Wednesday, April 23, 2014


PUBLICATION: Exploring local perceptions of climate change

A recent IFPRI Discussion Paper looks at local perceptions of climate change impact and adaptation in rural Bangladesh:

This paper reports on findings from 30 focus group discussions and 30 key informant interviews conducted in 12 districts of Bangladesh in May 2012. The discussions and interviews draw attention to perceptions of climate change and how climate-related trends influence people’s lives, both directly and indirectly. The findings also identify how people adapt to and cope with these changes. This paper aims to improve our understanding of local people’s perceptions of these changes, explore the ways they are affected by them, and how well they are adapting to them. In order for policymakers to plan responses to climate change in Bangladesh, it is essential to understand how people understand and cope with these trends.

The research showed that most respondents had a clear understanding of what was directly affecting their lives and livelihoods in terms of climate trends and the wider environment over the long term. Most respondents were also aware of the usually limited options available to them to adapt to the changes they experience. However, the respondents were less able to understand differences between climate variability and climate change or the causes of the trends they observed.

The respondents reported that adaptation allowed them to cope with declining groundwater levels for agriculture and domestic use, hotter weather, reduced and unpredictable rainfall at key times of the year, more intense extreme weather events such as storms, cyclones, floods, and tornados, and increased salinity of groundwater in coastal areas. Adaptation and coping varied according to location, livelihood, and the assets and endowments people have at their disposal.

Participants were particularly concerned that agricultural productivity is being undermined by increased input costs, increasingly scarce irrigation water, and diminished crop yields. They report changed cropping patterns and that many poorer households formerly supported by agriculture were moving into small, nonagricultural businesses or migrating to urban centers or internationally—mainly in the Middle East—for work.

Households with low incomes and few assets are the most vulnerable. The interviews and focus groups reports of this group showed poorer health due to problems associated with access to clean groundwater and higher temperatures and other unseasonable weather affecting dwellings, trees and crops. Women in low-income households were more concerned than men with accessing clean drinking water, the health of their families, livestock health, and food security. The research provides evidence that some vulnerable people are being excluded as clean water becomes more scarce and costly to extract.

There is a wide range of successful group activity in rural Bangladesh associated with nongovernmental organization microfinance and the management of irrigation. There are opportunities for strengthening group activities to help vulnerable households cope with new climate -related changes, particularly, new crops and cropping patterns, extreme climate events, ensuring access to domestic and agricultural water. Women are particularly vulnerable when households divide or livelihoods change—particularly with migration. Group-based activities are likely to help strengthen women’s position when faced with these circumstances. For the most vulnerable with low incomes and few assets, programs that reduce risk and build up assets will provide more security, particularly in times of crisis.

Full paper Available here.

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