2009, When I was visiting a community in Rangpur, I was interviewing a farmer when I heard a girl crying. She was only around three years old. Her cries interrupted the interview and I asked her mother what was wrong. She said she was crying because she was hungry and she had no food to feed her. I was shocked and thought, how can I help? I still think about that girl now. We must do something to help these families.

    “I always tell my children, imagine that you have no food at home and you are hungry. You should always try to help the people that need it.”

    Thank you to everyone who has supported the Pumpkins Against Poverty appeal. You are helping thousands of people to lift themselves out of poverty, for good.

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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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  • Promoting inclusive urban growth

    Halim Miah

    January 3rd, 2017

    Stories of urban cleaners society in Bangladesh

    by Md. A. Halim Miah, Makfie Farah, Uttam Kumar Saha and Hasin Jahan

    History reveals that there were a special group of people who, unlike other artisans like smiths and weavers, worked at cleaning sewerage and drainage system in the old urban civilizations at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. They were mostly enslaved. We are now under the charter of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights where every man has equal rights to choose their profession and lead a decent life with dignity and equality.

    Urban cleaner is a caste or class?

    FSMAs well as that Indus civilization as we also had a thousand year old urban centre named Pundra nagar. That city had also had a ‘cleaner class’, a special artisan community culturally called ‘Harijan’.

    Among the society of cleaners in Bangladesh there are broadly two communities based on their religious identity – a Hindu or Harijan community and a Muslim sweeper community.

    In the Hindu religious system society is segregated into a caste system of four professional groups. The Harijan community is one of these. Mahatma Gandhi, a famous Indian political leader renowned for his non-violence movement and social reform, worked for the rights of those human groups who did not have minimum dignity as human beings.  He tried to bring them in the main stream Hindu society by giving them a new name. He called them Harijan (hari means most honourable) and that was officially declared as ‘scheduled’.

    There is no social stratification in Islam but in practice lower status communes exist in  society who are exploited in many ways due to their low status profession like ‘Kulu’ (traditionally oil producer), ‘Jhula’ (weavers) and ‘Hajam (circumcision).  As today many people from rural peasants society have moved away from their land and traditional livelihoods due to natural disasters and are forced to take shelter in urban and peri-urban areas. These poor people, who do not have skills that fit with the urban economy, are  engaging in this type of lower skills based employment. They face economic, social, and cultural marginalization.

    Political economy of cleaners

    participationAvailable statistics show that there are around 150,000 Harijan in Bangladesh.  If we include Muslim cleaners in this profession then the number is higher and is gradually increasing with urbanization.  There are around 532 urban centres in Bangladesh representing 35% of the population and contributing 80% of national GDP (MHHDC, 2014). Experts suggest that rapid urbanisation will mean that this number will reach 50% by 2030.

    Each day 13,333 MT of urban waste is generated – per capita this is ½ kg per day. This study was conducted in 2005 when there were 512 urban centres and the total urban population was around 25%.  This increased to 35% in 2016 so waste generation today could be around 20,000 MT per day.

    For a liveable city and healthy urbanization we need improved and modernized cleaning services and a professional group with skills and adequate logistics. We can not expect these improvements immediately, but need a priority plan to take the country and our economy to the stage of middle income countries where per capita gross national income starts from  US$1,026 to $ 12,475.

    How do we expect to do this when we ignore around two million people whose services are required daily to foster our urban economy and production? Are they being exploited? Is their work less economically valuable than that of other artisans among the urban classes? We cannot afford to ignore the cost of negligence of proper sanitation cleanliness.

    A study ‘The Human Waste’, conducted by Water Aid and Tearfund shows that  in developing countries 80% of disease is due to poor sanitation. People suffering from water borne diseases occupy half of the world’s hospital beds. Poor sanitation causes an increased burden of disease, numbers in hospital, a daily work loss, lower participation of children in school and the long term effect on health from anaemia and stunted growth.

    The report also reveals that school sanitation programs increase the enrolment of girls annually by 11%. My 12 year old daughter was admitted to a new school after her graduation from class five to six. In the beginning she reported to me that her school toilets were not cleaned properly so she did not want to continue at that school. She repeatedly reported this to her class teachers and she is now fine with her present school. So we can see how the social and economic value of this cleaning works!

    Why are cleaners not a development priority?

    The Bangladesh constitution confirms equal rights for every citizen under the article 19(1) “the state will attempt  to ensure equal; opportunities for all the citizens” and also article 20(1) where every citizens rights are agreed with same value  regardless of their caste, class, religion and sex. But in practice what we see is that communities like cleaners are deprived in many ways of equal access to basic citizen services.

    A recent study conducted by Professor Ainoon Naher and Abu Ala Mahmud Hasan among the harijan of northern Bangladesh (HEKS/EPER, 2016) shows that, “In general, the common feeling among the Dalit is that they have always been looked down upon by the mainstream/dominant groups who tend to avoid Dalit in public spaces”. It also reveals that Dalit women are the ‘marginalized among the marginalized’.

    Social safety nets are a major instrument of the Bangladesh government to reduce poverty and hunger. The allocation of safety nets is mostly rural biased with safety net packages more than three times higher in rural areas compare to urban (House Hold Income and Expenditure Survey , 2010, Pp. 72, BBS).  Girls from extreme poor communities who live in urban slums are not entitled to school stipend program as metropolitan cities are excluded from that safety net policy.

    The Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) network Bangladesh organized a national convention of pit emptiers on 7th December 2016 in Dhaka. Around 92 pit emptiers from 20 municipalities attended. It was an exceptional day for the development workers as well as for these most marginalized people. They identified plenty of eye awakening issues (revealed in the table below) about what we need to know if we really want to change the world

    Table:  Extent of deprivation of cleaners

    Health & SecurityEquityDignityFair income
    “We want equal attention in health care centres when we become sick”“We want to play together with all the children”

    “We are avoided in social events even though we attend we are humiliated”“What we earn monthly that is enough for twenty days and rest of the days we have to live with borrow from informal money lenders with high interest of repayment”

    What is the solution?

    Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary of the United Nations commented that ‘No- one left behind’ is the underlying moral code of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. He  emphasized that people who are hardest to reach should be given priority.  Practical Action Bangladesh have implemented a four year (2012-2016) multi-country (Bangladesh, Nepal & Sri Lanka) project named Integrated Urban Development ( IUD2) that focused on participatory planning for inclusive urban governance.

    The findings of this project are encouraging for development thinkers and policy makers. It followed a participatory approach to include urban cleaners in the development process with a drive to demonstrate pro poor urban governance.  Narratives from project beneficiaries show that they were enlightened by understanding the democratic process and how to identify problems and solutions through a participatory planning process. “We can arrange election in our SIC reformation, exercise and enjoy democracy”,  said Rumpa Begum, Slum Improvement Committee, Faridpur.

    We learned that to create an enabling environment for interaction between two classes of people (elite and proletariat) governance improvement is essential. At the same time a focus on improving skills and reducing health and safety risks is important for transforming any economic sector.

    Customized gulpher for emptying pitIn the history of human society the dominant class has always controlled advanced technology. So creating access to technology for this class can make change happen. I found this to be true for the cleaners’ community of the Faridpur municipality. At the beginning of this year Urban and Energy Service Program of Practical Action, Bangladesh organized an impact review and learning workshop. One of the main stakeholders of this program was city /municipality government. Anisur Rahman Chowdhury, an honourable counsellor of the Faridpur Municipality, who commented in one of the learning sessions on Practical Action’s engagement in the development of his city:

    “Earlier I myself never give space to stand my side any mathor (Cleaner) but when I found that they are now use machines for emptying pit. They do not get down into inside of the pit. I found there is no any bad smell with their body. They are doing like other mechanic or civil engineering works. So I sit with them in a same table at tea stall”.

    I think this is the way to change social perspectives and change the lives of the most disadvantaged communities in any country.  This has also been recommended by Mr. ABM Khurshed Alam, Chairman of the National Skills Development Council to make available modern tools and machinery which could change their status. He also suggested for arranging certificate course for increasing skills of the people of this profession.

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  • Why we should invest in disaster management

    Halim Miah

    December 14th, 2016

    Prioritise weather forecasting and early warning for local communities

    by Md. A. Halim Miah, Kamrul Islam Bhuiyan and Dr. Faruk Ul Islam

    Disaster management in Bangladesh has been transformed from disaster response and recovery to a risk reduction model. However though policy and law have been formulated based on the risk reduction model, policy priority is still required in many areas both in quality and quantitative improvement, such as shifting risk governance from centralized systems to people’s empowerment and redirecting disaster investment from response and recovery model to pre-disaster investment.

    Why more investment at pre-disaster stage?

    Bangladesh spent a lot in the last two decades on disasters. One flood in 1998 caused an estimated loss of US$ 2 billion –  4.8 % of national GDP. This figure might even be higher as loss and damage estimates focus on infrastructure and bigger public institutions and less on those of small entrepreneurs and small holder farmers.

    This loss and damage will increase if we do not invest in prevention measures such as community resilience building, critical infrastructure like dams, embankments, bio-dykes, green belts and the dissemination of risk information for the people live in vulnerable areas.

    voice messages for DRR BograAccording to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report the frequency and intensity of hazards will increase with greater risk particularly for developing nations. Bangladesh has achieved remarkable progress in some social indices like health, primary education, poverty reduction and in some areas of disaster related emergency response. Therefore mortality and morbidity from disasters have reduced significantly.

    Redirect financing from disaster response to development

    The total GNP of Bangladesh is growing.  At independence (1972-73) the total annual budget of Bangladesh was 7.8 billion (£78.5 million) but for the fiscal year 2016-17 it is 3.41 trillion taka (£34 billion).  Bangladesh has a growing national economy and  wealth and GDP per capita rose from US$2,038.7 in 2006 to US$3,136.6 in 2016.

    The World Wealth Report also shows that in 2000 the assets per head of adult men in Bangladesh were worth US$1069 and this has more than doubled to US$ 2347 in 2016. The rate of national poverty was 62% in 1992, which came down to 32% in 2010. But a very few of those who came out from poverty the ‘movers out of poverty’- could become part of the economic middle class (the range of income $2 to $4).

    According to renowned economist Binayak Sen, Director, Research, Bangladesh Development Studies in Bangladesh , the movers who are stuck in the range of $1 to $2 a day income are still  vulnerable to shocks and downward slippages (Sen, Binayak; June 2014, ICE Business, Dhaka).  This is a vicious cycle of income erosion where disasters like floods that recur pull those people behind so that they can not climb up the ladder. Studies reveal that investment in strengthening weather, climate and water information services is highly cost efficient for societal progress returning three times as much as monetary investment according to the CREWS Initiative. 

    Practical Action Bangladesh has implemention experience under Vulnerability to Resilience+, financed by the Zurich Insurance Group.  We found that by disseminating flood early warning messages to the community in understandable ways, flood vulnerable people living downstream of Brahmaputra basin were able to save their most valuable household and agricultural resources.

    We conducted a rapid assessment on the impact of flood early warning voice messages just after the flood which occurred in July –August 2016. Our preliminary findings revealed that people’s indigenous knowledge did not work.

    “The saying goes, if cloud passes from south-west to north-east we would think that the river Jamuna will be raised. But this year we could not understand the possibility of flooding. Therefore voice messaging was very important. Among my neighbours around ten farmers were able to harvest their jute when they got flood early warning voice messages with a minimum financial value of 9,000 taka (£90) for each. Those of us who live island like places, very close to the river evacuated with our cattle saving a minimum of household value of 100,000 taka (£1,000). So if voice messages cost 20 taka household then its return is more than 1000 times higher!”

    This is an example of how improving early warning systems for vulnerable people can save them from the vicious cycle of income erosion and enable them to continue to climb the steps of the ladder with the aim of reaching the gateway from poverty.

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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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  • Celebrating International Disaster Mitigation Day in Bangladesh

    Anwar Hossain

    November 1st, 2016

    Every year, many national and international days are observed by the Government and NGOs in Bangladesh, but they are mainly celebrated in the towns and headquarters of districts. The urban people see many colourful rallies and processions, with the only downside being slight traffic congestion! The media cover the stories with attractive headlines and citizens in the major towns are informed by the speeches, television coverage and print media.anwar1

    But what about the people of Songacha; a vulnerable remote Char area of Sirajganj District, which has no access to TV or print media? Songacha is about 25 kilometres from the district headquarters and stands on the shore of the Jamuna river. There are about 29 villages and 44,825 people live in this Union. Every year, almost all the area is affected by flooding. Many crops and valuable assets become damaged or lost.

    It has been proved that knowledge and awareness are the prerequisites of resilience against vulnerability. This is the first time the villagers in Songacha observed any day like International Disaster Mitigation Day.  

    anwarOn 13th October 2016, the villagers were in a festive mood – they enjoyed colourful rallies with banners, festoons, a discussion session and folk songs on disaster preparedness written and performed by the local people. The community based organisation arranged the day’s programme with collaboration from Songacha Union Parishad and Practical Action’s V2R+ project.

    The Chairman of Songacha Union Md. Sohidul Alom led the programme and inspired the community to become more resilient by avoiding, coping with and absorbing the shock of flooding.  Men, women and children, all came to hear about how to prepare themselves for the onset of future floods. The Daily Sirajganj Barta, a renowned daily newspaper covered the story on their front page.

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  • Bag gardening makes a big change to food security of flood vulnerable families

    Anwar Hossain

    October 3rd, 2016

    Nasima Khatun lives in a village, very near the mighty Jamuna river of Sirajganj. River water comes to destroy their kitchen garden almost every year during the months of July, August and September, the harvesting season for summer vegetables. During the post flood period vegetable scarcity in homes and local markets becomes acute. Most poor families just eat boiled rice with salt during the floods. The health and nutrition of the household becomes fragile. They have no idea how to come out of this situation.

    bag gardening bangladesh To improve this situation, Practical Action Bangladesh under it’s Vulnerability to Resilience project arranged hands on training for 200 flood vulnerable families on bag gardening.  This is a simple technology that protects the plant from root suffocation and rotting and avoids water logging.  With a smile on her face, Nasima Khatun told me.

    “I have harvested about 60 pieces of green fruit of white gourd and they are still now fruiting. I kept a few fruits to be matured for seed. I have sold 20 pieces, consumed 30 pieces and gifted to neighbours 10 pieces. Total market value was about 1200tk where as it was cost 20tk only to set a single bag garden.”

    Bag gardening BangladeshShe continued, “I had no stress regarding food during the recent flood period. Following this method and using local materials, different types of vegetables could be grown. My neighbours did also. When the water rises we can move or raise the bag to keep it out of water except if the water touches our roof. Really, it is a fantastic technology that will increase our strength to live with flood without scaring at for food and nutrition.”

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  • Know your soil

    Hasin Jahan

    October 3rd, 2016

    The agrarian economy of Bangladesh contributes more than 18% of the country’s GDP through employing around 45% of the labour force. We can take the pride in its achievement towards ensuring food security though debates remain around food safety and nutritional aspect.hasin

    There’s a common practice among our farmers of using excessive amount of fertilizers without understanding the nature of soil. As a result of the overuse of chemical fertilizers, the soil texture is deteriorating and at the same time farmers are spending more on agricultural inputs. Good yield depends on nutrient status and organic matter contents of soils to a great extent. To explain it in simpler language, organic contents in soil strata hold the water, nutrient within it and facilitate plants to absorb the same. Due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers, the level of organic content in Bangladesh has reduced to less than 1.5% which the ideal content is support to be around 4-5%. The situation is approaching to an alarming stage.

    farmers in bangladeshBangladesh is generating huge amount of solid waste everyday and major portion of solid waste is organic and could be easily converted into compost or organic fertiliser. Further, about 80,000 tons of human waste is generated every day in the country which is polluting the environment. Even if we could use a certain portion of this waste could be converted into compost/ organic fertiliser, it would be a huge gain for the country. The gain should not be seen only from monetary perspective, rather, use of this compost could save the environment, reduce the surface water pollution, improve the soil health and increase soil fertility. We are yet to think comprehensively and utilize the full potentials of available resources around us.

    Government is providing extensive subsidy for chemical fertilisers creating a business enabling environment for it which in turn is adversely impacting promotion of organic fertilisers. Time has come to echo for promotion of balanced fertilizer and creating a conducive policy environment for promotion of organic fertilisers.

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