Sep 19, 2023 5 min read

Bangladesh and the Netherlands unite for climate resilience

Bangladesh and the Netherlands unite for climate resilience
Boats on the river in Bangladesh. Photo: Mostafijur Rahman Nasim/Unsplash

Bangladesh and the Netherlands join forces to develop a Delta Plan, fostering resilience and addressing climate emergency through innovative collaboration. 

Bangladesh, a country highly vulnerable to climate crisis, faces escalating threats from severe cyclones and floods. As the Netherlands also faces similar challenges, the countries joined forces to develop a Delta Plan for Bangladesh, with the goal of establishing a safe, resilient and prosperous nation.

Playing a vital role in this endeavour is the Water Systems and Global Change Group from Wageningen University & Research (WUR), with their expertise in assessing climate change impacts and developing strategies to withstand them.

"We collaborate with different partners such as universities, research institutes and government departments in Bangladesh. Together, we evaluate the effects of climate change on saltwater intrusion, fresh water availability and irrigated agriculture," says Fulco Ludwig, professor at WUR.

These collaborations facilitate knowledge exchange, empowering Bangladesh to address the climate crisis effectively.

Fishing boats on the river in coastal Bangladesh. Photo: Abul Kalam Azad/Pexels

Integrating local knowledge

The Water Systems and Global Change Group is committed to developing innovative solutions that assist communities in adapting to their rapidly changing circumstances. One such solution is Waterapps, an advanced weather app that incorporates indigenous weather prediction approaches such as observing insect behaviour and cloud formations.

"Farmers have many local approaches to predicting the weather. The presence of certain insects and bird behaviour could have predictive value. Also, certain cloud formations and changes in atmospheric pressure are indicators of changes in the weather. Including these elements in the weather forecast could actually give farmers more confidence in using the app," says Ludwig, highlighting the significance of incorporating local weather prediction methods.

These weather forecasts prove vital in mitigating losses and ensuring successful crop cultivation. The app helps farmers make informed decisions. 

As the paddy harvest takes place over a few days, some farmers had left some of the harvested paddy in the fields. But the weather forecast helped them save the harvest. 

"If we didn't know the forecast, the paddy crop would have been affected by the rain. Because of this advanced information, we had an advantage. We moved the harvested paddy overnight and avoided losses," recalls Lanoni Bairagi, a woman farmer in Khulna.

Collaborative learning 

In response to the climate crisis, local farmers have established weather and climate clubs, fostering information sharing and learning opportunities for farmers and agricultural extension officers. By tapping into each other's skills and knowledge, they are able to come up with practical solutions.

To further promote collaboration, joint research and knowledge groups are being established, encouraging cooperation among local organisations, communities and farmers.

Md Alamgir Kabir, professor at PSTU and the project director of RECSA, acknowledges how beneficial the training their students received from WUR researchers has been.

Climate Smart Agriculture for a Resilient Coastal Bangladesh (RECSA), is a notable initiative that focuses on building resilience by training the local people and establishing a new department on climate-resilient agriculture at PSTU. 

"To make a long-term impact, we help PSTU in setting up a new department on climate-smart agriculture. To do that, we provide training to local staff and PhD students, and together we develop a new master's programme," says Ludwig, emphasising their commitment for a long-term impact.

Towards sustainable food systems

Bangladeshi and Dutch researchers collaborate closely to develop climate information services that enable farmers to predict and prepare for crop diseases. By leveraging these services, farmers can effectively manage diseases, safeguarding their production and increasing overall benefits.

Standing in the rice field, Moriom Akter Mousumi, a researcher at WUR and assistant professor at PSTU explains how blast disease in rice leads to the death of the whole plant. "Ultimately, the production is zero. So, if we control it by using our climate information services, we can manage these diseases, benefiting our farmers."

Peerzadi Rumana Hossain, a researcher at Patuakhali Science and Technology University (PSTU) with research experiences at WUR is developing climate information services for agrifood systems of Bangladesh.

Furthermore, the challenge of saltwater intrusion, which poses a significant threat to food security, is addressed. Ludwig highlights their extensive research on saltwater intrusion in Bangladesh, spanning nearly 15 years. 

Through a combination of local measurements and climate and water models, they study how climate change increases salt intrusion and its impact on natural ecosystems, crop production and drinking water availability.

Shrimp farming along the coast has expanded significantly due to high profits, but it has caused environmental damages. Researchers are also dedicatedly working on finding sustainable and climate-adaptive solutions for the shrimp industry, mitigating environmental damages caused by increased salinity in soil and water.

Doctoral researchers at WUR such as Abdullah Masud and Peerzadi Rumana are using their research experience for practical solutions in Bangladesh. "We are using various meteorological tools, particularly stakeholder consultation and participation. The main objective is to develop a more sustainable and climate-adaptive shrimp industry," says Masud.

Learning from delta communities

The collaboration between Bangladesh and the Netherlands extends beyond addressing local challenges; it serves as a platform for mutual learning. Dutch researchers working in Bangladesh gain valuable insights into new approaches for water management in the Dutch Delta.

By understanding how communities in Bangladesh cope with water and climate extremes, novel strategies for living with water can be developed. These innovative solutions can be shared with other river delta communities worldwide, promoting resilience and sustainability globally.

The partnership between Bangladesh and the Netherlands, fuelled by collaboration and knowledge exchange, is transforming the fight against the climate emergency. Through initiatives like the Delta Plan, climate information services and collaborative learning platforms, both countries are actively working towards creating climate-resilient communities.

By harnessing local knowledge, empowering individuals and fostering international cooperation, these efforts pave the way for a safer and prosperous future for Bangladesh and serve as an inspiration to communities worldwide facing similar climate-related threats.

Water dynamics in Bangladesh

Joep Janssen
Joep Janssen
Founder and editor-in-chief Nextblue
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