Information technology for adaptive agriculture


Kalpona Begum, a rural housewife from the northern district of Nilphamari, knows how to save her and cattle and crops from flood water during monsoon season, as she and her family have been living by the Teesta River for decades and have faced the situation on a regular basis.
Yet, she did not know the cause or remedy for the sudden pest attacks on her green chili and maize fields recently, during an unusual period of irregular weather patterns including rainfall along with heat and cold waves.
The 45-year-old Kalpona still managed to get through the pest attacks and keep the maize cultivation going on her family’s one-acre land thanks to a mobile phone based agri-information service provided by an NGO as a part of their action research.
“We have been cultivating maize for the last few years but we have never seen such type of dry-leaf diseases from the beginning of the season. So I took advice from the call center on how to deal with the problem,” said Kalpona to this correspondent.
“Later I suggested the same remedy to other farmers in my village whose crops were also affected,” she added.
With an aim to raise awareness on technology based agriculture among farmers, Oxfam in Bangladesh, with the support of Monash University, Australia, has been providing the information to the farmers.
“One of the core objectives of our initiative is to ensure adaptive agricultural practices in rural Bangladesh so that the farmers can cope with changing climatic patterns and avoid production loss,” said Tapas Ranjan Chakraborty, coordinator of ICT and Development at Oxfam, Bangladesh.
“The second is sharing the information from technology-based learning with others,” he also said, adding that the services are part of a project named Participatory Research and Ownership with Technology, Information and Change (PROTIC).

As part of the initiative, they have set up call center in Dhaka where several agriculture and livestock experts provide suggestions and advice to farmers over the phone.
In addition, they have been providing tips on seasonal crops and caring of livestock, through text messages to registered farmers.
Regarding this, the Oxfam spokesperson said: “Farmers are otherwise well-informed about their business but they don’t know how to cope with quick changes to avoid losses.”
The project is being piloted in Baro Kuput village on the Satkhira coast and Dakshin Kharibari village in Dimla Charland.
In the pilot, 200 female farmers from the two areas (100 from each area) along with stakeholders in information technology, were equipped with smart-phones on which they get both on-demand and promotional information via text or voice messages.
They have even been sharing their learning on Facebook, among other online platforms, by creating separate groups for the purpose of sharing knowledge on resilient agriculture.
To assess the effectiveness of the pilot, the project authority has a control village and a treatment village in each location. In addition, they are comparing the effectiveness of mobile phone based agro-information with another village where there is no such service.
For the purpose of this research, the control village is one without direct PROTIC support but all other support, including regular and progressive government and NGOs interventions, is as usual.
Oxfam’s development partners Prollisree and Shushilan have been implementing the project activities in Charland and the coast respectively, while Oxfam’s ICT partner has been generating the content of the messages.
In addition, academic partners like University of Dhaka, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University, Khulna University and Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University are conducting demand-based research to generate information on agriculture and community resilience. Monash University has also engaged PhD candidates in this research.

Enabling community based adaptation through adaptive learning

For many years the small farmers and sharecroppers in Choto Lobongola community not far from Barguna sadar town in southern Bangladesh faced the annual challenges of not enough fresh water in the dry season to grow crops, and too much water in the monsoon season causing waterlogging. Saline ground water and increasingly erratic and unreliable rainfall in the winter and pre-monsoon period meant that the land was parched and farmers left it fallow or only sowed grasspea (khesari) on the chance of getting some harvest. In addition to climate and environmental constraints, some influential people made barriers inside the local sluice gate so that they could catch fish. Over time this caused the canal to silt up and it was then grabbed by some influential people who planted trees and claimed the public waterway for cultivation. Increasing tide levels and siltation resulted in waterlogging, and the only option for some landowners was to build shrimp farms. But this caused conflict over allowing fresh or brackish water into the area. A combination of elites capturing resources (which changed the interaction of water, silt and land use) and climate trends resulted in regular conflicts, sometimes over scarce water, but more seriously when drainage constraints including bunds of shrimp farms caused waterlogging and regularly flooded homesteads. Choto Lobongola Matsha Jibi Kalayan Somobay Samittee Limited is a member of a network of similar community based organisations (CBOs) called Society for Water Resources Management. The leaders of Choto Lobongola discussed their problems in the regional forum of this network to get suggestions from other CBOs. Other CBO leaders said they had been able to cooperate to re-excavate canals which might reduce monsoon waterlogging and also store water for dry season irrigation. The Choto Lobongola representative shared this idea with his members. With help from researchers from Flood Hazard Research Centre, consultation meetings were held with the different stakeholders. By 2013-14 the elites as well as the poor were suffering from flooding in their homestead areas due to drainage congestion and agreed to sit together to discuss what had become a common problem. During participatory planning the different groups agreed that re-excavation and an end to barrier fishing were needed. The community agreed to contribute labour towards excavation, obtained endorsement for re-excavating the canal from the district administration, had the canal demarcated, and cut down the trees growing there. After excavating in 2015, they re-activated and reformed a committee including representatives from the community to take decisions over sluice operation. Farmers, especially sharecroppers, tried cultivating dry season crops that were new to the area such as sunflower and maize using water stored in the canal. These crops are much more water efficient than irrigated rice, needing less than 20% of the water used for rice and are relatively drought tolerant. Cooperating in crop choices has helped more farmers benefit from fresh water stored in the canal. Fish were now free to move through the canal and, by conserving small sanctuaries, the CBO restored local aquatic nature and livelihoods of the poor. Drainage improved and waterlogging ended, so now people who used to be in conflict and avoid one another discuss water management and help each other in their work. Research findings Choto Lobongola is just one of 53 conflict case studies in 43 locations in Bangladesh which, with a further 26 cases in Nepal, have been the focus of an action research project. Community based Adaptive Learning in management of Conflicts and Natural Resources in Bangladesh and Nepal (CALCNR) project is supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and involves collaboration between Middlesex University’s Flood Hazard Research Centre, ForestAction Nepal, iDE and Nice Foundation. All of the sites had existing community-based organisations that had mobilised poorer people in managing natural resources through past completed projects supported by government and NGOs, but also faced conflicts. In Bangladesh most of the local conflicts studied in floodplains over natural resources revolved around water management (27 cases), or access to commons (18 cases, such as fish, aquatic plants and other wild resources), with a few (8) others related to accessing public lands or internal disputes within CBOs. There were multiple factors behind each local conflict, as at Choto Lobongola, typically three to four causal factors. In three quarters of water management conflicts recent climate stresses and changes triggered or worsened conflict along with access disputes, declining natural resources, and local elites changing the characteristics of resources (for example, blocking waterways). By comparison conflicts over common natural resources were mainly a result of elites capturing resources at the expense of the poor, and gaps and biases in polices and their application. Examples include loss of access rights to public waterbodies (jalmohals) by local community organisations which took legal action against the government or were excluded when they lost leases, and marshy floodplains (including public and private lands) where the poor could collect plants and small fish and graze livestock being converted by the wealthy into aquaculture farms. Out of the 79 cases of conflict in Bangladesh floodplains and in Nepal over community forests and local water supplies, action research with the communities was able to transform conflict into enhanced cooperation in 62 cases. The infographic opposite highlights the eight factors that were identified that contributed to this transformation. In the 41 cases that were resolved in Bangladesh, negotiation and mediation were important in almost all, but were not in themselves sufficient – four to five enablers worked together as part of transformation. Technical innovations such as re-excavation and adopting stress resilient crops, as in Choto Lobongola, were important in resolving water conflicts, but other factors were at least as important. These include innovations in governance (access rules, CBO membership), sharing knowledge (indigenous and experts), systematic learning between CBOs, and local incentives. Incentives include sharing costs of actions between former conflicting groups, enhanced social status from resolving disputes, and the benefit of more productive and resilient natural resource systems. The 12 cases where conflicts persisted are similar to Choto Lobongola: Conflicts mainly arose from access disputes where local elites grabbed resources (commons, land or water). But these cases remained unresolved as the advantaged saw no benefit in changing their practices, and because injustices were often a result of those with power taking advantage of gaps or biases in how policies are implemented. Conclusions These cases reveal the complex causes of local conflicts in the floodplains. They show that enabling factors rarely work as a single element in transforming conflict to cooperation. Conflicts over natural resources are inevitable, but adaptation can be enhanced by encouraging communities through these good practices. Climate change adaptation initiatives should: 1. recognise local natural resource conflicts; 2. build in flexibility to adopt those enabling practices appropriate to each location; 3. respond to local needs and opportunities; 4. recognise and maintain local ecosystem functions; and 5. encourage coordination, negotiation and joint actions between existing institutions and CBOs.

Community-led adaptation: Myth or reality?


Climate change is an outcome of human civilisation and undoubtedly the antidote to climate change is the community, either victims or contributors to global warming.
Climate change poses threats to the sustainable development of LDCs and developing countries, with the marginalised and vulnerable people of society bearing the brunt of it as they depend on climate sensitive, natural resource based livelihoods.
However, smallholder farmers have much experience of adapting to their complex, diverse, and risk-prone environments.
Heat stress, lack of water at crucial times, pests and diseases are serious problems that climate change appears to be exacerbating.
Since the effects of climate change are diverse in nature across regions, localities, economic conditions, community knowledge based adaptation is the most cost-effective, resilient and forward looking approach in any adaptation effort. Bangladesh has proved how community based awareness programs can drastically reduce the loss of lives due to disasters like cyclone.
“[U]ntil recently, most adaptation efforts have been top-down, and little attention has been paid to communities’ experiences of climate change and their efforts to cope with their changing environments.” Now, the focus is shifting to “approaches to adaptation to climate change which are community-based and participatory, building on the priorities, knowledge, and capacities of local people.”

Community Based Adaptation (CBA) is a joint effort by different stakeholders, with a community focus. However, due to poor governance in major climate vulnerable LDCs, people are jeopardised with multiple vulnerabilities like limited voice, access or control in decision-making, and gender inequalities, accompanied by chronic poverty. Moreover, these communities’ lack of access to modern resources e.g. technology means that much of their knowledge is ignored or undermined. That’s why, CBA lacks real ownership of the community and not clearly focus on real demand-driven along with the full independence of the community is also not reflected. Most importantly, to ensure effective utilization of resources without any wastages the CBA concept should be evolved into Community Lead Adaptation (CLA). With that bleak reality in mind, Sustainable Development Goal 13 has specifically included climate change in the context of community engagement, and Goal 16 has emphasises inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels of climate change adaptation. Recognising the need for CLA the climate change related Paris Agreement has emphasised that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, fully transparent, participatory approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems. It should be based on and guided by the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate. However, the major challenge is that there is no legally binding obligation for the Parties to frame community lead adaptation. For effective CLA, the following key issues should be considered duly. Inclusive And Stringent Policy Regime The prime responsibilities of policy makers are to provide support to climate vulnerable communities through various measures, such as, analysing the community level climate vulnerabilities and risks, strengthening adaptive capacities, deciding on and adopting actions that are sustainable, climate resilient and responsive to local realities, climate information and changing risks, and so on. Making choices in an uncertain climate, multi- stakeholder, sector and level, anticipation of regular and new shocks requires thoughtful and joined up responses and working with communities’ knowledge and aspirations. In LDCs, the core focus should be given to ongoing efforts to prepare the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) from a community perspective rather than from a national or macro focus. Any adaptation related efforts or project design and monitoring implementation of the project by the beneficiary communities must be integrated with the NAP process. Particularly, in case of Bangladesh, climate funded project implementing agencies should internalise the CLA with its planning, monitoring and evaluation process. Meaningful Adaptive Capacity Adaptive capacity is the ability to constantly adjust livelihood and risk management strategies in response to new and changing circumstances (IPCC). When we are uncertain of the impact of climate change, adaptive capacity is an increasingly critical aspect of resilience. According to the Paris Agreement, “capacity-building should be country-driven, based on and responsive to national needs, and foster country ownership of Parties, in particular, for developing country Parties, including at the national, sub-national and local levels…and should be an effective, iterative process that is participatory, cross-cutting and gender-responsive.”

The local community should have the capacity to examine whether the CLA project is developed based on local risks and priorities, integrating both scientific and local/indigenous knowledge into its planning processes; whether the proposed action will ensure sustainable development or specific output that would ensure resilience. It has been found that in Indonesia, a participatory “learning by doing” approach helped to increase farmers’ knowledge of climate change. At present, there is a dearth of knowledge about the impact of climate change and local level vulnerabilities, among local community, local government institutions and local level officials of the implementing entities. There is also an absence of accountability to build capacity of the stakeholders, including local community. The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) should frame an immediate agreement on considering the CLA framework/strategy for sharing knowledge, replication of best practices, innovate the effective CLA models, mobilise resources and most importantly on community-led monitoring of implementation of CLA projects. Effective Vulnerability Assessment for Effective CLA Since vulnerability is a local phenomenon, the ultimate solution should come from the affected stakeholders. We must recognise that the Paris Agreement that has focused on engaging in adaptation planning processes and the implementation of actions, including the development or enhancement of relevant plans, policies and/or contributions, the assessment of climate change impacts and vulnerability, with a view to formulating nationally determined prioritised actions. The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Bangladesh has already initiated a vulnerability risk assessment, however, this assessment should be local or area-specific, and participatory, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems. Finance for Community-led Adaptation (CLAF) Regarding adaptation finance at the local level either community or LGIs, it has been observed that in most cases, the usual focus of policy makers is on traditional channels, from top to bottom through multiple channels. But, it has been identified that direct financing of LGIs and generating funds/donations from local community is cost-effective and efficient. For instance, from the BCCTF not a single UP or Upazilla Parishad got direct funding. Moreover, the proposed Climate Fiscal Framework has sealed off the scope of direct funding to local community. In case of CLAF, LGI in collaboration with CBOs could play vital role to build capacity, integrated planning, pool resources to finance the CLA project/program and community monitoring. A real political will and commitment of policy makers are required for mainstreaming the CLA with the sustainable development process in each vulnerable country. The most important is that the vulnerable communities have shown that it is time to elevate from CBA to CLA and CLAF is not a myth, rather reality due to successful implementation of hundreds of cost-effective adaptation projects (from planning to implementation) across the world by the full ownership of the community.

Adapting to renewables


Bangladesh is a densely populated developing country of 160 million people in a land area of 56,977 sq miles. As much as 60-70% of households in rural and coastal Bangladesh have no access to electricity.
Renewable energy expansion in grid-energy deprived regions of developing countries can be critical to promote sustainable livelihood and development. In terms of natural and technical terms, there is significant potential in Bangladesh to generate energy from solar (50,174MW), wind (4,614MW), hydropower (550MW), and grid-connected biomass (566MW) sources.
Within a larger investigation on global energy access to poor population, a study has been undertaken in four villages or clusters in the district of Khulna, in the southern coastal belt of Bangladesh, to assess living conditions before and after renewable energy systems had been installed.
As part of the study, three out of these four villages were provided with either wind, solar, or a hybrid (solar plus wind) energy technology systems; and a fourth, control cluster was not provided with any renewable or other modern energy technology.
In order to capture socio-economic, livelihoods, climate change, and environment information pre- and post-energy access, a questionnaire was applied, a year apart, to five households in each village, making a total of 20 participants. Periodic data was also captured on local atmospheric indicators and power output from the three installed energy systems.
Some of the findings were enlightening in proving the extent to which energy access may promote some positive life-changing conditions among poor communities.
For example, 49.3%, 24.6%, 15.5%, and 15.1% increase in household income was registered for the solar, hybrid, wind, and control clusters respectively. If the control cluster were the expected change in income levels, ie 15.1% after one year, the contribution of renewable energy to household income levels above the level of the control cluster are 34.2%, 9.5%, and 0.4% for solar, hybrid, and wind cluster respectively.
Assessing the livelihood sources before and after incorporation of clean, off-grid energy technologies to three communities showed that several people who were travelling out of their localities for employment purposes were now remaining in their own locality and expanding their agricultural activities by using the energy in innovative ways, eg as a source of heat for the chicks in the poultry farms during the winter months.
A recent visit to the hybrid cluster was particularly instructive. An educated female member of a family took advantage of the light sources in the evening to tutoring kids from within and outside her village. Light was also being used for handicraft-making purposes for the women of the same household.
Two striking findings were that people’s willingness to pay for energy had risen by three folds, and energy demand increased amongst the groups which had access to modern energy.
Once they had access to energy, users realised how useful and beneficial it can be in their lives and hence they expressed an increased need for energy, and also an increased willingness to pay.
In terms of power output from solar, wind, and a solar-wind hybrid systems, the most stable power output was derived from solar during daylight hours.
The hybrid technological solution generated 24 hour power output and coverage as the daylight hours were supported by the solar power; and from the evenings, generally the wind speed picks up and the wind turbine output provides coverage for the evening and night time.
Yet, the stand-alone wind system faced intermittency in power output and the sporadic nature of the power was not very useful for the communities.
The study found that there is good potential for the hybrid systems, which not only provide daytime and night time coverage, but it is also able to provide a larger output through which the communities can expand beyond just four LED light bulbs and a mobile phone charger, which is generally the most common components in a Solar Home System.
The clustering model worked quite well and by sharing the costs the communities will be able to diversify their renewable energy portfolio and attain increased output.
The future could potentially see such clusters being set up with a range of different renewable energy technologies followed by connecting micro-grid devices for more efficient storage and utilisation. Clusters of micro-grids may subsequently be joined to a mini-grid. In turn, excess energy generated from mini-grid clusters could be fed into the national grid.
Bangladesh has pledged to move towards 100% renewable energy by 2050. It may sound like a distant date, and the energy that is generated in the three villages in Khulna may only seem like a small contribution towards increasing the share of renewable power in the total country energy production.
Nonetheless, such ambitious national target requires that a transition to cleaner sources of energy starts now, and takes place in any sector wherever it is possible.
Thinking of future expansion of such energy systems requires that sustainable financing is available and possible market-based scenarios are considered.
It is likely that poor communities could approach micro-credits or loans to access the technologies; yet, the increase in income that this study has shown possible would go towards supporting the repayment of instalments.
In addition, enabling policy, regulatory, and financial support are critical in bringing about this change, which will take the pressure off the government to provide electricity from the national grid to rural and coastal remote locations.
In this way, the currently limited power output may be utilised in manufacturing-based sectors, which will create employment and contribute to GDP growth.

Can timely adaptation to climate change save Bangladesh from disaster?


Bangladesh, being one of the most vulnerable countries to the adverse effects of climate change, has gone through more than a decade of planning and implementation of adaptation actions, and has learned some valuable lessons from the experience. This article aims to portray the evolution of adaptation planning and also derive some lessons from that experience. The adaptation experience can be roughly divided into three time periods, namely, the past from 2001 to 2010, the present from 2011 to 2020, and the future from 2020 to 2030. It can also be divided roughly into three domains: The global domain represented by decisions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),the national and sectoral planning domain within Bangladesh, and, finally, the implementation domain within Bangladesh (see Diagram). Below is a discussion on the evolution and lessons from each of these time periods and domains of adaptation planning and actions below. Phase one (2001 to 2010) The story starts in 2001 at the seventh Conference of Parties (COP7) of the UNFCCC held in Marrakech, Morocco where the Marrakech Accords were agreed upon, recognisingfor the first time the need to address adaptation to climate change and the need to assist Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in this regard. Thus, the UNFCCC provided support to all the 48 LDCs, including Bangladesh, to carry out a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) to do a rapid vulnerability analysis and identify some immediate priority adaptation actions which could then be funded by the newly created LDC Fund (LDCF). Bangladesh was one of the first LDCs to complete its NAPA and get some funding for an adaptation project.

Phase two (2011 to 2020) While all the LDCs were submitting their respective NAPAs to the UNFCCC and Adaptation project proposals to the LDCF for funding, Bangladesh took a unique initiative on its own to develop the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) with its own financial and intellectual resources. The BCCSAP was divided into six pillars under which over forty actions were identified. Most of the pillars and actions were related to adaptation although there were also some mitigation ones as well. In order to fund the actions under the BCCSAP, Bangladesh set up two separate funds, one with its own resources called the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF), and anothercalled the Bangladesh Climate Resilience Fund (BCRF)with contributions from development partners such as the UK, USA, Australia, Denmark, among others. Both funds were meant to support actions identified in the BCCSAP by government ministries and agencies with a 10% allocation for civil society and NGOs. Over the last decade these two funds have received and allocated nearly a billion US dollars to hundreds of adaptation projects and activities both within the government and with civil society. Although there is yet to be a thorough evaluation of all the activities, the climate finance did indeed result in a higher level of awareness and understanding of climate change across all the major stakeholder groups in Bangladesh. These lessons need to now be applied to the next phase going forward. At the same time that Bangladesh was carrying out its planning and implementation of adaptation actions, the UNFCCC agreed that all countries should prepare National Adaptation Plans (NAP). These plans should be long-term and with an intent to eventually mainstream adaptation into national planning. Bangladesh is currently preparing its NAP under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF). Also under the Paris Agreement which was adopted at COP21 in December 2015, all countries had prepared and submitted their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which have to describe the mitigation actions but allow countries to choose to include adaptation if they wish. Bangladesh is now preparing its NDC with adaptation included also under the MOEF. Phase three (2020 to 2030) The coming decade will be significant for Bangladesh in that it will require adaptation to climate change to be included in various upcoming national plans such as the 2041 Perspective Plan, the 8th Five Year Plan from 2021 to 2026, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) up to 2030, and the Delta Plan to 2100. Thus, the main challenge for Bangladesh is to successfully “mainstream” adaptation into all the above mentioned national plans as well as sectoral plans in agriculture, water, coastal zone, disaster management, and local development plans. Financing Adaptation At the global level there have been numerous sources of funding for adaptation from which Bangladesh has received some money but not nearly enough. These include the funds created under the UNFCCC such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the LDCF, the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), the Adaptation Fund (AF), and, most recently, the Green Climate Fund (GCF). There are also bilateral funds from developed countries and funding from multilateral banks such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. However, the amount of funding Bangladesh received from some of these sources is not nearly enough, so while we keeping trying to access the global climate funding, especially the GCF, Bangladesh will also need to allocate funds for adaptation out of our national budget, rather than through the BCCTF. Concluding lessons The first lesson is that while it made sense to set up parallel adaptation plans and funds for the initial learning and capacity building phases, it is now important to mainstream adaptation into national, sectoral and local level plans and fund them from the national budget allocations, supplemented by global climate finance. Second, as we try to bring in as much global climate funds as possible, the funds should be blended with national funds to make the most effective use of the money. A caveat here: We must make sure that climate funds can be traced, measured, and evaluated in a transparent and credible manner. is important for all the non-government stakeholders to also take appropriate actions on adaptation. These include the private sector, the academic and research sectors, media, women’s groups, youth, and all others to take on their own respective adaptation planning and implementation as we move forward to the next decade. If everyone does their part effectively then not only can Bangladesh become one of the most adaptive countries but we can also become a global leader and share our knowledge with the rest of the world.

Transformative adaptation in Bangladesh


Adaptation and development in Bangladesh are one in the same issue. This became clear to me almost immediately when I arrived in Dhaka and began working with the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).
As a country that faces enormous geographic vulnerability to climate change, as well as one that has been actively developing over the last several decades, it makes sense that an adaptive development strategy would be advantageous.
In pursuing such a strategy, Bangladesh has a critical opportunity to redefine how the world conceives of development.
I spent almost 8 weeks in Dhaka during my summer break this year to begin learning about climate change, development, and about Bangladesh itself. After this summer, it has become evident to me how fortunate I am to have been able to connect with ICCCAD and to come from a university that can support this research.
Though I still have much to learn, I can say with certainty that Bangladesh is an integral actor in shaping global ambitions on climate change.
During my stay, I joined members of the ICCCAD team and other visiting researchers on a field visit through the Khulna district. On this trip, I encountered many components of adaptation and development that I had until then only read about.
As a group, we visited a cyclone shelter, saw plinths that had been raised for homes to combat flooding, and observed the change from brackish to salt water zones along with the innovative farming practices that have been developed there.
It became clear to me that these things cannot be classified as either adaptation or development, but rather as an inextricable combination of both.
Adaptation is a challenge that the world must tackle collectively, and in countless different contexts. Local solutions are important, especially when those solutions can be tailored to be applied broadly.
Policy-makers, NGOs, academic researchers, and local communities are already working to ensure that Bangladesh is adapting to this challenge. It can therefore be a global leader in climate adaptation.
However, it is also important that adapting to climate change is transformative. There is a distinct difference between being able to survive and being able to thrive in a changing world.
Not only should Bangladesh pursue adaptation plans that build resilience, but it should envision ones that actually enhance people’s livelihoods. Herein lies the crux of the adaptation and development connection: If the country implements both simultaneously, there is ample opportunity to transform Bangladeshi society for the better over the long term.
There is no one path for development. I have been enormously impressed by the innovative national plans and policies that Bangladesh already has in place, which aim to integrate climate adaptation into its development strategies.
There is much that the world can learn from these plans. The next step is now to ensure that these plans are implemented effectively, and that future planning continues to push for increasingly more progressive policies.
I do not pretend to know what is best for Bangladesh. As a sociologist, however, I know that progressive interventions, even those with the best intentions and aims, can have unintended social consequences, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable populations.
As a researcher of climate change, I know that these are also the populations which must be the primary target of climate adaptation efforts. By integrating a transformative adaptation strategy into its development strategy, Bangladesh can then enhance the lived experience of all Bangladeshis, while also making the country climate resilient and economically prosperous.
This will ensure that the poor and vulnerable are not further disadvantaged. Neither livelihood quality nor environmental sustainability should be sacrificed in the adaptive development process.
I learned a huge amount during my time in Dhaka. In particular, I learned that there are already conceptions of development emerging in the world that do not necessarily include enormous environmental destruction.
Rather, in Bangladesh, sustainable development lies at the heart of policies and visions for the future.
As these policies are shown to be successful in the coming years, I am confident that the rest of the world will look to Bangladesh as a model of development for the age of climate change.

How can adaptation finance serve those who are adapting?

The side events that ran alongside the international negotiations during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 23rd Conference of Parties (COP) in Bonn, Germany, featured some of the liveliest discussions on solutions to climate change issues.
Various stake-holders agreed that the focus going forward must be on implementing the commitments and solutions provided for in the Paris Agreement. Channelling money appropriately to pay for these solutions is key to their success.
Whilst climate change is a global issue, its effects are experienced locally. These local experiences can vary from community to community, as each village, region, or city may face unique impacts as a result of sea level rise, extreme weather events, and increased temperatures.
Therefore, a key question is: What is required to get the money pledged under the global agreements to the communities and cities on the front line to meet their adaptation requirements, and to enable transparency and accountability for these recipients? In other words, how can adaptation finance serve those who are adapting?
At Development and Climate Days, a COP side event organised by various institutions, a seminar was held on adaptation finance. Here, a variety of interested parties contributed to an adaptation finance “hackathon” facilitated by Oxford Policy Management and Action on Climate Today.
The goal of the hackathon was to crowd-source innovative approaches to enhancing accountability to the recipients of international adaptation finance. It also aimed to gather new ideas on how to track both the amount being spent on adaptation in-country and what benefits this spending has.
Some discussions at the hackathon highlighted ongoing challenges with adaptation finance. What constitutes “adaptation” is still the subject of much dialogue, which makes it difficult to gather information on financing it in a transparent way.
There is no common definition of adaptation; on a narrow interpretation, adaptation can be seen as managing specific risks caused by climate change, whereas on a wider, more holistic and forward-looking interpretation, it is intertwined with development goals of enhancing and transforming lives and livelihoods.
The lack of concrete methodologies for tracking global adaptation finance flows adds to this challenge. The Paris Agreement provides for a country-driven approach to adaptation, which allows national governments to respond to domestic needs. Arguably, as a link between the local and the global levels, national level adaptation tracking and planning should evolve to be both aggregable for global stocktakes, whilst allowing local diversity.
Some stake-holders suggested at the hackathon that using GDP as the main metric is helpful as central government finance ministries speak this language, but another stake-holder suggested that at local government level, both financial and non-financial measures are needed.
The session also showcased some successes in decentralised adaptation finance. Mumina Bonaya of the Adaptation Consortium in Kenya presented and discussed the pilots of the Decentralising Climate Funds, in Kenya, Tanzania, Mali, and Senegal.
The projects involve local community committees in the decision-making process, to make informed choices and prioritise more impactful investments, and disburse finance through existing local governance systems. Example projects include those that deepen water sources, so that water stocks last longer; and investments in research for treating livestock diseases that are more prevalent due to climate change. Representatives from Ethiopia supported these successes, explaining that they believed such a strategy could work in their country, too.
These strategies could also be relevant for Bangladesh. Bangladesh already has a huge wealth of experience in dealing with natural and climate disasters. It now also has two national entities accredited to the Green Climate Fund, the newest global climate finance fund under the UNFCCC.
These entities can develop funding proposals and manage and monitor Green Climate Fund projects in Bangladesh. As Dr Saleemul Huq explained during COP23, transparency and accountability to recipients of adaptation finance must be achieved by engaging with the whole ecosystem of stake-holders, at every level.
In pursuing community-led adaptation finance that aims to be transparent, it appears that Bangladesh has an opportunity to continue to lead on increasing resilience to climate change in a way that enhances lives and livelihoods.

Microfinance: A Solution towards Climate Change Adaptation

MFIs need to mainstream climate change and disaster risk reduction

In the recently concluded Second International Conference on Climate Finance (ICCF) held from March 9 – 10 at Dhaka, a group of researchers from the UK shed light on household expenditure for poor households across Bangladesh at the onset of climate-induced disasters. It was not surprising to see that people who struggle to survive on a day-to-day basis tend to bear the lion’s share of the burden of climate expenditure compared to government and donor sources.

What stood out, however, were the figures in respect to gender-differentiated expenditure.

Numbers reveal that female-headed households in Bangladesh spend thrice as much as male-headed households (18.8% of total income compared to 6.5% for male-headed households) on climate-related expenditure. While this unequal burden of expenditure can be mulled over, it is far more important to recognise that female-headed households and women, in general, tend to give climate action a much higher priority and are key actors for promoting climate change adaptation within their local communities. To further their cause, they need proper support and access to low-cost finance.

This is where microfinance comes to light. Microfinance refers to the provision of financial services, typically in the form of small loans, savings accounts, insurance, and money transfers, to customers that lack access to traditional financial services usually due to poverty.

Prevalent in Bangladesh since the country’s independence in the 1970s, microfinance operations have been playing a crucial role in promoting livelihood opportunities for the poorer segment of the population and contributing towards the country’s macroeconomic growth. The rural poor, especially women, who happen to be the most vulnerable to a changing climate owing to their low adaptive capacities, are generally the primary clients of microfinance institutions (MFI). Provision of long-term direct and indirect financial support by MFIs have been helping them build an asset base, thereby enhancing their ability to deal with manifold climatic shocks and stresses.

There is thus growing interest in the role MFIs can play in facilitating adaptation to climate change. MFIs are well positioned to support climate change activities at the local level due to its broad delivery infrastructure across the country and a good reputation for reliable service delivery. Different MFIs have been pivotal in promoting innovative and sustainable livelihood solutions such as saline tolerant crop farming, vermicompost production for rural households. MFIs also run vocational training as well as awareness building programmes, which help build human and social capital and thereby enhance the resilience of local communities. Furthermore, the high volume and limited value nature of the services offered by MFIs allows for decentralized decision-making by households and communities. With a large majority of their clients being women, MFIs also promote social inclusion and equity. MFIs can, therefore, be considered as important catalysts for community-based adaptation in Bangladesh.

Bandana Rani is one of the millions of women in the country who access services from MFIs to support their lives and livelihoods. She lives in Pashchim Char Umed in Bhola, a coastal island district in southern Bangladesh which is frequently hit by climate-induced disasters and is subject to slow onset stresses such as soil and water salinity. Mother of two and caregiver to her ageing mother-in-law, she is like any other rural housewife, whose scope of productive employment is limited by various social and cultural barriers. Access to microfinance a few years ago has allowed her to engage in income generating activities and at the same time has imbued her with increased decision-making power within her family.

“This all started when I received 200 earthworms to produce vermicompost in my backyard. I also received hands-on training on the practice. Selling the compost allowed me to gradually expand into vegetable production and also take up poultry farming and livestock rearing. I am now planning for my children’s higher education and thinking about reconstructing our house once I have enough savings.”

However, challenges still remain for people who are not covered by MFIs. During the ICCF 2019 experts shared that people affected by climatic disasters are more prone to seek finance from informal sources rather than from formal MFIs and NGOs. This often results in households getting trapped in a cycle of indebtedness, losing their assets and livelihood means. Families are sometimes forced to marry off their young daughters in exchange for a huge amount of dowry and often driven to migrate from their localities –actions that can be considered as ‘maladaptation’.

Microfinance has proved as an effective model for poverty eradication and productive employment for people who are unable to reach formal financing institutions due to their poverty and financial inability. There is potential for microfinance to be scaled up and mobilized as climate finance for diversifying people’s livelihood opportunities and rendering long term benefits, unlike typical fly-in fly-out projects by foreign donors, whose benefits do not usually sustain beyond the project cycle.

It is therefore important to recognize the fact that promoting climate adaptive microfinance to people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change can play a massive role in enhancing the adaptive capacity of local communities. With the looming impacts of climate change, MFIs need to mainstream climate change and disaster risk reduction in their operations and proactively consider devising climate sensitive schemes to help vulnerable communities in Bangladesh dealing with current and anticipated climate risks. Promoting various types of insurance, such as agricultural insurance, weather-based insurance, or index-based insurance can help unlock new and innovative financial instruments to fight against climate-induced loss and damage.

A paradigm shift in knowledge transfer on adaptation


The traditional North-South paradigm of technology transfer ignores the increasing importance of developing countries as sources of appropriate climate-friendly technologies

he expressions of `knowledge’ or `technology transfer’ has traditionally evoked in us a unidirectional trajectory – from advanced, developed to developing countries, which are popularly called the `Global North’ and `Global South.’

This pathway has been drawn since the colonial era began a few centuries back. The colonial powers then transferred huge amounts of wealth and resources from their colonies and invested in developing their economies and societies.

As a result, underdevelopment was further reproduced in the colonized countries. Whatever developments in science and technology happened were associated with the western world. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) embodies this notion of North- South transfer of technology under its Article 4.5.

There is no denying the fact that the western world is far advanced in basic research in most of the cases. However, since decolonization during the last few decades, many of the newly- emergent countries are progressing on a fast track and achieving significant advances in science and technology as well.

Late J Nyarere, the former President of Tanzania, was a pioneer of promoting South-South cooperation, and under his leadership, the South Centre was established in Geneva, to promote South-South cooperation, which challenges the dependency on the North, by finding ways and means of supporting each other.

The central assumption was that the best practices of social and economic development in the Southern countries are more suitable for replication in other lower-income countries, because of the more similarities in conditions and their shared lived experiences of life. The South-South cooperation agenda also served as an ideological front to challenge the domination by the North in the global order.

But the world was getting more interconnected globally, both for opportunities and challenges out of globalization particularly since the 1990s. The Report ‘The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World’ of the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development, pointed out several years ago that: “The South needs the North, and increasingly the North needs the South … The world is getting more connected, not less” (United Nations Development Program, 2013).

The traditional North-South paradigm of technology transfer ignores the increasing importance of developing countries as sources of appropriate climate-friendly technologies and therefore ignores South-North and South-South transfers.

These transfers may include both soft and hardwares. David Lewis of the London School of Economics argues that models of participatory monitoring and evaluation of projects in developing countries have much to learn by the rich countries via NGO and public sector innovators (2017).

Quite a number examples, such as the development of oral rehydration, microfinance, recycling for waste management, rich social capital existing among the Southern communities, disaster management, community-based adaptation and nature-based solutions are few examples where experiential learning-based knowledge can be transferred from the Southern to Northern countries.

Along this line, the present piece presents some successful practices related to the nexus between climate change and poverty in the South which can be transferred to the developed North. In fact, some of these practices are already transferred.

IPCC reports repeatedly warn us that the poor communities and countries of the world are the most impacted from the effects of climate change, who have the least capacity to adapt. The impacts are likely to push an additional 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. In such a scenario, the use of microfinance as a tool to keep the poor out of extreme poverty is an innovation that decades back in Bangladesh.

Though the origin of microfinance emanated from the conventional practice of rotating/revolving fund historically practised in the Bengal areas of the Indian Sub-Continent, it was rechristened in its modern version by Dr Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank in the early 1980s.

The Grameen Bank’s successful example of women-focused micro-credits to the poor and for promoting small entrepreneurship is already replicated in more than a dozen countries including in the UK and the US and in some other countries of the Global North. Such activities have been undertaken by organizations such as Acción USA, Grameen America, and Grameen Foundation Partner Project Enterprise in the United States.

In like manner, BRAC, the largest NGO in the world is another innovation of working with the poor in Bangladesh, which contributed a lot in poverty reduction and is now being replicated also in more than a dozen countries around the world. These are examples of innovative social engineering which are actively contributing to enhancing adaptive capacity of the poor. Few other examples show the knowledge transfer and experiential learning from the South to the North. The experience of disaster management and adaptation is another area in Bangladesh which is regarded as successful practices for a country often pounded by frequent natural adversities.

As a geographically disadvantaged area, Bangladesh has been living with climate disasters for ages and obviously, has learnt to live with them, gradually minimizing the casualties of life and property.

Still more than a percent of its GDP is devastated from these disasters on average a year, Bangladesh’s success in managing disasters and enhancing adaptive capacities of coastal communities are practices emulated already in many developing and developed countries.

The key to such success lies in elaborate institutional setups from national to lowest tiers of the local government including massive community mobilization prior, during and after the disaster events.

For the right reasons, Bangladesh is regarded as a `Teacher’ in adaptation, to learn from, by the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh regards her country as the `adaptation capital’ of the world, and invites others to visit and see our experiences first hand. There are many examples of such experiential learning for coping with climate impacts, which are being shared and transferred to the Global North.

Let’s have a look at South Africa. Because of increased air pollution in the cities, the residents, including children, are suffering from asthma in increasing numbers. However, one innovation – the asthma inhaler spacers, which Dr Zahr, a physician from South Africa, has pioneered through research a simple device, effectively replacing the more expensive and less available commercial products.

These bottle spacers are now being produced by people working for community health centers in the United States and elsewhere. An asthma spacer is used with an asthma inhaler to make the medicine more effective by slowing down the spray and allowing the patient to coordinate their breath with the medication delivery. It can improve the efficiency of an inhaler by 70%.

Another concept — Eco-village was propagated with much fanfare in the Global North and development agencies about two decades ago, as a cardinal solution to restoring environmental sustainability in developing countries. This concept of eco-village was actually a rechristened version of the age-old lifestyle in the villages of developing countries.

We being from South Asia know very well, based on lived experiences of our communities. Still, rural areas in most of South Asia are representative of eco-village concept in practice, which integrates homesteads, space for gardening and cattle breeding, a patch of fruit trees, a pond, etc.

In like manner, now another shibboleth of solution for climate change and green growth is being presented as nature-based solutions (NbS). Again, the birth place and sustainability of NbS are the developing countries, from where the Global North can learn a lot about.

Another example of appropriate technology from countries like Bangladesh, India, China and many other developing countries is the decentralized solar power in remote off-grid areas. Bangladesh has already installed over five million solar home systems in remote rural areas and islands, which is the highest in the world.

Other Southern countries and the Global North, particularly the large, sprawling, sparsely- populated countries, can certainly apply this technology, which is cleaner and a lot cheaper, than installing costly central power distribution and transmission systems.

Through this short piece, we wanted to convey the message that there are lots of successful practices of disaster management, adaptation and renewable energy technologies that countries from the Global North can learn from. It’s a happy news that the centre we work in – the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Dhaka is privileged to host a number of researchers and students from the Global North each year, who come here to learn about how Bangladesh, being a disaster-prone country, successfully adapts to the increasing impacts of climate change.

We have learnt to live with nature and disasters, harnessing the opportunities from these challenges. With the purpose of sharing knowledge and transfer of experiential learning for adaptation from the LDCs for South-South-North collaboration, ICCCAD is leading the LDC University Consortium of Climate Change (LUCCC). LUCCC is an official programme of the 47 LDC governments representing about one billion people in Asia and Africa. LUCCC is in the process of collating the best practices of disaster management and community-based adaptation and resilience.