Do writeshops work…?

By Jon Lawn

Do writeshops work…?

…this was my first thought when the idea was floated! Do we really need to take people away to get them to concentrate on their work? I soon found out we do!

Despite my initial scepticism, the DECCMA Northern Team Writeshop has been a great success.  We have gathered colleagues from around the country (and some from further afield), who would’t usually have the time to sit together for three days. Situated in a picturesque village in the New Forest, we are surrounded by delightful English countryside and autumnal colours. Stick your head outdoors and you hear birdsong and smell the rustic smell of an open fire.  Look around and you see ponies, cattle and birds. Peace at last!

The silence in our meeting room is unnerving.  I am so used to DECCMA meetings being full of talk, presentations, lively discussion and debate – this eerie quiet reminds me of an exam hall.  All I hear hour after hour is the gentle ‘tap tap’ of fingers on keyboards and occasional hushed whispers of collaborators discussing how many words they’ve written and the order of paragraphs. ‘Are they really working’ I think…?

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Regular gatherings and updates from the team prove my continued scepticism to be unfounded.  Thousands upon thousands of words have been written, entire papers have gone through multiple reviews with ‘track changes’ an essential companion.  Thoughts have changed and evolved, analyses have developed and clarity has been sought.  The amount and speed of progress is amazing.  Papers have gone from being a mere idea and structure to almost complete.

We punctuate our writing sessions with forays into the damp countryside – some fresh air to revive frazzled brains and to invigorate the soul.  Topics of conversation enlighten each other on progress and share trains of thought – with valuable contributions and insightful comments received in return. Even the drizzle doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm for ploughing on, both with the walks, and with the writing.

I will admit to be unnerved about the lack of agenda items going into this meeting.  With the majority of the sessions titled ‘Writing Session’ with the instruction ‘Self-Organise’ next to it – my usual planning and control of meetings is removed. There are no presentations to prepare and no minutes to write! When asked in our introductory session about my goals for the meeting, my reply is simply “to make sure you guys write stuff!”

The dedicated time given to writing is key. Providing an environment where academics and researchers aren’t disturbed by the busyness and demands of an office environment is proving efficient.  Email is not banned (although I contemplated withholding the WiFi password!) – but self-control and discipline is displayed, and even encouraged, by the participants. They have grasped and bought into the ethos of the writeshop, and in many cases appear to crave the quiet, uninterrupted time to put their head down and focus solely on one area of analysis.

So what’s the key to an effective writeshop?

Planning in advance – there is no point having people sitting around for three days with nothing to write!  Participants must come with goals in mind, and a clean schedule to devote time and effort to the cause.  We asked the team to complete templates, stating the papers they would be working on and with whom they needed to collaborate – both on writing and reviewing.  This planning forced the team to focus in advance, and not just turn up with no idea what was going on.

Variability is also important.  I found you should not overestimate the concentration span of a person – to get someone to focus on one activity for an entire day is unrealistic! More than an hour is pushing it for the average person.  Hence we built in times where we went for walks, ate lunch together in a different location and generally made purposeful attempts to switch our focus to different tasks to provide intervals and a change of pace.

Within the variability we also provided flexibility. I was amazed on Day 1 that these grown-ups kept asking me for permission. ‘Can I work on this task Jon?’, ‘Can I not go for the walk now as I’m in the zone Jon?’, ‘Jon, can I pop out and get a coffee/go for a run/phone home?’. It was obvious I was the keeper of the meeting!  But, in all reality, we aimed to provide an environment that was best for people to work, and this would be different for different individuals.  My response to (virtually) every request was ‘sure, whatever works best for you’.

We have seen a real step change in the amount of writing achieved during these three days. Plans have already been mooted to continue the momentum next year.

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2nd round of District Level Stakeholder Workshop, Bhadrak (Mahanadi Delta)

The second round of district level stakeholder workshop for the Mahanadi Delta was jointly organized by Chilika Development Authority and Sansristi on 12th September, 2017 at Bhadrak. Jadavpur University and Centre for Environment and Development provided technical inputs and guided in the planning process. The objectives of the workshop were –

  • Share DECCMA’s findings with respect to the work packages and seek stakeholders’ comments and observations 
  • Seek stakeholder feedback regarding Barriers to Policy implementation & Criteria for Successful Adaptation

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The participants in the workshop were from government departments, Banks, Universities, NGOs, CBOs, and SHGs. There were a total of 33 participants comprising 23 men and 10 women.

DECCMA was introduced and its objectives were shared. Following this, the findings from the project were shared with respect to governance analysis, risk, hazard, multi-hazard, net migration maps, household survey, and adaptation examples taking place in the DECCMA study area of the Mahanadi Delta. The findings were shared firstly at the study area level and then concentrated on the Bhadrak district for evoking better responses from stakeholders.

Barriers to Policy Implementation and Criteria for Successful Adaptation surveys were conducted. The questionnaires were translated into local language Odia and participants were handed out either the English version or Odia version depending on their preferences. The analyses of these surveys are currently being carried out by the team.

Insights were gained from stakeholders on the effects of climate change, vulnerability, migration and adaptation taking place in the Puri district of the Mahanadi Delta. Some key responses are as follows :

–         In migration and Out migration of the various blocks of the district have different reasons (eg Basudevpur and Chandbali). Seasonal migration needs to be captured.

–         The movement of men and women are different. The destination is generally Gujarat and South (Kerala). Young girls are also migrating independently to work in garment factories.

–          Fishing has been restricted for the Dhamra port, which in turn is affecting the livelihood of the people. This leads to migration.

–          To boost agriculture, many initiatives are being taken by the Govt department of Agriculture such as provision of crop insurance, supporting crop diversification, saline tolerant paddy supply, appointment of female agriculture officers, extension work  etc

–          Plantation of mangrove can reduce the cyclonic effect in coastal areas but it needs to be taken up by the communities in a large scale.

–          In pre disaster preparedness programmes, participation of women is good. In Flood/ Cyclone Shelter Management committees one third members are women.

–          In micro planning for livelihood (under Livelihood Mission), disaster is not specifically factored in.

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DECCMA and ASSAR present at UNU-WIDER Development Conference in Ghana

by Prosper Adiku, DECCMA Ghana RiU focal point

On October 6th, Kwasi Appeaning-Addo participated at the UNU-WIDER Development Conference held in Accra.

The UNU-WIDER Conference, held under the theme ‘Migration and mobility- new frontiers for research and policy’ was jointly organised by the UNU-WIDER and the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA). The 2-day conference comprised plenary, parallel sessions with contributed papers, and a poster session. The conference explored the relationships between migration, mobility, and development, with a focus on South-South movements and the African region. It aimed to bring together new and innovative research from economics and other disciplines that can inform broader policy-relevant debate and action.

UNU WIDER conference

Profs. Chris Gordon (2nd L) and Appeaning-Addo (2nd R) at the Environment and Natural Resources parallel session of the Conference (Photograph credit: Wendy Boakye)

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Presenting on DECCMA’s findings on migration and mobility across deltas, Professor Appeaning-Addo was part of the “Environment and Natural Resources” parallel session chaired by Linguère Mously Mbaye. The Collaborative Adaptation Research in Africa and Asia programme was also represented by Professor Chris Gordon of Adaptation at Scale in Arid and Semi-arid land (ASSAR). Drawing together their findings on deltas and semi-arid lands in Ghana, DECCMA and ASSAR jointly developed a research brief ‘Migration: An Opportunity or Threat to Adaptation?’ which was available at the conference.

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DECCMA participates in webinar on gender roles in water scarcity-induced migration

by Katharine Vincent

Creating evidence to contribute to policy support for gender-sensitive adaptation in deltas requires significant sex-disaggregated data and investigation of gender implications of migration. DECCMA has, so far, surveyed 6000 households across four deltas in migrant-sending areas, and is in the process of surveying a further 6000 households in migrant-receiving areas.

Where possible in the survey, the household head and an adult of the other sex have been separately surveyed, giving rise to a significant data set. This illuminates gender differences in the causes, patterns and consequences of migration, and was highlighted by DECCMA during a webinar on “Gender roles in water scarcity-induced migration.”

The webinar took place as part of the GEF International Waters: LEARN project (gender sub-component), undertaken by UNESCO’s World Water Assessment Programme and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The aim of this project is to raise awareness of the importance of gender mainstreaming and how to do it in international waters project. They recently published a report on “Migration and its interdependencies with water scarcity, gender and youth“.

Bringing together research to inform disaster risk reduction in Bangladesh

by Saiful Alam, DECCMA Bangladesh RiU focal point, BUET

Ensuring university research feeds into policy and practice is key to reducing disaster risk reduction. DECCMA is building evidence on how climate change is affecting deltas, how people are adapting to these changes, and the role of migration.

In Bangladesh the Institute for Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology is participating in a platform to bring together research and knowledge generated by universities to strengthen capacity for improved water management and disaster risk reduction. This sits under the project “Research on Disaster Prevention / Mitigation measures against Flood and Storm Surges in Bangladesh” (SATREPS).

DECCMA BD workshop

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As part of its efforts to disseminate research findings, IWFM organized a University Networking workshop in August 2017 to present five training modules developed under the SATREPS project with the aim of building capacity at the field level. The five modules discussed topics relating to flood management and disaster risk reduction:

  1. Evolution of flood management policy and planning
  2. Evaluating resilience against flood disaster
  3. Learning from experience of NGOs in disaster management
  4. Review of measures for river flood management in Bangladesh
  5. Flash flood risk management using information and communication technologies in Bangladesh

The workshop was attended by researchers from 19 universities in Bangladesh and further afield. DECCMA Bangladesh PI, Prof. Munsur Rahman, outlined findings from DECCMA. He also called for joint action-oriented research with emphasis on governance to reduce disaster risk among vulnerable delta populations.

Following from this successful workshop, another will be planned to further disseminate DECCMA research findings on vulnerability hotspots and adaptation. This will likely take place at Potuakahi University of Science and Technology, and further details will be available on the DECCMA website when a date has been finalised.

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Migration and adaptation: a case study from the Khulna-Jessore region

by Nazia Bushra, Research Assistant, Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU)

Khulna stands on the banks of the Rupsha and the Bhairab rivers, located in southwest Bangladesh, and it is the geographical mid-point between the ports of Jessore and Mongla. It is also the second largest seaport of the country.

image001In the coming years, the Khulna-Jessore regions are going to become increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.  Khulna is already prone to salinity intrusion and cyclones.  Less fresh water now flows in the adjacent rivers and saltwater intrudes here from the Bay of Bengal.  Also, the local shrimp aquaculture is affected by viruses and other harmful factors related to high salinity and the increase in water temperature.

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In the case of Jessore, the increased salinity, floods, and storms are all major drivers of human migration from this locale.  In order to obtain accurate data on the magnitude of migration and adaptation status of these two regions, we conducted a household survey of the 8 mouzas of these two cities. During the household listing survey, we found that people are suffering here from livelihood crises and related economic challenges. A large portion of household members that we interviewed were educated, which might explain their tendency to migrate to other regions and abroad.  However, some of them are adapting to the present situation by adopting new technologies.  They cultivate saline-resistant rice varieties (e.g. IRRI-11, 23, 54) and vegetables (e.g. water-melon, pumpkin etc.) but most cultivation takes place only during the rainy season; in dry season they usually buy vegetables and crops from neighbouring areas.

In Khulna, some of the most challenging environmental situations are found in Amurkata and Paikgachha. The communication system, mobile networks and food accessibility are all hampered by logistical issues.  Environmental problems such as salinity of drinking water, low diversity of crop varieties, waterlogging, and cyclone-induced tidal surges are pervasive in this area. Local NGO’s such as ASA, BRAC, JJS, NOBOJUG etc. are trying to provide fresh water to these areas and the government is also constructing some cyclone shelters. Because of the prevalence of cyclones, most of the houses are made up of mud and conventional golpata, and electricity is relatively scarce among these types of dwellings.

In Jessore, Bahadurpur village has two areas named Mathpara and Hotatpara which received many migrants from neighbouring areas during times of flood and other natural disasters. These displaced persons are economically vulnerable as they try to adapt to life here. They face unemployment, job insecurity and the lack of other basic facilities, such as a scarcity of clean water. The unhygienic sanitation conditions, combined with the other difficulties, have led to a high incidence of diseases.

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One village above water, another below

by Md. Saiful Islam (Sourav)

I got the chance to work for RMMRU and through this organisation, I was able to visit many places that I have never been before. I visited these places for my research work which allowed me to visit many rural places. This was my first opportunity to learn first hand about nature, climate change and life in these regions.

I was surprised when I saw village people surviving day by day for their livelihood or family. Two villages were divided by a road, one village is still under water and another is more developed. That village is still underwater because of the environmental situation and its location near the river.

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I was also surprised when I saw a mother with three sons. One son was an AGM at the Bangladesh Bank, another was a Supreme Court advocate and the third was a businessman. They don’t contribute to their family at all – not even to their mother. They don’t help financially – not even a single taka. To hear that was very difficult and it never stops to bring tears to my eyes. Some people never build or construct a building because of the cyclone of the floor. This is because these types of events keep happening. They know that if they build a house this month that next month another cyclone or flood may come. What is the point?

To sum it up, I learnt a lot during my visits to these places. One question always returns to me: how do people live? How do they survive? But still, they do survive. They are the actual fighter.

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The challenges of living with climate change in Noakhali and Laxmipur Districts

by Aysha Akter Akhi

It is a nice opportunity to work with RMMRU on the DECCMA project. For the purpose of completing this work, I got a chance to visit the Noakhali-Laxmipur region of Bangladesh. This visit enabled me to talk with the people of this remote area. I visited 7 Mouzas in Noakhali and Laxmipur district. The people of these areas are mostly affected by the consequences of climate change. Cyclone, flood, river erosion, scarcity of rain, heavy rainfalls are frequent in these areas. Among 7 Mouzas, I found that the Char Elahi Mouza of Companigonj of Noakhali district is the most vulnerable.

image001I went to Char Lengta of Char Elahi which is very close to the Meghna River. People who live on the bank of the river are at serious risk.  Because of environmental factors like river erosion, many people have lost their houses, lands, and other belongings. They live in bamboo or tin-metaljhupri houses.

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Economic difficulties mean that attaining regular meals is difficult for many people here. Some have responded to these difficulties by becoming migrants. Many are living in the homes of friends and family places, while some have taken shelter in Mosques and Primary Schools. The usual occupations for many of these people are fishing and cultivation, but at present they have no land to cultivate and there has been a drastic reduction in fish populations in the river. Many are not provided with basic human rights, like food and shelter.

For these reasons, people in Char Elahi have a lot of complains against their local representative. They claim that not a single person is ready to hear them or even to talk with them, and that help is far away. When I went to talk with those people, they thought that perhaps I would do some help or provide financial aid to them.  Alas! there was nothing I could to for them except listen to their sorrows and sufferings.  I observed their lives and their needs very closely. They fight with nature early and late with great courage.

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DECCMA report and take home from the Resilience 2017 conference

by Ricardo Safra de Campos

DECCMA members Dr Anwara Begum (BIDS, Bangladesh) and Dr Ricardo Safra de Campos (University of Exeter, UK), pictured below, attended the fourth Resilience Conference “Resilience Frontiers for Global Sustainability”, held in Stockholm, Sweden, from 20-23 August 2017. Themes such as global tele-connectivity, power, place, practice, perspective-taking and other social aspects were highlighted as key factors for a “new renaissance” of transformation towards resilience. The role of spatial and translocal connections were addressed in two sessions dedicated to population movements and their outcomes.

Ricardo + Anwara

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Dr Anwara Begum (pictured below) presented the paper Risks of involuntary resettlement initiatives in Bangladesh in the session “Resettlement as Transformation” proposed by DECCMA member Helen Adams (UCL, UK) and chaired by Jennifer Hodbod. The focus of the session was on involuntary resettlements as deliberate actions, often decided upon by a few external actors, and implemented for positive objectives but with unpredictable outcomes, representing a microcosm to understand trade-offs and uncertainties in transformation. Other speakers in the session were Sophie Blackburn (King’s College London) presenting Challenges of ‘deliberate transformation’: Lessons from post-tsunami resettlement in the Andaman Islands, South India; and Christopher Lyon (University of Dundee) presenting Resettlement as refugia under extreme environmental change scenarios.

Anwara Begum

Based on fieldwork findings and literature analysis, Anwara’s talk focused on the challenges faced by resettled communities in Bangladesh due to limited infrastructure, social services, or support for livelihoods transition provided by formal government backed resettlement projects. Of the interviewed households in her research, many of those who received resettlement support were unsatisfied. More than 75 per cent of people wanted to return to their ancestral home because of their desire to reconnect with their sense of community and previous livelihoods. There was no consensus on the efficacy of resettlement as a policy, particularly for women and children. Some respondents suggested that greater effort should be placed on community-based adaptation instead.

DECCMA also participated in a session organised by the TransRe Project: “Mobility, translocality and the resilience of socio-ecological systems: Exploring concepts and empirical evidence.” Migration and the various dimensions of population movement was a topic present in many sessions of the conference, yet it was discussed in a topical manner as a disturbing factor external to social-ecological systems rather than as a field of resilience research in its own right. How migration could be addressed from a resilience perspective was discussed by three presenters.

First, Sabine Henry (University of Namur, Belgium) presented insights from recent research on the role of migration for the left-behind rural communities in Ecuador. Second, Till Rockenbauch (University of Bonn, TransRe-Project, Germany) presented conceptual considerations and methodological approaches for addressing the role of translocal social networks vis-à-vis different capacities of resilience. Third, I presented the conceptual framework of DECCMA’s integrative model developed by Attila Lazar in Work Package 5. My talk provided insights into the modelling of household decisions under development in collaboration with Attila Lazar and Helen Adams using a Bayesian Belief Networks approach.

The audience discussed themes around policy and practical outcomes and the relationship between migration and resilience. The speakers debated the situation of migrants at destination areas including employment, housing and living conditions that allow or deny migrants to send remittances and decrease their level of vulnerability. The (in)ability of household members in sending areas to transform financial and social remittances into adaptive and transformative capacities was also discussed by both audience and panelists. The session was productive as it underlined the diversity of concepts, approaches and major challenges to be addressed by future research. It remains to be seen whether the various forms of population movements will become a more integral part of resilience and transformation research in the future.

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