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CRS Rice Bowl highlights climate adaptation to major cyclones in Bangladesh | earth beat


Floods and extreme storms are an annual threat to many people in Bangladesh.

In November 1970, an estimated 500,000 people died from Cyclone Bhola in what is considered the deadliest tropical cyclone on record.

Since then, climate change has only exacerbated extreme storms in poor countries like Bangladesh, which is considered one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of rising temperatures. But as threats have grown, Bangladesh has also become a global leader in climate resilience. As his government created a robust system of disaster preparedness, he also worked with development organizations to advance farming methods to better withstand stronger storms.

Among them is Catholic Relief Services.

Stories of how CRS is helping communities in Bangladesh adapt to the impacts of climate change are featured this week as part of its annual Rice Bowl program.

Each year during Lent, CRS Rice Bowl invites families and faith communities to offer financial support to people suffering from hunger and poverty around the world. Since its launch in 1975, the program has raised more than $250 million, benefiting more than 100 countries, while a quarter of funds raised are used to help communities in the United States.

In 2021, nearly 12,000 Catholic parishes and schools across the country have participated in the program.

One of the initiatives supported by CRS Rice Bowl is the Mutki project in Monpura, an island in southern Bangladesh on the Bay of Bengal. Its location, located in the Meghna River, puts the roughly 120,000 people who live on the mostly rural island at increased risk from storms and floods that have become more frequent as global temperatures have risen.

The Mutki project started in 2014 to help vulnerable households through disaster risk reduction in a region largely neglected by development activities. CRS partnered in the project with Cartias Bangladesh, which has been present on the island since the aftermath of Cyclone Bhola. Since its inception, the project has worked with over 4,000 households and 20,000 people in 11 villages, many of whom live in extreme poverty.

“Our goal is to provide support to the most vulnerable households to save their lives and assets from disasters,” said Kamal Mostafa, CRS Technical Advisor for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in Bangladesh.

The South Asian country, home to 160 million people, is among the 10 countries most affected by extreme weather events over the past two decades, according to the Global Climate Risk Index. Floods affect around 1 million people each year, according to the World Bank, and more than two-thirds of the country is flooded every three to five years.

The recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change adaptation report found that in 2019, more than 4 million people in Bangladesh were displaced by weather-related disasters. He predicted that rising sea levels will lead to increased water salinization, which will reduce the availability of freshwater fish along the country’s southwest coast, a problem that hits particularly hard. poor communities.

Bangladeshi government efforts have developed advanced warning systems and cyclone preparedness programs that have reduced the death toll, including training 60,000 volunteers and establishing a network of evacuation shelters. When Cyclone Aman hit in May 2020, 26 people died and more than 2.4 million others were displaced to shelters.

“Casualties and damage have been reduced, but it’s still not zero,” Mostafa told EarthBeat.

Although evacuation efforts have saved lives, crop damage remains high and these losses hit poor communities the hardest.

“Almost every year floods or cyclones hit these islands. And so they lose their crops, they lose their livestock,” Mostafa said.

Flooding makes farming difficult for many in low-lying areas, as high tides wash away crops.

“Every year during the summer we face a lot of problems, and again during the fall months we get hit by a heavy storm,” said Noornobi, a farmer featured in a CRS video about the project. Mutki.

Over the past eight years, the Mutki project team of 35 employees has worked with farmers to adapt to climate change. They taught methods of raising their garden beds to make their crops more resilient to heavy storms and flooding. They also learned agricultural techniques to grow vegetables during the rainy season.

When the Mutki project started, about 7% of households grew their own vegetables at home. Four years after the start of the project, this number has risen to 97%. Mostafa said increasing vegetable consumption not only improves nutrition, but provides a year-round source of income for families and can help families pay for better education.

“That’s how they adapted to the floods,” said Mostafa, adding that many farmers like Noorobi shared what they learned with other members of their community “so that they also have food at their table”.

In addition to improving agricultural production, the Mutki project has helped communities in Monpura to rebuild after weather disasters and apply disaster risk reduction strategies ahead of future storms. This has included raising plinths or raising houses above flood levels, securing roofs, vaccinating livestock against diseases that accompany rising waters, and rebuilding roads and important connections between markets, schools and clinics. It also helps communities advocate with their government for greater disaster response and promote local sustainable development efforts. In addition, the Bangladesh Catholic Bishops‘ Conference and Caritas Bangladesh have promoted a tree planting campaign to create a natural buffer against extreme weather conditions and help mitigate rising temperatures by absorbing heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Throughout its work, the Mutki project has emphasized working directly with local communities and empowering them to prepare themselves for future disasters.

Mostafa told EarthBeat that he hopes the message CRS Rice Bowl participants will take away from Project Mutki is that they are helping people in remote communities, who are facing increasing challenges as floods and cyclones s ‘worse, to make sure they can still provide a meal for their family. .

“The support really changes people’s lives,” he said.