The article was first published on Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)
Water, water and water everywhere when you look around. But, about 60,000 people have been living in a small and isolated island – Char Jahir Uddin – in the Bay of Bengal with high risk of extreme climate events.
It is really a difficult task to go to the hard-to-reach area since an engine-run boat is the only means of going there. One and half hour is needed to go to Char Jahir Uddin by the engine-run boat from Tazumuddin Upazila of Bhola district. Only one boat shuttles from Char Jahir Uddin to Tazumuddin Ghat in a day while the rest of the time the Char people remain isolated from the mainland amid the risk of cyclone and tidal surge.
Like many others, once Razia Begum was at plight when she along her eight-member family came to Char Jahir Uddin about 19 years back, losing her home and all belongings at Tazumuddin Upazila to riverbank erosion.
“When we came to the Char, we had nothing to start a new life. We collected hogla pata (elephant grass) from the char and made different types of mats and sold those to fishermen. That time, we never thought of eating meals three times in a day. I thought how we would pass the days,” said Raiza, a mother of six children.
As her day-labourer husband often failed to manage a work in the highly vulnerable island, she said, they had to strive every day apart from facing natural disasters like cyclone and storm surge.
But, the fortune of her family was changed after they were brought under the ‘Fish-Fruit-Forest (FFF) model of the Integrating community-based adaptation into Afforestation and Reforestation Programme jointly introduced by UNDP Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Forest Department.
Under the project, the Forest Department leased a piece of fallow land of forest to one poor family for 10 years and created a small pond on it and handed over the pond to the family. Razia is one of the beneficiaries of the project.
Project officials said a total of 40 FFF models were established on eight hectare of fallow land in Char Jahir Uddin, bringing 40 extremely and climate-vulnerable families under the project, which helps them lead a dignified life.
A total of 80 fruit-bearing and timber tree saplings were planted and about 1,550 fish fries were released on every pond. “I have planted saplings and cultivated vegetables on the banks of my pond. I am also rearing ducks and farming fish on the pond. And I am reaping benefits from it,” Razia said with a smiling face.
She has so far sold eggs of Tk 5,000 and earned Tk 15,000 by selling vegetables. “I have sold fish of Tk 9,000 so far from my pond and hope that I could be able sold fish of Tk one lakh at the end of this season,” she added.
“We got a dream after getting the FFF mode…now we are leading a decent life earning from the project,” Razia said.
People living close to the country’s shoreline are reliant on agriculture and fishing for their livelihoods. Rising sea level and increase in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones are raising the incidences of flooding, salinity intrusion and erosion.
The FFF model is being applied in the coastline to reduce climate vulnerability of coastal poor communities and lift them out of poverty. It makes the coastal less-productive land productive by building mounds and ditches so that fruits, vegetables and timber trees can be grown, and fish can be farmed.
The FFF model increases the income of the marginalised community through climate resilient fisheries, horticultural and livestock related livelihood options.
Forest conservator Gobinda Roy said the FFF model will be like a job for the poor coastal people who can earn continuous and recurrent incomes through diversified livelihood options.
In addition, he said, the Forest Department allows the community to utilise the land of FFF model for 10 years on lease and it will be renewed based on success and continuation of the planned activities.