‘Last year flood grabbed our crops’ How farmers from Bangladesh perceive climate change
December 1, 2009
In mid-November, I was conducting a focus group discussion with the villagers in the flood plain area of Bangladesh, locally called char. I wanted to know and understand the impacts of climate change on their livelihoods. The farmers described their experience in different ways. 'Goto botsor bonnai abadi fosol keye geche; 'Ekhon prai prottek botsor bonna hai,' said Mr. Abdus Salam, with deep repentance in our language Bangla. This essentially means: 'Last year flood grabbed our crops; Flood is occurring almost in every year.' Mr. Salam is from Rayerchar-Mollapara village in Jamalpur District.
I also perceive that the frequency of flooding in Bangladesh has increased in the past years. It has caused huge damage to the crops and properties of the people, especially for those living in the flood plain areas. The villagers said that due to low water flow during the dry season, siltation occurred and the river bed has risen. But when heavy rainfall happens up-stream, eventually the water comes through this river bed, overflows and causes floods. Also, the villagers observed that heavy rain falls more often and, as a consequence, the frequency of floods has increased. Habibur Rahman from Rayerchar-Mollapara village said, 'Nodi ekhon ager tolonay beshi bhange,' meaning 'River erosion has increased compared to the past.' He is describing that there are floods almost every year now which is causing the erosion of the riverbank. I have also observed this happening in other flood plain areas in Bangladesh.
In the focus group, farmer drew a sketch to illustrate the flooding in their locality in different years.
Farmers in the char areas experienced that the drought period has increased and shifted. So on one side, floods increase and on the other drought is also occurring more often. Farmers said they now require more water for irrigation. As a result, the cost of agricultural production is increasing. 'A the same time," the farmers added, 'the quality and quantity of grain is decreasing due to drought.'
But it is not just farmers who are impacted. They said that their native fisheries are also significantly affected due to climate change. Most native fish breed during the rainy season. Since the characteristics of the rainy seasons are changing, there are fewer rainy days to foster the fish breeding.
The farmers said that they believe all these circumstances are happening due to God's wishes. They do not know about human contributions to the changes in the climate. However, when I explained the reasons of climate change and told them that developed countries are the major contributors of greenhouse gases, they started to make demands. They said: 'Amra khotopuron chai,' meaning 'we want compensation.'. They asked for long-term assistance to stop river erosion and flood. These community people want compensation for their losses, which is a wish that I can deeply understand.
By Md. Shafiqul Islam
Policy & Legal Analyst
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