Last month I travelled to Nepal and Bangladesh, to visit communities at the frontline of the climate crisis. In partnership with local NGOs rooted in these communities, we are piloting our first Climate Resilience Programmes.
In Nepal we are working across two locations. In the first, in the Sindupalchok District in the mountainous northern part of the country, we have identified three communities that are struggling with droughts, floods and landslides, that are damaging crops and fertile land. The terrain, climate, soil and agricultural opportunities vary significantly over even a few kilometres but is poorly documented. So, we need to start by investigating how each environment is being affected by the changing climate. With the communities we are mapping out ways to draw upon their skills and resources to utilise opportunities to develop resilient livelihoods and sources of income. The second location is in the Mahotarri District, in the southern, plain area of the country. Here we are working to secure access to fertile land for extremely marginalised ‘untouchable’ caste communities. They are not entitled to legally own their land, and are therefore frequently displaced and have little incentive or savings to invest in adapting their livelihoods to withstand intensifying droughts and flash floods. However, our local partner has a strong relationship with the local government, and together they are providing alternative land ownership schemes, and agricultural trainings; things are changing.
In Bangladesh we are focusing our efforts within Cox’s Bazar District, widely known for hosting millions of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. But the area is also home to many coastal Bangladeshi communities whose previously viable agricultural and fishing livelihoods are being destroyed by sea level rise, salinisation, drought, and shifting rainy seasons. They are receiving far less support from international charities than their neighbours in the refugee camps but are struggling to meet their basic food and water needs. During my visit, I met many parents who were sacrificing food to ensure that their children can eat, and women who were not able to earn a living at all. We are working with a local partner to provide training and equipment for these women to establish themselves as seamstresses. This will tackle livelihood and food insecurity, whilst also promoting gender empowerment for the women on the programme.