© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti

Supporting communities to reduce risks and improve their livelihoods

© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
  • Project Name
    SHINE - Supporting Harmony, Improving Nutrition and the Environment for the Rohingya and Host Communities
  • Project Phase
    2022 to 2025
  • Funding
    Donations, contributions, Irene M. Staehelin Foundation
  • Thematic focus
    Climate & Disaster Resilience
    Private Sector Development

Rohingya population and families from the villages hosting the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar are affected by high level of poverty and exposed to the risk of cyclones, floods, and other natural hazards. The SHINE project supports them by strengthening their capacity to respond to natural disasters, their economic resilience and social cohesion

When Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh in 2017 they were immediately helped by families living in one of the most impoverished and vulnerable regions of the country. Incoming displaced people outnumbered the population of Cox’s Bazar by almost 3 to 1, putting and immense pressure on land, water, and the local economy. Currently, one million refugees live in crowded camps, with little prospect to return home. A “forgotten” crisis worsened by the increasing risk of cyclones, flash floods, and landslides that threaten the lives and livelihoods of the Rohingya and the host community, fueling potential conflicts.

A better preparation to face emergencies

Helvetas works with Rohingya refugees and host communities to strengthen their resilience to natural disasters, improve their economic opportunities and foster social cohesion. Resilience starts with ensuring people can safely reach schools, markets and health centers, that’s why communities in villages and camps participate in short-term cash-for-work activities by cleaning drainage ditches, repairing roads, pathways, and stairs damaged by rain, or planting bamboo trees to control soil erosion. People together with local authorities decide which interventions are more urgent and who among the most disadvantaged in the community will be employed to complete the works.

Communities are also engaged in mapping the risks from cyclones, flash floods, and other environmental hazards to develop a disaster response plan. Families and local authorities discuss together the possible impacts and decide the necessary measures to mitigate them.

In host communities, we work in particular with schools to promote a culture of safety. School Disaster Management Committee, students and teachers develop plans to better respond to natural disasters and emergencies, but they also collaborate to make schools a safer place for everybody, for example by organizing activities to raise awareness on child marriage. Boys and girls in refugee camps work on the same issues through interactive popular theatre (IPT) and other activities

© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
«When I work in my garden, I am happy. I forget all the bad things that happened to us»

Taioba, Rohingya refugee

Growing food and trust

In Rohingya camps there are very few green areas, and families do not have many opportunities to cultivate a garden, but with the appropriate agroecological techniques it is possible to grow nutritious food even in very small spaces. With the help of Local service providers (LSP) from host communities we accompany Rohingya women to start their own vegetable production, sometimes just in a few bags or on a strip of land outside the shelter. LSPs organize trainings on how to prepare the seed bed, a sack bag or control pests with organic methods and they regularly visit growers to offer individual advice. Through these exchanges between Rohingya and local communities have more chances to build trust and foster social cohesion.

In host communities beside supporting families to start their vegetable gardens with the assistance of LSPs, we also work with small farmers to develop their skills on climate-smart agricultural practices, financial literacy, business development, etc. The goal is to boost their opportunities to sell their produce to markets, supermarkets, and restaurants improving the family’s income.  

Rohingya Woman next to her shelter. Above her is the vegetable vertical garden. | © Mahabud Uddin/ Prottyashi
The vertical gardening technique allows the Rohingya refugees to grow vegetable within the very limited space at their shelter  © Mahabud Uddin/ Prottyashi
© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
In her frequent visits to refugee camps, Sakina (right) advises Rohingya families on how to grow organic vegetables. © Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
Two Women at the Demonstration Plot Holding Eggplant Harvest | © Umme Kulsum/Prottyashi
The community demonstration gardens serve as a motivation and learning space for everyone who wants to grow a homestead garden © Umme Kulsum/Prottyashi
© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
Samira, checking her vertical garden out of her shelter in the Rohingya refugee camp © Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
Helvetas staff giving plants to Rohingya woman in camp | © Farjana Sultana/Helvetas
Alongside trainings on homestead gardening in the camp context, the project distributes the necessary seedlings and saplings and ecological fertilizer © Farjana Sultana/Helvetas
© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
In Ukhia, Cox's Bazar district, the community is involved in road reparation. © Helvetas/Franca Roiatti