Iqbal Hussain, CEC member, shares the change behaviour approach of Sundarbans Tiger Project, a flagship project of Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh.
The vision of the Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan (BTAP) is to maintain protected tiger landscapes in Bangladesh, where wild tigers thrive at optimum carrying capacities and which continue to provide essential ecological services to mankind.
In order to achieve this vision, Sundarbans Tiger Project (STP) is developing a comprehensive strategy for tiger conservation in Bangladesh. We recognise that most threats to tigers and the Sundarbans (their habitat) are directly or indirectly linked to certain human behaviours.
- The first step then is to analyse the behaviours and target group (people performing those behaviours) involved in threatening tiger populations – directly and indirectly.
- The second step is to prioritise which behaviours and target audiences our project – with limited resources – should focus on in order to have the greatest impact towards tiger conservation.
- The third step is to identify the determinants of those behaviours in order to establish the kinds of interventions that would be effective in changing those behaviours.
- The fourth step is to use that information to implement interventions to bring about positive behaviour change.
- Finally, these activities and behaviours need to be monitored and evaluated regularly in order to test whether or not they are having the desired effect and to identify any adjustments that need to be made in order to achieve the desired behaviour change.
We have conducted the first two steps already and have developed some assumptions from a series of workshops on various tiger related issues as a starting point for the third step: identifying the determinants of selected threatening behaviours. We are going to step out of our office and wear the shoes of primary stakeholders of the Sundarbans, i.e. the honey collectors, fishermen, golpata collectors and many more – after all they are the principal groups who affect and are affected first by tigers and the Sundarbans. So we can’t possibly exclude them from anything that we do for tiger conservation. On the contrary, we must work with them and engage them in our activities. This is why we need to find out the truth by doing focus group discussions (FGDs) and face-to-face interviews that will explore the Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) of these people about tiger and the Sundarbans.
In the FGDs, our discussions began by asking these people about their day-to-day struggles, the consequence of relying on the forest for their livelihood and the present condition of the forest as perceived by them. Then gradually we used to shift our discussion to various aspects of tiger conservation, for e.g. we tried to know from local people whether tiger and deer population in the Sundarbans had increased or decreased, what reasons they had to justify their answers, of what importance was the Sundarbans to them, was tiger or deer poaching occurring in the Sundarbans or not, whether the villagers knew about the penalty of poaching and so on.
Lastly we used to wrap up our meeting by finding out if the villagers were interested to conserve the forest and its wildlife and if so, then in what way they thought they could play a role. We raised these questions to give platform to the villagers from where they could share their thoughts and cooperate with us.
The most urgent need of those villagers is earning a livelihood alternative to collecting forest resources. Unplanned population growth (early marriage still prevails in these areas) and the associated lack of employment (largely due to shrimp farming) are having an intense pressure on the forest and its wildlife as thousands of people now have nothing to do except fishing or gathering firewood from the forest. Collecting golpata (nypa) and honey are seasonal jobs. Agriculture has witnessed a nosedive in these regions since the time shrimp farming became popular. Whatever regions could sustain agriculture lost their fertility when the cyclone Aila struck them and filled the land with salty water: now even banana trees can’t grow there.
We also found some key findings related to tiger and deer poaching and their parts consumption. The team was astonished by discovering the various uses of tiger and deers parts in villages. Awareness along with other practice measures designed for these villagers is a burning need for tiger conservation in Bangladesh.
Communication and Education team led by Iqbal Hussain and followed by Rezvin Akter, Samiul Mohsanin, Zubair Hussni Fahad, Al Hasan and Nazneen Ahmed conducted focus group discussions in four villages namely Mirgang, Kalabogi, Sarankhola and Chandpai from four forest ranges of the Sundarbans. However, this is not the end. We will conduct a national survey in frour divisional cities - Dhaka, Khulna, Chittagong and Barisal of Bangladesh to explore the KAP of the adult urban dwellers in regards to tiger conservation.
Meanwhile, we are continue exploring the perception of local & national people and see the world from their perspective.
For more information, conact Iqbal Hussain, iqbal.hussain@wildlif...