Atharai is one of the most remote villages of Tala Upazila in the district of Satkhira, Bangladesh. It is vulnerable to climate challenges such as waterlogging, salinity, floods, storm surges, cyclones, dense fog, and droughts. Almost 90% of the households there depend primarily on agriculture. For the last ten years, farmers have been struggling to cope with the challenges posed by climate change. Rice, which is the major crop, was failing to produce the yields that had been seen in the past. The rice breeds grown in Atharai require large volumes of water for irrigation, but due to drought farmers were experiencing higher production costs.
Pathways Bangladesh formed Farmers Field and Business Schools (FFBS) in this village in 2014 introducing and promoting climate smart and improved agriculture practices amongst farmers with a special focus on women smallholders. By adopting climate smart agricultural practices followed by the climate adaptive action plan (CAAP) that the FFBS developed, farmers have been able to address climate issues and become more resilient. Farmers used flood, draught and saline tolerant seed varieties; diversified their crops; inculcated savings habits; and made use of disaster warning system to take informed decisions for their crops. In addition, gender discussions facilitated by the Pathways program have engaged husbands, and created an environment where men and women can consult each other to make joint decisions.
Read below for testimonials from community members on ways the Pathways program has instilled changes in their community.
Adaptation of resilient plant varieties:
“We are now aware of the flood, draught and saline tolerant varieties. The high yield varieties of rice produced 0.99 to 1.04 times higher than varieties we cultivated earlier. Also, we are now cultivating deep water rice and water chestnut that can be produced using water logged land too. We have also adopted different saline and shed tolerant varieties of vegetables to cultivate at our home garden.”
Making effective use of every plot of land:
“Earlier our lands were not utilized due to water logging. But, our Climate Adaptive Action Plan helped us to make effective use of all types of land that has resulted more production and additional income. During the water logged period our home gardens and yards remains water logged for around five months. We are using sack bags and the raised pit method that protects our plants from water and from the salinity. We’ve also promoted multi layer cropping to expand space.”
Adaptation of climate smart practices:
“Now we use sack bags on elevated land to cultivate vine crops during late summer and to save plants in submerged conditions. We are using bottle drip irrigation on the pit crops during the summer when rain is scarce. This practice permitted us to produce twice as much as the previous year. We were not able to produce a few leafy vegetables like red amaranth earlier due to salinity and water logging, but now we cultivate those varieties using the sack method and raised pits. We are practicing dry seed beds, the alternate wet and dry technique, harvest and post harvest management, and other climate smart practices.”
Group savings to manage disaster:
“In the last six months we have saved $150 in our group. The Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) training helped us decrease our dependency on high interest based loans offered by microfinance institutions and taught us how to manage our savings in emergency situations.”
“The Pathways Program arranged and facilitated gender dialogue sessions for couples that helped sensitize the families to address gender inequalities. Now, our husbands consult with us while making household decisions; they even consult with us while adopting any practice in farming. We can travel to nearby places now that had not been possible earlier.”
Disaster Risk Reduction planning:
“Followed by the CAAP, we now use the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) call number developed by the department of Meteorology of Bangladesh to get disaster warnings, and we decide on the disaster preparation according to the message.
We’ve organized volunteers who take note of disaster information using the IVR number and the Union Disaster Management Committee and then inform the community if there’s any disaster risk.”