5 Minutes of Inspiration: How Farmers in Bangladesh Cope with Climate Change

5 Minutes of Inspiration: How Farmers in Bangladesh Cope with Climate Change

5/16/18

Farmers in Bangladesh are figuring out how to cope with climate change. Learn more.

After 16 days of the fields in Bangladesh being totally flooded, farmers found that a new breed of rice was still alive, when all the others had died. So, they set out to make sure that they could use the new rice — rice that means they will have enough to eat this year. A combination of field-based learning, setting up seed banks, and improving incomes means they can improve their lives for years to come.

Where the Rain Falls operated in Bangladesh from 2016-2018 with the generous support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation for $234,000, and it reached 1,03 9 farmers.

What did we accomplish?

  • People eat more food: At the end of the project, 98 percent of families could eat three meals a day, instead of the two meals a day they were eating three years ago. At the beginning, 18 percent of families only had one meal a day. Families are also more likely to eat vegetables.
  • The hungry season is shorter: 59 percent of families are able to have at least one more month where they have enough food to eat compared to when the project started.
  • Farmers use land more efficiently: Using techniques from the project, families could plant a second crop on their land between rice harvests. This not only allowed them to improve soil, it also allowed them to have a cash crop that gave them much-needed cash to invest in improving rice production.
  • Income increased: 69 percent of families say their income significantly increased, and now they have enough money left over to save. By growing just one of the improved varieties of mustard, some families saw their income triple.
  • Families are more self-reliant: Now, 89 percent of families say they don’t have to borrow money in order to eat. At the beginning of the project, not a single family could eat consistently without going into debt.
  • Migration has dropped: 39 percent fewer families need a member migrate in order to cope with the shocks of climate change and poor harvests.

How did we get there?

  • Help farmers learn and test new ideas: The project set up 11 field schools that reached 700 farmers. These schools let even the poorest farmers test new ideas in small ways without having to risk their entire annual crop. The tests were striking.
  • Make it easier to store seeds: The project set up seed banks to help store improved seed varieties. Farmers contribute a percentage of their harvest for the next year, the local government provides the land, and the community provides labor to build the seed banks.
  • Work with researchers: The project connected with the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute and the Bangladesh Institute for Nuclear Agriculture to select, test, and source seeds that would work for the community. That way, researchers see how their work performs for farmers, and we get tested, reliable products for farmers to use. The project specifically promoted women scientists and paid for them to go to villages to promote crops with local women farmers.
  • Go low tech: The project worked with plastic sheets and bamboo frames to protect seeds from weather — a tech that only costs $1.20 per seed bed.  That makes it easy for farmers to adopt and use.
  • Look at what the community needs: The project used the Community Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment tool to identify the most important needs and build action plans around them.

Want to learn more?

Check out the final evaluation.

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