The lengths one must go for drinking water

by Aysha Akter Akhi

image003I went to Noakhali, Laxmipur, Khulna, Bagerhat, Jessore, and Gopalgonj for field surveys for the DECCMA project and gained so many experiences from this journey.  Among them, I can share the place called Amurkata of Paikgacha of the Khulna district where there is a scarcity of drinking water. This area of six or seven kilometres has no internal transport. People paddle from one part to another. The ground in that area is high in salinity. There are also very few trees and the weather is quite rough. People often travel three of four kilometres by foot to collect drinking water from a deep well which is placed in a “Local Bazaar.” Every day in the morning or evening, they go with one or two jars to collect water. In today’s age, this scenario is shocking to see.image001

Working with RMMRU on DECCMA; The memories I will not forget

by Rafiqul Islam, Research Assistant (RMMRU)

Life is full of experiences and I want to share my experience about the journey to perform research with RMMRU and about the memorable time I spent with my colleagues.

First, I want to give thanks to my Lord because I think I am so lucky to work with RMMRU for a few months. In those few months I have learned many things from RMMRU and from my colleagues.



show more

First, I went to Chandpur, Lakshmipur and Bhola to conduct household listing surveys. We faced some accommodation problems. My colleagues were very supportive and helpful to me as we overcame all sorts of problems regarding staying, eating, and travelling. I was one of the younger members of the team, so I received love from my senior brothers.  I am a jolly-minded person, so I can communicate with my respondents and my colleagues spontaneously but when we had to do the surveys, we had faced some problems because we had no female members in the group. When we reached each household, a few people were reluctant to participate in our survey but generally the majority were very helpful to us in our research. After completing these surveys, we returned to Dhaka.

In April, we left Dhaka again for another round of field work and to conduct interviews with selected respondents. This time I was in a new group. Our journey was good and we had 7 members on our team, including me. My partner was Tamanna Apu. Frankly speaking, at first I was not comfortable with her because her way of thinking and my way of thinking was a little bit different. Gradually we understood each other’s work and we became good friends for the purpose of the work. My other team members including Musabbir Bhai, Saiful and Roni Bhai, Ridita and Popy Apu were too good.  We had two members replacing Roni Bhai and Saiful were Himel and Tanjim Bhai. They were also friendly.  Every morning the females got up early in the morning, got ready quickly and were waiting for us.  All of these moments were so memorable for me and made for a very friendly work environment. This friendly attitude among the team members was not limited to the work but also in all spheres, generally, we got along as a team. I really will not forget those days.

Another memorable day was visiting our field work by Ricardo and Rocky Bhai in Lakshmipur.  I was little bit sick and nervous that day because Rocky Bhai scolded us for our mistake. At that moment I was sad but after, I realised that it was my fault. I always respect and love Rocky Bhai from the core of my heart undoubtedly. A most horrible experience occurred on 28th May 2016.  On that day we started our journey from Lakshmipur sadar to Bhola on a trawler ship, when suddenly a storm began.  All of us had begun to fear for our lives, but by the grace of almighty Allah we made it through. We have finished our journey through some ups and downs but in the end, the experience left me with one of the more significant memories in my life.

It was a great opportunity for me to work with a reputed organisation like RMMRU. Finally, I want to thank all the members of RMMRU.

show less

Conducting fieldwork in a highly stratified society

 – On the use of participatory visual methods to engage with the marginalised within Indian rural communities

by Tristan Berchoux

Social issues in rural India

Inequalities are omnipresent within Indian rural communities. They are perpetuated by the system of castes, which leads to a social stratification of India’s population. Moreover, vulnerability to external stresses is also driven by gender discrimination, which follows on from the systemic marginalisation of women and the differences of power relationships that exist between men and women, especially in India. In order to get an overview of communities, social scientists have to face the challenge of getting access to the views of such marginalised groups. This blog presents some of the methods I implemented to address this issue during a research fieldwork conducted in the Mahanadi Delta in India during winter 2016.

show more

Methods to get the voices of marginalised groups out

As part of our work associated with the characterisation of livelihood dynamics under the threat of external stresses, we’ve conducted an in-depth fieldwork in the Mahanadi Delta in India. First, the fieldwork team interviewed members of governmental agencies, NGO representatives and academics in Bhubaneswar. Then, the team spent 6 weeks conducting Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRAs) in 10 rural communities in the Districts of Nayagarh, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara, spending 2 to 3 days in each community. Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) was chosen as the main method for creating primary data as it enables rural communities to share, enhance and analyse their knowledge of life and condition. Different activities were used to cross-check the data collected and to cover all the aspects of livelihood systems, such as wealth ranking, seasonal calendar or community mapping. The PRAs were conducted by one researcher with the help of a translator and a facilitator who were trained before conducting the activities. The researcher monitored the evolution of the PRA and provided guidance to the translator and facilitator.

Implementing PRA in a class and gender-based structure

Focus groups conducted for each PRA activity were purposely held separately between men and women to capture gender differences and to give women, who suffer from a lack of recognition in India, the opportunity to express their opinions and issues. It enabled the women to express their opinions in an environment free from the power pressure of men, focus groups being conducted by a female translator. In some communities, implementing such an approach raised discussions amongst men, many arguing that “women should not be consulted because they don’t know anything”. This example of the social pressure existing between genders was also felt between castes and we also conducted PRAs with Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) separately. This enabled us to gain access to the opinions of women and socially marginalised groups.

Photovoice to increase participation during PRAs

However, we were also confronted to the ‘habitus’ of social stratification: even with homogenous groups of socially marginalised groups (women, SCs/STs), it appeared to be sometimes difficult to animate the focus group and to co-create the primary data. This lack of participation can be explained by the fact that such groups cannot express their opinions within the community and this pressure remains during focus groups. In order to get round this issue, we decided to add another activity during the PRAs. This activity, called photovoice (, is a participatory visual method that uses photography to initiate discussion within the focus groups. After a one-hour training course and the identification of a theme (“household and community assets that are important for their livelihoods), participants were given a camera each for two days so they could document the theme. After the two days, we met in a focus group to review the photos and discuss them. This method was a real success and marginalised participants (women, SCs/STs) got very involved. It led to very interesting discussions that had not been tackled within the previous activities and was a successful way to get the opinions of such groups out.


As a conclusion, it is necessary to extend the range of methods used in social sciences in order to capture the diversity of opinions that exist across the different social stratum within communities. As an example, we successfully used the visual method Photovoice to initiate discussion and get the opinion of marginalised groups such as women and scheduled castes and tribes. The challenge now is to integrate such methods in vulnerability assessment and to take such groups into account in the design of public policies.

show less

Motivations and challenges of integrating local peoples views into a deterministic model

by Gregory Cooper

From predicting traffic to budgeting monthly expenses, mental models inform everyday decisions by relating possible conditions (e.g. number of cars) to expected outputs (e.g. delay length). As with computational models, mental models are continuously updated as new information comes to light. Consequently, no two perceptions of the world are the same, shaped by individual experiences of interpersonal relationships, culture and the environment around us.

show more

Mental models have played important roles in the history of Chilika: a 1000 km2 coastal lagoon in the Mahanadi delta, India. For instance, it was hoped that the legalisation of shrimp aquaculture in 1991 would bring economic prosperity by diversifying local livelihoods and boosting annual fishery production. Instead, benefits were reaped by non-native aquaculture entrepreneurs, triggering cultural and socio-economic instability. The institutional settings soon adjusted, largely due to local pressures and scientific contributions of the newly formed Chilika Development Authority (CDA), leading to the banning of shrimp aquaculture in 2001.
Mental models also prompted studies of Chilika’s sediment dynamics in the 1990s, resulting in the new tidal outlet which has since increased fishery productivity 10-fold. Going forward, a balance exists between the institutional-led discouragement of juvenile catch and the desires of some fishers to maximise hauls.
I (very excitedly) travelled to Chilika in early 2016, hoping that both my mental and system dynamics model (SDM) would benefit from exposure to the system and its people. Until February 2016, my SDM was projecting future fishery production from empirical data and published work only. Interviews could tap into decades of experience working, living and ‘dancing’ with the system, as the pioneering system dynamicists Donella Meadows would say. I concentrated on how Chilika’s fishers, scientists and governors perceive the causes of the 1990s collapse, the subsequent recovery and the lagoon’s future. I also hoped the insights would help model evaluation and provide governance scenarios for simulation.
In practice, various barriers exist to integrating qualitative data into SDMs. For example, SDMs assume lumped populations making the same decisions, different to agent-based modelling which can simulate individual decisions. Yet workarounds exist, like disaggregating populations and/or estimating proportions making a decision for a given condition. For example, the former principle splits Chilika’s fishers into traditional and motorised fleets, associated with different fishing schedules and catch capacities; the latter workaround estimates the proportion of traditional fishers purchasing motorised boats for a given average income.
Furthermore, interviews may provide a quantity of opinions which cannot all be incorporated into the model’s finite structure. Therefore, it is useful to consider the rationale bounds of each stakeholder to understand how each mental model is shaped. Regional scientific experts may possess holistic system understanding, whilst fishers live and breathe the conditions important to their activities. Prior to the interviews, I was debating spatially disaggregating the fisher population into northern, central, southern and outer channel fleets. But from the fisher interviews I learnt northern sector fishers commute south to exploit the relatively abundant fish stock, dispelling my preconceived idea that fishers rigidly stick to their locality.
Overall, the field visit exposed me to different qualitative insights not acquirable from my desk. Understanding that traditional fishing communities may collectively begin using motorised boats when socio-economically favourable has highlighted how fishers adapt to intensify practices. Paradoxically, fishers exhibited environmental stewardship during the 1990s collapse by limiting their days fished, doing their bit to calm extraction stresses.
And finally, discussions with state and district level policymakers helped design feasible management approaches to test within the model (e.g. continued ecological restoration, bans, alternative livelihoods). The issue of policy implementation and adherence was continuously stressed, meaning any policies simulated in the SDM must be framed as ‘if all fishers complied with regulations, the resulting dynamics may be as follows…’, which is important for model design and scope. A big thank you to all who shared their mental models with me!

show less

Out-migration and effects on women in the Mahanadi delta

DECCMA is committed to providing policy support to develop sustainable, gender-sensitive adaptations within deltaic environments. Taking a gender-sensitive approach to the research process, and ensuring that data can be analysed with a gender lens, are integral to achieving this aim.

Awareness of the importance of gender has increased as a result of global commitments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action. The recently-announced Sustainable Development Goals includes one where the aim is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Gender equality and empowerment of women also features in the text of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At local level, however, gender differences are pervasive. Understanding context-specific differences in the roles of men and women, and the relations between them, is essential. Only when these are known is it possible to ensure that planned adaptations are equitable and contribute to gender equality.

In this clip, University of Southampton PhD researcher Giorgia Prati explains how she is investigating the effects of out-migration on women left behind in the Mahanadi delta, India.

DECCMA PhD Seminar, 29 April

phd seminar

PhD seminar

As part of DECCMA, a group of postgraduate research students has been established across the project partners. In total, there are about 20 PhD students working within the project, with a substantial and vibrant group of six based at the University of Southampton. Their work complements one another by examining how people are adapting to the physical effects of climate change, covering a broad range of topics from the physical aspects of deltas to their socio-economical dynamics. In order to showcase this cross-faculty postgraduate research group on deltas and to give these early-career researchers the opportunity to present their work and to engage with experts in the area of mutual interests and expertise, the students organised a seminar series hosted by the School of Geography and the Environment of the University of Southampton.

The inaugural event occurred on the 29th of April 2015, where the postgraduate research students presented their research, with an emphasis on their objectives, methods and conceptual frameworks. Around 50 people attended the seminar, coming from a broad range of organisations (University of Southampton, University of Sussex, Oxfam) and disciplines (geography, environmental sciences, social sciences, engineering).

The first part of the event, chaired by Professor Steve Darby (head of the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Southampton), started with an introduction to DECCMA by Professor Robert Nicholls. Afterwards, Sarah Spinney presented her research on how morphological evolutions affect the sustainability of deltas, followed by Greg Cooper who discussed socio-ecological tipping points of deltas.

After a first round of questions, the second part of the seminar took place, chaired by Dr Craig Hutton (GeoData Institute). Qazi Waheed-Uz-Zaman explored the potential for social enterprise as a driver of community management in the GBM delta. This presentation, bridging both environmental sciences and socioeconomics, was followed by a talk with a similar approach given by Tristan Berchoux on the links between natural hazards, agriculture and the long-term dynamics of rural livelihood. Later, Margherita Fanchiotti gave a presentation on modelling community resilience to tropical cyclones in the Mahanadi delta. Following this speech, and based on the same community-based approach, Giorgia Prati presented her research on gender and adaptation in deltas. Finally, Professor John Dearing (Professor in Physical Geography at the University of Southampton) concluded the event by giving a vibrant summary of DECCMA and the contribution of PhD students to its outputs.

As a conclusion, it is important to highlight the outputs of this inaugural event. For the students, as early career researchers, the seminar has given them the opportunity to have feedback at initial stages of their project, from a broad range of people working in a variety of disciplines and organisations. Moreover, it has allowed them and the project to gain more visibility by showcasing innovative research from the early stages of conceptualisation. Last but not least, the event gave to all of the participants the opportunity to network, especially with representatives from the sister project ASSAR and students from other universities.

Building on this successful event, the next seminar in the series will be held in six-months’ time, with an in-depth focus on two of the research projects. The DECCMA PhD students from the University of Southampton will also be creating a network with other students from India, Bangladesh and Ghana, the next step will be to create a vibrant network with all the DECCMA PhD students. This group would then enjoy liaising with PhD students from the other CARIAA consortia.

DECCMA PhD Seminar, 29 April 2015, University of Southampton

phd seminar 1A crucial element of DECCMA has been the establishment of post graduate research groups across the project partners with a substantial and vibrant group based here at the University of Southampton. The School of Geography and the Environment, with the support of other faculties hosts 6 of these students and will be holding a Seminar Series which profile their work in examining how people are adapting to the physical effects of climate change, such as sea level rise, alongside socio-economic pressures, including land degradation and population pressure, in delta regions. The aim of this series is to showcase DECCMA and the cross-faculty conceptual research groups on deltas, and to give an opportunity for the PhD associates to present their work.

As such we would like to formally invite you to participate in this meeting to both inform you regarding the progress of this significant project and to encourage what has been a strongly lead student process. Details are as follows:

DECCMA Postgraduate Seminar Series:

April 29, 2015 14:00-17:00
Building 44 / Lecture Theatre A
Highfield Campus, University of Southampton


14:00 – 14:15 Welcome and brief introduction to DECCMA (Robert Nicholls, PI)
14:20 – 14:30 Morphological evolution and the sustainability of deltas in the 21st century (Sarah Spinney)
14:30 – 14:40 Socio-ecological tipping points in world deltas (Gregory Cooper)
14:40 – 14:50 First round of questions (Chair)
15:00 – 15:10 Social enterprise and innovation in the GBM Delta (Qazi Waheed-Uz-Zaman)
15:10 – 15:20 Livelihood dynamics and food security under a changing climate (Tristan Berchoux)
15:20 – 15:30 Modelling tropical cyclone resilience in the Mahanadi Delta (Margherita Fanchiotti)
15:30 – 15:40 Gender and adaptation in the Mahanadi Delta (Giorgia Prati)
15h40 – 16h Second round of questions (Chair)
16h – 16h15 Concluding Remarks (Chair)
16h20 – 17h Tea and coffee with posters
Frances Dunn,
Balaji Angamuthu
Sarwar Hossain Sohel