Research on adapting to climate change has been shared at a conference in Bangladesh.

The first annual Gobeshona Conference on Climate Change Research shared the latest findings on building resilience to a changing climate in Bangladesh.

Islamic Relief and Christian Aid jointly hosted a seminar titled ‘Climate Change and Livelihoods’ delivering three research presentations by eminent researchers.

The first talked about climate change and wheat production in drought-prone areas of Bangladesh. The analysis was carried out by Dr Golam Hafiz, from Bangladesh Agriculture University. Presenting his evidence, based on research in two drought-prone areas in Thakurgaon, north Bangladesh, he argued that wheat efficiency had reduced by 17.4 per cent because of drought. Those with greater experience and larger areas suffered less, he found. He identified the benefit of irrigation and pesticides but indicated their large cost implications.

Adapting to change

The second focused on the Effectiveness of Resilient Livelihoods Framework (RLF) model used by Christian Aid. Professor Mahbuba Nasreen, director and professor at the Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies at the University of Dhaka, said she aimed to understand how the RLF contributed to resilient livelihoods in communities that had experienced a changing climate such as Dacop, a coastal and cyclone prone area.

She found that in these areas, traditional livelihoods had been adapted. She observed a shift from agriculture to crab fattening, sheep and duck rearing, vegetable gardening and vermicompost. People were also turning to rainwater harvesting, use of flood- and saline-tolerant rice varieties, and food banks to help reduce risks of the unpredictable climate.

Learning from past impacts

The last presentation looked at on-farm and off-farm resilient livelihoods seen in an area in which Islamic Relief works. Dr Abu M Ekramul Ahsan, former chairman of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), presented his research, which looked at aspects such as infrastructure, essential services delivery, pre and post-harvest technologies, market accessibility, profits and adaptability, health and other social dimensions.

The main objective of his study was to identify physical and climatic considerations that should be considered when planning livelihood options. He also identified positive initiatives, such as the planting of indigenous varieties of trees on the roadside by school-children as well as pitcher irrigation – when unglazed pots are filled with water and buried in the soil, so the water gradually seeps out through the porous walls to maintain plant growth – under drought-like conditions.

The session ended in a discussion that also noted migration from rural to urban areas. Islamic Relief supports disaster-affected communities with sustainability and resilience projects. We have been working in Bangladesh since 1991, when we responded to a devastating tropical cyclone.