Empowering coastal communities through innovative adaptation practices

(This article was originally published here)

People living in the coastal areas of Bangladesh are hit especially hard by disasters such as cyclones, flash floods, erratic rainfall, and salinity intrusion. These adverse effects of climate change are making their hard and complicated lives even harder and more complicated. However, through conserving ecosystems and carrying out appropriate innovative solutions, these communities are seeing the results of their efforts and are better able to deal with and prepare for disasters.

 To enhance the resilience of coastal communities and protect ecosystems in coastal Bangladesh, UNDP started a project called Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change through Coastal Afforestation (CBACC-CF) funded by the Least Developed Countries Fund through the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The project operates in the most affected sites of four coastal districts — Barguna, Bhola, Noakhali, and Chittagong. The Ministry of Environment and Forests in association with UNDP Bangladesh has been successfully implementing this project since 2009 and it will end in 2015. The project is carrying out a number of innovative approaches that have made community members more independent and empowered to tackle the harsh realities that climate change has forced them to confront.

Behind these approaches, it is worthwhile to mention the name of Dr. Paramesh Nandy, Project Manager of CBACC-Coastal Afforestation Project and former Chief Research Officer of BFRI who developed and implemented these innovative adaptation measures.

FFF (Forest-Fish-Fruit)

This project employs the FFF model that aims to give beneficiaries consistent sources of income year-round. The project has made productive use of barren coastal lands by turning them into an alternating ditch-and-dyke structure. In the ditches, poor households grow fish and ducks, while the dykes support production of fruit and vegetables. The ditch-dyke structure of FFF model gives landless and marginal coastal communities access to government lands usually captured by the local elites or political leaders. In this innovative land use technology, eight ditches and nine dykes are developed per hectare and distributed to the eight families on an agreement of ten-year land ownership with renewal options. This model provides innovative and ethical solutions that reduce poverty and vulnerability leading to sustainable livelihoods and a better ability to adapt to climate change impacts.


The project introduces ten mangrove species within almost 150 hectares of Keora plantation to increase the density of trees per unit area. These species came recommended by the Bangladesh Forest Research Institute (BFRI).  Forests act as natural barriers during storms and cyclones, protecting the homes and lands of people living near the coast. The project contributes to global adaptation and mitigation efforts by establishing 9,650 hectares of plantation that absorbs 965,000 tons of carbon annually. This project strengthens the ecosystems by ensuring the forest’s productivity and sustainable biodiversity in coastal Bangladesh.

Fresh water reservoirs

In Char Kukri Mukri, an isolated island of Bhola, this project develops an innovative strategy to turn fallow land into highly productive enterprises. This is done through constructing fresh water reservoirs near the earthen embankments involving the local community. This approach is a protective, complex, and artificial ecosystem used for maximum production with minimum use of resources. Community members are able to earn a living by selling fish, vegetables and fruits from these reservoirs. This strategy creates multiple, diverse, short, medium, and long term livelihood options and reduces migration to cities. Beneficiaries involved in this project get multi-dimensional benefits from the reservoirs where fish, vegetables and fruit cultivation are done in an integrated way. The project also encourages the community to repair the eroded embankments for the sake of conserving their own resources.

Salt-tolerant rice varieties

Due to salinity intrusion, about 70% of the coastal lands remain periodically unproductive. Considering the situation, this project helps expand use of salt-tolerant rice varieties, with resulting sharp rises in rice production. It also assists in introducing new techniques for horticulture (crop cultivation), pisciculture (fish cultivation) and livestock rearing. This project helps farmers to accept double cropping patterns or growing two crops in the same space during a single growing season in which a second crop is planted after the first has been harvested. This ensures their availability of food year round and increases their income.

Empowering women

This project is committed to the empowerment of women. 42% of women are now playing active roles in the project’s activities and they have brought transformational changes in coastal communities.

This project has reviewed the existing National Forest Policy of 1994, National Land-use Policy of 2001, Coastal Zone Management Policy of 2005, and National Environment Policy of 1992 and analysed gaps in these policies. The future goal of the CBACC-CF project is to make recommendations on climate resilient policy with a framework for mainstreaming these policies.

As recognition, this project has received the Earth Care Award in 2012 for the innovative FFF model and was runner up of People’s Choice Award in 2013 from an international contest on ‘Adapting to Climate Change’.

Integrated land use technologies and diversified livelihood practices introduced by the CBACC-CF project reduces the vulnerabilities and improves the capacity of coastal communities to better adapt to the impacts of climate change. It is observed that the communities have aspired to maintain the innovative approaches introduced these past few years. They are more capable of confronting the calamities and vagaries of nature in the vulnerable coastal areas. The true success of this project is seen in the communities’ attitude towards moving forward in an organized way, contributing to the sustainability of these innovations. They previously wished for relief to arrive, but it is observed that they are now becoming much more self-supporting, self-reliant, independent and they feel proud of being so.

Written by: Arup Das works for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bangladesh as a Community Development Assistant with the CBACC-Coastal Afforestation Project.