This month project team members of the ‘Coastal Livelihoods Adaptation Project’ travelled to Potuakhali, Borguna and Kuakata, in remote disaster prone areas to visit the communities in southern Bangladesh and discovered not just one but more than one hundred talented hopefuls. Blank canvases soon became works of art, even though most of the young students from West Behala High School and Badurtoli Government Primary School had never even seen or used pastel colors to draw.
This was an initiative between GIZ (German Development Cooperation) and IUCN Bangladesh and over 120 students took part in the ‘Coastal Livelihoods Adaptation Project’ (CLAP) art competitions. Students from grades three five (primary level) and six to eight (secondary level) were provided with topics, covering their experiences and knowledge about disasters, climate change and adaptation. A selection of these illustrations by the children will be used in the books to be printed for them, as a part of the project. ‘The talent from the students is amazing’, said Remeen Firoz, IUCN’s education and training consultant of the project, ‘we are really excited to be able to include the students’ artwork in our books!’
The aim of the joint project is to implement a school-based education and awareness programme on disaster preparedness and adaptation to climate change over a five year period, in five coastal upazilas for primary and high school students and their teachers.
Focus Group Discussions were also held with the Rakhaine community members, which took place at Amkhola para, the Rakahine Palli in Kuakata or the Gora Amkhola para (administrative name). The Rakhaine community experiences a number of regular or recurrent natural disasters, exasperated because of climate change effects. They were found to be enterprising and adapting to anomalies in the rainfall patterns and seasonal changes that affect their crop calendars and livelihoods.
The Rakhaine homesteads are traditionally different from those of other parts of the coast or the flat areas of Bangladesh. They have thatched roofs made of golpatta (nypa fruticans), a readily available tree in the mangroves. In addition, their homes stand on bamboo stilts, which allow storm surges to pass through. A typical Rakhaine house will be about 6 to 7 feet high from the ground and can be a two-storied structure (see photo below). However, in recent years, because of a rise in sea level, the height of these stilts probably needs to be raised (as the waves during surges are increasingly becoming higher). ‘This type of structure has been adopted from Arakan (the Rakhaine state on the western coast of Myanmar), where the Rakhaine community is originally from’, informed by Choten, an elderly Rakhaine community member.
An interactive and lively Focus Group Discussion also took place between Rakhaine boys and girls and members of IUCN B and partners. These children are high school students and study at the local Mohipur Cooperative High School.
The children were found to be musically inclined and performed popular songs as well as a local song based on the nature, environment and people of Potuakhali and Kuakata.
Bangladesh has a long history of natural disasters. Between 1980 and 2008, it experienced 219 natural disasters, causing more than USD $16 billion in damage and an estimated 200,000 deaths (UNDP, 2012). Bangladesh remains a country most vulnerable to natural disasters and is experiencing the impacts of climate change. UNDP reports that 30% of Bangladesh’s land and 26% of its population is exposed to three or more kinds of hazards.
Schools play an important role in disaster risk reduction. Schools educate the community and often provide shelter during a disaster. Children in particular play an important role within the community, sharing their knowledge from school with their families and the general community.
The ‘Coastal Livelihoods Adaptation Project’ (CLAP) is an initiative of GIZ (German Development Cooperation) funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and IUCN Bangladesh is their technical partner for implementing one of the components of the project that focuses on education and awareness.
Consultation sessions with students, teachers and educational officials are currently taking place, the feedback from the consultation sessions will be used to develop Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials such as information books and guides for primary and secondary school students and their teachers in both Bangla and English. These will identify issues and topics that will assist in addressing vulnerability factors such as sensitivity and exposure and educate the wider coastal community on preparing and responding to future climate change impacts and natural disasters.
The education materials will be mainly pictorial and will focus on weather and climate, climate change manifestations, adaptation, mitigation, key vulnerabilities and risks, local and Bangladesh specific case examples, etc.
Based on recommendations from the consultation sessions the materials will also include information on cyclonic warning signals, preparedness and adaptation options including plantation of tree species suitable for cyclonic winds, a disaster map of the country, local case studies, history of the disasters in Bangladesh, to mention a few. This project has been replicated from the highly successful ‘Char Development and Settlement Project’ (CDSP) III funded initiative of the Government of Netherlands that was implemented in from 2008-2009 by IUCN Bangladesh in the coastal and offshore areas of Noakali region. The project and the popular mascot ‘Rana Bhai’, the climate change ambassador frog, were enormously successful in raising awareness about climate change and disaster risk reduction.
Considering the success of this project and the emerging need for improvement in disaster risk management and preparedness measures, GIZ has requested IUCN to provide technical guidance to implement this phrase of the project. The basic drafts of the books will be validated by the users themselves - through consultations with students, teachers, local Education Officers of the GoB, partners and education and communication experts. It is expected that the distribution of the teachers’ guides and students’ books will take place from beginning 2013; the project will continue to work with the schools and organize campaigns, competitions and capacity building programmes for the next few years.