Two research projects increase household incomes and food security in poor communities facing climate change stressors

Moshni is typical of many small villages in the vast coastal delta region of Bangladesh, where the population depends largely on agriculture and aquaculture for food, nutrition and income.

The people of this coastal region, and the aquatic agricultural systems their livelihoods depend on, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. These include increased frequency of flooding due to sea-level rise, elevated salinity in agricultural areas, greater monsoon precipitation, and increased vulnerability to cyclone and storm surges, drought.

These challenges are already being faced to varying degrees by people across Bangladesh, but particularly those living in this highly vulnerable coastal area.

Research is playing a role in helping the people of Moshni and surrounding villages develop productive aquatic agricultural systems that are more resilient to climate change.

Two WorldFish projects, the Building Climate-Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods in Bangladesh (CREL) project and the Greater Harvest and Economic Return through Shrimp project (GHERS) are offering solutions to some of the challenges.

The CREL project, initiated in 2007 to help rehabilitate aquaculture following Cyclone Sidr, aims to make households more resilient to frequent climate-related problems, such as periodic tidal surges that flooded their ponds and affected livelihoods.

Participatory action research identified various strategies to address these problems, including raising pond dykes and using nylon nets to adapt to high water levels and prevent fish escaping during storm surges.

Since 2008, the GHERS project has been exploring ways for farmers to increase productivity and household income from farming systems facing increasing salinity.

Improved management techniques such as shrimp and prawn farming methods that reduce the risk of disease and improve yields, and the cultivation of vegetables on pond dykes, have provided around 26,000 farming households with diversified incomes and systems of farming that are better adapted to increasingly saline environments.

“The training that WorldFish has given us has helped us right across the business. With the additional money we are getting from shrimps we were able to buy our land and within a year we had enough money to finish our house,” says Banalata Das, a woman fish farmer who participated in the project.

Impact assessments have shown that farm productivity has increased across around the 1,500 villages involved in the projects, with indications of improved food and nutrition security. Members of GHERS project households, including women and children, are eating more fish, vegetables and fruit.

Demand for labor has also increased as a result of the integration and intensification of aquatic-agricultural farming systems, creating opportunities for women to become involved in the production system.

Many people in this complex and large region remain vulnerable in various ways, but the experiences of Moshni and neighboring villages show that progress can be made in developing aquatic agricultural systems that provide food and income, and resilience to climate change stressors.

The CGIAR Research Programs on Aquatic Agricultural Systems and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security will build on these experiences, seeking to contribute solutions at scale to the development challenges facing the poor in this vulnerable region.