As climate change makes natural disasters more common, better technology is needed to adapt
Sobulen Sarder of Mongla village was leading a happy life with his wife, daughter and son. Besides his house, he had two ponds which were full of various freshwater fish. Surrounding his home were a lot of fruit and vegetable trees. He would sell these fruits and vegetables after meeting the family demands. His wife raised chickens, ducks, goats and cows. From all of these, he could make enough to fulfil his family’s needs.
In 2007, Sidr hit the area and destroyed Sobulen’s house and trees. All the livestock, including the fish, were washed away. Several NGOs provided relief, but he was too shy to take it as he belonged to a middle-income family. During this time, he had no other way to make money except as a day labourer. Therefore he started to work in different places as a day labourer and his wife began cultivating vegetables and raising chickens. They began to manage their family needs, but in 2009, cyclone Aila hit the area and destroyed everything again.
Currently, Sobulen works as a day labourer and his wife tries to cultivate vegetables, although salinity intrusion makes it challenging. They are also trying to cultivate fish, but it is not working well. Now Sobulen is unable to feed his family three times a day after paying his children’s educational fees.
This story is of a man who lives in an excessively saline region. Though Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in domestic food production over the past three decades, many people like Sobulen are not able to manage proper meals three times a day. According to the IPCC, Bangladesh will lose 17% of its land and 30% of its food production by 2025, which will, in turn, increase poverty. As agriculture in Bangladesh is heavily dependent on the weather, a little change of climate or weather patterns can have a massive impact. One cyclone or flash flood can destroy a large number of seasonal harvests.
Furthermore, 30% of cultivable land is found in coastal areas where soil salinity is increasing due to sea-level rise, cyclones, and tidal flooding. It is estimated that 27,000 tons of rice would be lost due to high salinity in 2030 (Rahman et al, 2018). Each year almost 2.6 million ha crops are affected by severe floods, and about 2.7 million ha of land are vulnerable to severe drought in Bangladesh (Rahman et al, 2018). In order to ensure food security, agricultural adaptation must be prioritised.
To adapt better technology and farming processes the government of Bangladesh has already established policies, and programs. The National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) and Bangladesh Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) are two of these endeavours. Besides these government actions, agricultural research institutes, including the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Centre (BARC), have scientists working on innovative adaptation technology. The Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) has developed drought and flood-tolerant rice varieties, and the Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA) and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) have invented crop varieties which can resist the adverse effects of natural calamities.
Continuing this vital research and implementing adaptation policies are crucial in ensuring food security for Bangladesh.
Mahmuda Mity is a research officer at the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).
Tania Ahmed is a research officer at the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).