February 19, 2016 by Anika Noor
Climate change is the biggest global crisis we have ever faced, but the world has never been more aware or more equipped to face it.
The yearly Frugal Innovation Forum at BRAC brings together leading practitioners from the NGO, corporate and entrepreneurial sectors along with academics and policy makers. It has proven a great platform for debate and the sharing of best practice.
This year, it will raise various questions. What do we know about strengthening livelihoods, financial and social protections to increase resilience for the poorest? It will build on the global discussions at COP21 in Paris and the sustainable development goals (SDG), but with a clear focus on the priorities for South Asia. This post is the first in a series of blogs that will share BRAC’s lessons on building resilience to climate change.
Bangladesh is on the verge of losing 17 per cent of its land in the next 40 years. Climate change is an everyday concern in this tiny delta, and it affects everyone of us- from school children in rural Bangladesh who see their schools submerged in rising waters every monsoon, to farmers who are constantly adapting to new practices to survive.
Take a look at some of the ways that BRAC enables communities to respond to climate change.
1. Resilient architecture
In areas prone to cyclones and flash floods, BRAC built disaster-resilient houses and schools. These buildings are designed to function as cyclone shelters. They come equipped with safe drinking water sources and sanitary latrines, which are now maintained by the communities themselves. Besides giving them the ownership, it also unites members of a community to work as one during times of crises.
2. Teaching climate change in schools
It is widely asserted that children in poverty will be most affected by climate change in the coming years. We at BRAC understand that children have to be part of the conversation. Environment science was always an important part of BRAC’s primary school curriculum. Taking a step further, in 2010, topics such as response to disasters were incorporated in text books of class 1 and above. BRAC’s education programme is currently working to include the broader issues of climate change and disaster preparedness in the curriculum in collaboration with the government’s National Curriculum and Textbook Board.
3. Making water safe
Drinkable water becomes hard to find in the wake of any natural calamity. Sutarkhali, the coastal region battered by the cyclone Aila in 2009 still sees extreme shortage of fresh water sources. Pond sand filtersare an effective and low-cost option in such places where high salinity is a major problem. These filters require regular maintenance and cleaning, all of which involve money and labour. In BRAC’s programme areas, a water management committee oversees each pond sand filter, encouraging participation from the community to help keep the filters functioning.
4. Harnessing sunshine
Water in the southern coastal regions of Khulna is high in salinity, making safe drinking water scarce. The answer? A solar water pump that supports vulnerable villages in these regions, supply safe drinking water by means of a 42,000 piping network. It is the first solar water pump for safe drinking in Bangladesh. The community shares 81 tapping points and is in charge of maintaining the pump. It is a step forward to a sustainable and renewable energy solution.
5. Strengthening women groups
Bangladesh has the highest natural disaster mortality rate in the world, with over half a million people lost to various natural disaster events since 1970. Traditionally disaster responses focus on the tangible needs of survivors, such as shelter, food and emergency medical aid, while overlooking the more intrinsic need to provide trauma support. Women suffer most from the effects of climate change as they are the ones who stay back to manage families amidst great difficulties while the men leave homes to look for better opportunities. BRAC has been engaging in various mental health interventions in the last few years. Today, there is an army of 19,000 women across disaster-prone communities, trained in psychosocial counselling to improve coping abilities to stress, discrimination and trauma.
6. Embracing new practices
Every year agricultural lands in Bangladesh shrink by 1 per cent due to climate change. To ensure food security, it is imperative that farmers are keep up with adaptive practices. Pond dyke farming, a special ecosystem that consists of a dyke of farmland and a fishpond, where elements from water and land complement each other, is being implemented in full scale. Farmers receive training on choosing suitable and sustainable crop and fish to grow each season. Farmers are also oriented with natural systems of pest control such as sex pheromone traps, bird stands, light traps and other eco-friendly methods.
Efficient land usage is introduced according to each region. Climate-resilient crops of short-duration varieties, high-yield varieties, inundation resistant and saline tolerant are introduced suited for vulnerable regions. Summer tomatoes, maize and sunflowers have been made popular among farmers to cope with water scarcity and uncertain climate scenarios across the country.
There is still time to register for the 4th Frugal Innovation Forum! Please click here to apply for an invitation.
Read the next posts in the series:
Anika Noor is a deputy manager at BRAC Communications.