Geeta Moni Mandal spends several hours a day on her farm where she grows a variety of vegetables this winter. Mandal, wife of a day laborer and mother of two, started growing vegetables in her garden two years ago after her husband’s income declined.
“Intense flooding and waterlogging have forced many farm owners to abandon agricultural production. It was difficult for day laborers like my husband to find a regular job, ”she said, adding:“ I now support the education of my family and children by selling vegetables.
Mandal’s case is not unique to the region. Many women living in the coastal areas of Bangladesh, where extreme weather events linked to climate change regularly cause misery in local communities, share similar stories.
Extremely vulnerable to climate change
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climatic disasters. The country faces frequent floods, droughts, erosion of river banks, coastal erosion and cyclones that form in the Bay of Bengal.
The southern coastal part of the country, home to around 30 million people, is often hit by climate-related natural disasters, which displace hundreds of thousands of people and inundate vast swathes of land.
Daily workers often bear the brunt of these disasters, many of them losing their sources of income.
Intense and frequent flooding, heavy rains, tidal waves and salinity of the water have also affected agricultural production in recent years, affecting agricultural workers, who make up around 60% of the workforce. work of the country and 70% of the rural poor.
Women hard hit by adverse weather events
Women in these regions depend mainly on small-scale agriculture, livestock, poultry farming and handicrafts for their livelihood.
With climate-related issues affecting agriculture, women from poor households have been particularly affected.
Mohammad Abdur Rahman, a climate researcher, told DW that traditional farming is one of the important sources of income for women in the region. But adverse weather events such as waterlogging and salinity prevent them from growing vegetables using traditional farming methods, he added.
Climate stress and the resulting drop in income have also led to increased migration of men from villages to cities in search of jobs, often leaving women behind.
Climate challenges add to other socio-economic challenges that women face in the region.
Patriarchal social norms here mean that women’s mobility and participation in decision-making processes is severely restricted. They have limited access and ownership to land and other productive assets.
In addition, their access to markets and capital is limited, while many of them face problems such as domestic violence and early marriage.
Building environmental resilience
Many local and international organizations have made efforts to help local communities, especially women, overcome the effects of climate-related issues.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), for example, has partnered with the Bangladeshi government and helped people in Satkhira and Khulna districts, especially women and girls, cope with adaptation climate change and issues such as salinity.
The Swiss NGO Helvetas has also been active in the region, helping the community with sustainable farming methods.
This includes the construction of appropriate water management systems that are necessary to ensure the flow of rainwater to the fields and the use of climate resistant seeds and organic fertilizers, among others.
At the same time, support is provided to connect farmers to the market, which ensures that their products reach consumers.
The NGO claims that the aid has helped increase women’s income.
Ashish Barua, a climate change and disaster risk reduction expert at Helvetas, told DW his organization’s project in the country has supported at least 1,800 women.
“Considering the other socio-economic factors, we can say that climate resilient livelihood approaches have helped women improve their situation,” he said.
The key to financial empowerment of women
Shymali Rani, a resident of Samaddarkhali village in Bangladesh’s southern district of Bagerhat, grows vegetables on a plot near her house.
Shyamali learned to practice vertical agriculture through training organized by a local NGO.
Through vertical farming, food crops can be grown easily in urban areas by planting layers stacked vertically to save space and use minimal energy and water for irrigation.
The method helped her not only to fight flooding, but also to make the best use of a small patch of land, she said.
“With the help of my husband, who is a day laborer, I grow a variety of vegetables in the garden and I earn 5,000 to 7,000 taka (€ 50 to 70, $ 58.55 to $ 82) a month,” said she told DW.
Climate researcher Abdur Rahman said climate-resilient livelihoods approaches have proven effective not only in Bagerhat and Khulna districts, but also in other coastal areas of the country.
Such methods have given low-income women access to resources and empowered them financially, he added.