The impact of changing climate patterns in the decades to come will be felt by nations across the globe, but perhaps none more so than Bangladesh. Global sea level rise threaten to inundate the low-lying country, the majority of which lies less than one meter above sea level on the world’s largest river delta. Combine this with more frequent and intense cyclones, monsoonal flooding, rising temperatures and increased salinity, and it’s easy to see why Bangladesh is widely recognized as being one of the most vulnerable places on Earth in the face of climate change. Creating resilient, climate-smart ‘Farms of the Future’ to meet the challenges of climate change is essential, and this is the goal of the Climate Smart Management of Aquatic Agriculture Farm Ecosystems in Coastal Regions of Bangladesh (SmartFarm)
The project is funded by the International Water Management Institute
(IWMI), and builds upon a recent WorldFish review of climate change adaptation programs in Bangladesh. Based on this review, the WorldFish-led project is centering its operations in four villages located along the country’s southwest coastline, some in areas of high salinity, and others in lower salinity regions. Each of the four villages – Chandipur and Dumuria (Satkhira district), Gabgachia (Bagerhat district) and Jagannatpur (Jhalokhati district) – faces unique food security and climate change challenges and locals are best placed to identify their own goals, needs, opportunities and challenges. For this reason, the project is adopting a participatory research approach, to engage and empower local farmer participants in the research.
Working as local researchers in the process, the farmers formed a men and a women’s group, each with 25 farmers, to participate in the weekly Farmers Field School. These groups will tailor-make, implement and evaluate a range of climate-smart farming systems, water management strategies and innovations best suited to combating the impacts of climate change in their local communities. At the project level, participants from all villages will share their experiences and knowledge gained through regular local farmer forums. By consulting both men and women, the project is taking into account the varying gender roles, as well as the geographical characteristics of each village.
Canals, rice fields and homestead ponds, all linked to the river network, are the basis for fish production in southwest Bangladesh. The project aims to improve land, water and ecosystem management to enhance the productivity and diversity of fish production for the communities. Village researchers will identify what type of canal system produces the most fish, and which crops can be grown on canal embankments and in saline waters. At the homestead level, pond polyculture will be developed with women.
Reducing the dependency on single crop farming practices will help to ensure that households have a year-round supply of nutritious produce. Working with Practical Action
, the project is trialing a range of strategies that enable households to grow plants including vegetables and legumes in increasingly saline environments. Vertical horticulture systems that utilize existing structures such as trees and houses, or new, easy-to-assemble structures are being tested, in addition to rainwater harvesting and irrigation strategies. An all-inclusive elevated house that integrates vertical agriculture with rainwater capture will be developed in the second year of the project and trialed in each village.
Accurate weather predictions can make a huge difference when it comes to safeguarding against severe weather events. The project is identifying knowledge and technology gaps in weather forecasting in Bangladesh, so that improved systems can be implemented in the future. The project is also investigating how best to compensate devastated communities in the event of a natural disaster through index-based insurance.
While Bangladesh’s people face the uncertainties of a changing climate together, the solutions that will make sure individual communities are up to the challenge requires a tailored approach. By empowering local farmers to find their own solutions, the project is helping Bangladeshi farmers to become resilient, climate-smart farmers of the future.