Climate champions from the grounds featured in Climate Tribune

Panii Jibon Project (PJP) has been trying to bring local-level learnings and best practices to the table of policymakers and influencers at the national level for reaching a wider spectrum. Valuing the past experiences and apprising the successes in the ground can move all initiatives aligned with climate resilience forward for rolling out and scaling up. The vision of replication and wider advocacy leads to the production of Climate Tribune on April Volume published in Dhaka Tribune, a national daily newspaper in Bangladesh. This has been executed jointly by Helvetas Bangladesh and International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).

PJP was initiated by Helvetas Bangladesh to comprehensively address climate change related threats and vulnerabilities of the impoverished populations in southwest belt. The field-level implementation was accomplished by four local and national partners: Development Organization of the Rural Poor (DORP), Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Center (BDPC), Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), and ICCCAD. The overall objective of this project was to build resilience and reduce well-being loss of climate change-affected disadvantaged communities, and particularly vulnerable women and youth in Paikgacha, Koyra, and Morrelganj Upazila of Khulna and Bagerhat district.

After successful completion of two phases (Phase-I: 2015-2017 and Phase-II: 2018-2020), PJP has initiated its third phase (2021-2023). There are many success stories the project has accrued from the field. It is high time to be documented these learnings to show the impact that has been created so far by all these years and why there is a need to continue this next phase focusing on knowledge management and advocacy from local to the national level. Throughout these years, the project has impacted approximately 100,000 women, men, and youth from disadvantaged communities. Through the four entry points (water security, livelihood, migration, governance), the project has stirred farming system (homestead gardening, fish farming, livestock, poultry) to enhance local food security, nutrition, and better income generation, safe migration by developing skills, enhancing locally led adaptation’ by ensuring local participation to minimize the effects of climate change.

Because of capacity building and knowledge dissemination, the use of climate-resilient technologies in the crop, fish farming, poultry, and livestock rearing has increased significantly. One of the major focuses was on local resilience-building by strengthening livelihoods and increasing the income of the beneficiaries’ households in the southwest coastal area. The story of ‘Prashanta Kumar Ghosh and ‘Bidhan Chandra Das has clearly shown that providing access to proper information and capacitating the local communities regarding alternative livelihood can be good adaptation tools in the context of climate change. Prashanta has become a changemaker while committing to change and support others in livestock rearing. On the other hand, Friend of Fish farmer: Bidhan being a Local Service Provider supports local fish farmers with his expertise. The necessity of promotion and support to the idea of Local Service Providers came out through these successes. ‘Rozina’s Journey will take you to the road on how one rural Bangladeshi woman became a self-sufficient and resilient farmer by engaging herself in homestead gardening. She is the most successful and resilient woman farmers in her village, who neither needs to move nor is forced to move due to climate-induced disaster. The stories of three farmers proved that enhancing the diversity of livelihoods through transformative actions and a participatory approach from both ends can bring accountability including governance structures and community resilience.

These ground level successes flourish and sustain if it is well-connected to input and output markets. For this, Collection Centers are one of the most critical interventions for enhancing market linkages in the context of climate change adaptation. Articulation of the success has beautifully portrayed by the story of ‘Making market at the doorstep’. Collection centers have turned out to be an alternative solution for smallholder farmers, who are trying to adapt with alternatives in the context of climate change to get better access to the market. The achievement motivated the farmers to produce saline tolerant fresh vegetables, alongside their existing fish farming not only boosted the communities’ economy but also created livelihood options and ensured access to financial resources and market chain.

PJP always promoted the concept of community resilience which comes with adopting a whole society approach and joint initiatives to support each other vertically and horizontally. Joint efforts are important to address the ongoing impacts of climate change and disasters ‘A stitch in time saves nine shows the need for locally-led adaptation to rebuild the Goroikhali-Gangrothi embankment with joint effort. The damaged embankment at ‘Khudkhali’ point affected thousands of households in more than 20 villages. The account of community living along the Goroikhali-Gangrothi embankment and how they used their knowledge to locally adapt to their problem only reinstates the need for locally-led adaptation, where actions should be locally owned. Climate change adaptations are effective when joint initiatives are taken’ will give a similar glimpse where a community-level bridge was constructed in Godaipur village in collaboration with LGI and NGO sectors. For an Intervention to sustain, it is important to ensure local ownership. Now thousands of people from the village are well-connected to the Union and other areas, with increased access to markets, education, and health centers.

As locally led adaptation is key concern in climate change context, PJP facilitated number of civil society networks and platforms. The formation and journey of Mother’s Parliament’ perfectly justify the strategy and necessity for this. Women are more vulnerable than men addressing the effects of Climate change and disasters, while all the plans and decisions are made by the male which does not quantify the actual need. The first principle of Locally Led Adaptation ‘Devolving decision making to the lowest appropriate level’, which is proportionately aligned with the objective of Mother’s Parliament. Additionally, the climate-vulnerable people themselves are the pioneers in adapting at their best through their daily life actions and reactions, as demonstrated by Mother’s parliament. One of the significant strokes of the second phase was Mother’s Parliament’ winning ‘People’s Choice Award’ in Change Makers Award by Global Water Partnership declared in Climate Adaptation Summit.

Migration has been given much emphasis in the third phase as the transformative capacity of local vulnerable people. We know that most people in Bangladesh, who move at various scales are usually influenced by diverse reasons; pull or push factors; economic opportunities; local unrest, or environmental risks. The various migrants’ stories from Bagerhat and Khulna, who migrated due to severe disruption of social and economic functions by repeated cyclones and tidal surges never came to the limelight, nor did they get any attention or support from local authorities. ‘Influx of intra district migrants in search of life’ captures such stories and thought process based on the learning from the project.