How to build capacity and make the local communities aware of their “climatic” responsibility
Working as a Researcher at ICCCAD, I have had the opportunities to talk with the local community people about climate responsibilities. In one recent study I was involved with, I realized that there are some "climate responsibility indicators" needed to build capacity and awareness for a better understanding in any local community.
The objective of the study is to build capacity and to make sure the local community is aware of the Climatic responsibility and to disseminate this knowledge to the local community. The research was conducted in six different coastal unions namely Gorai Khali, Amadi, Nishan Bira, Geo-Dhara, Gadaipur, and Koyra in Khulna Division. Communities in this region are continuously struggling with Sea Level Rise and the consequent threats from coastal flooding and saline intrusion into aquifers. People have lost their lives, land and their livelihoods, but they are still fighting these challenges and have shown high adaptive capacity.
In each union one meeting was conducted where important local stakeholders consisting of UP Chairman, UP Secretary, Teachers, local farmers, etc. were engaged. From these consultation meetings it was identified that people in these regions were not aware of pre and post climatic activities and what actions they should take during these events. With the introduction of Government and non-government organisations interventions, local communities are recognising the need to seek shelter during disasters in designated cyclone shelters with their important documents, reserved food, water, domestic animals, elderly members of family and their neighbors.
Usually after climatic hazards, people have a high demand for drinking water and food for prolonged periods, as saline water intrusion in the fresh water reserves disrupts water supply. In the areas some of the local Government mentioned that with Government funding, they were able to develop drinking water stations, water reservation ponds, and have distributed some water tanks into these communities. However, due to lack of care, it has been destroyed. After the water stations were built it was the communities responsibility to take care and repair these but the community failed to do so, adding to their plight.
It has also come to my attention that some of the local government members were not aware of their climate responsibility when asked how they are taking up the responsibility to build awareness of their community. Some of the local government officials skipped the topic and some directly mentioned that they were not interested. If there was scope to arrange external funds for them then they will think about that. Someone mentioned that without permission of the local government they could not work in this field.
At the coastal community level, there are several different Government agencies, NGOs, INGOs, and academic Institutions working on issues to help the community people improve their understanding of climate change, disaster risk reduction, better livelihoods, and climate resilience capacity. It was shocking when I realised that the local communities lack knowledge on their climate responsibilities.
If we want to build their capacity and knowledge, it is imperative that we work with them for a longer period of time. We require more effective training, consultation workshops, meetings, focus group discussions, and other participatory tools to improve the community’s awareness, and to create a sense of individual responsibility for pre-disaster and post-disaster preparedness activity. Engaging local communities with easy to understand resources such as posters, illustrations, and documentaries will help to reduce their lack of knowledge and build their awareness on climate responsibilities for easy understanding.
As individuals, researchers working in the climate change arena, have to make the conscious effort to work and to build local vulnerable communities knowledge on implications of climate change, we have to build their capacities to be better equipped to challenges and disasters induced by climate change.
Md Hafizur Rahman is Research Officer at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD)