More mangroves, less smoke: Enhancing resilience of coastal ecosystems and communities in Cox’s Bazar

Bangladesh is situated on one of the largest river deltas in the world and is highly vulnerable to the steadily increasing effects of climate change. Low-lying coastal areas like Cox’s Bazar, in particular, are most at risk, due to tropical cyclones and sea level rise which causes erosion, saltwater intrusion, flooding and other issues.

Implemented since May 2016 by local NGO Community Development Centre (CODEC), the “Restoration of coastal vegetation in Hnila Union Teknaf Peninsula” project aims to enhance the resilience of coastal ecosystems in the Teknaf peninsula of Cox’s Bazar and the communities which rely on them, in the face of climate change.

Besides restoring coastal vegetation by involving communities in the planting of homestead vegetation such as fruit bearing trees, the MFF Small Grant Facility project also aims to reduce the community’s reliance on fuel wood for cooking, and improve access to trainings on bamboo production as a livelihood activity.

CODEC has since distributed approximately 9,000 indigenous saplings to over 400 community members for planting in households as well as institutional plantations. In addition, students and staff of Nheela High School were also provided with saplings to be planted in the school.

The project has also installed over 150 Improved Cookstoves (ICSs) in 150 households. These ICSs, also known locally as Bhandhu Chula, are designed to reduce fuel consumption and to curb smoke emissions from open fires inside dwellings. Before being introduced to the ICS, most of the women had to use traditional cook stoves which emit large amounts of smoke.

“I am very happy to use the Bhandhu Chula in my kitchen. It does not produce any smoke and there are no blackish layers of carbon in my cooking pots. I also no longer get symptoms of respiratory diseases,” said mother of two Mrs. Beauty Das.

This initiative also contributes to protecting mangrove plants in the area – preventing them from being cut down – as families no longer have to depend on them for fuel wood.

Before the project was implemented, studies have revealed that only 4% of households in the area are familiar with using the improved cook stove. Thanks to the project, over 41% of families in the area are now using the Bhandhu Chula. There is also ample opportunity to provide the Bhandu Chula to more families.

With the new cookstoves, women now need 40% less wood, meaning they don’t have to spend as much money as before. As a result, each family saves around 1,500 to 2,000 Taka (approx US$ 19- 25) per month.

“I save about 50 Taka (approx. US$0.60) per day, and I use this money to buy more food and educational material for my children. Now that I spend less time cooking and getting fuel wood, I can also spend more time with my family,” added Mrs. Das.

In the coming months, CODEC plans to provide a “Bamboo Production and Bamboo Clamp Management Training” to over 25 beneficiaries. The training will be provided to community members who are involved in bamboo-related livelihood activities, such as fishing and basket weaving.  CODEC will also be providing another 3,468 indigenous homestead vegetation saplings and 100 ICS to the beneficiaries. 

Mangroves for the Future (MFF) is a partnership-based regional initiative which promotes investment in coastal ecosystem conservation for sustainable development. MFF focuses on the role that healthy, well-managed coastal ecosystems play in building the resilience of ecosystem-dependent coastal communities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The initiative uses mangroves as a flagship ecosystem, but MFF is inclusive of all types of coastal ecosystem, such as coral reefs, estuaries, lagoons, sandy beaches, sea grasses and wetlands. MFF is co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP, and is funded by Danida, Norad, and Sida and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Thailand.

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