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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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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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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Senior Bangladeshi policy maker visits University of Southampton

By Alexander Chapman, University of Southampton

Professor Shamsul Alam, Senior Secretary of the General Economics Division (GED), Government of Bangladesh visited the University of Southampton (24-25 August 2017) to continue our collaboration on several large delta-focused projects.

Prof Alam visit

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The severe flooding ongoing in Northern Bangladesh, which has destroyed an estimated 640,500 homes, highlights the threat the country faces from a wetter, more extreme, future climate. As head of GED Prof. Alam oversees the development strategy in Bangladesh, including the design of over 70 large projects associated with the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, the centrepiece of the country’s response to climate change.

In his meeting with Southampton’s Vice Chancellor & President, Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, Prof Alam emphasised the importance of designing interventions which give consideration to the complexities of the social-ecological system of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta (GBM). In the low-lying GBM, where interactions with upstream developments, flooding and storm surges, and rural livelihoods are constantly changing actions can often have detrimental effects if not systemically analysed. Through three ongoing multi-million pound research projects the University of Southampton and its partner The Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) aim to provide integrated systems modelling support to the government. Our work will help stakeholders, drawn from a cross section of society, understand the impacts of future policy trajectories.

On day one of the visit Prof Robert Nicholls, Principle Investigator of the ESPA Deltas project, reported on our progress evaluating two of GED’s key coastal zone projects. The team are currently calibrating the ESPA Deltas model, ΔDIEM, ready to simulate development of large-scale coastal embankments and natural buffers in the Southwest region. In March 2018 ESPA Deltas will report on the poverty, livelihood, and ecosystem service implications of various different options being looked at in the Delta Plan. Looking forward, the DECCMA project, which has also placed great emphasis on stakeholder engagement, hopes to provide insight into different migration and adaptation policy trade-offs in the coastal region. Prof Alam is Chair of the Bangladesh National Advisory Expert Group within the DECCMA project – a group of key stakeholders that provides high level direction to the project.

On day two we discussed the projects’ legacies. In October Southampton will host a further representative from GED, as well as two researchers from BUET, as we aim to build in-country capacity to run and best utilise ΔDIEM and other integrated models for policy evaluation. Both building knowledge sharing and capacity building into ongoing projects, and ensuring a pipeline of technical and research projects into the future are important objectives for GED, who have strong ambitions for poverty reduction and livelihood improvement in Bangladesh. The team spent a productive afternoon with Ken de Souza of DFID discussing how to build legacy for the current work which, it is hoped, is only a test case to demonstrate what is possible with collaboration on integrated systems research projects.

It was a pleasure to welcome Prof. Alam to Southampton, his passion for achieving ambitious poverty reduction goals in such a challenging context, and his openness to challenging conventional approaches to policy were impressive. We look forward to working together further and playing our part in building in-country capacity which will hopefully serve Bangladesh long beyond the lifetime of our research there (which, with a bit of funding luck, still has a good few years left in it!).

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“Working as a Project Manager makes me feel like The Dark Knight who is a silent guardian and a watchful protector” – on simplifying research messages about climate change, adaptation and migration in deltas

By Sumana Banerjee, Jadavpur University

One of CARIAA’s research objectives is to “build new capacities by strengthening expertise among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners”. Ensuring that our research informs policy and practice is thus a critical component of what we do. Communicating their findings to audiences beyond their peers is often a novel idea for academics and here Sumana Banerjee, DECCMA’s project manager for India,  reflects on some of her experiences in trying to support this. 

Speaking from my experience of working closely with researchers, I realised that they find it difficult to translate research concerns or findings to outputs which can be easily read by stakeholders. They are keener to write for an academic journal than for the project’s blog. I feel this has to do with the way researchers are trained, where skill to write dissertations, thesis, and academic papers is stressed upon. Internet has changed our lives and it often made me wonder if schools could teach on how to communicate to different audiences: blog-writing as well as essay writing, email writing alongside letter writing, and micro-blogging for Twitter in addition to precis writing. This would not only make lessons more exciting but also help the students in their professional lives later on.

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Working in the capacity of a Project Manager makes me feel like The Dark Knight who is a silent guardian and a watchful protector. Just like a good guardian, I find myself “guarding” my research team from questions such as “what is this supposed to mean?”, “what do you aim to do with you research” by answering them myself simply and without confusing jargon.

I often write blog posts for the project website based on the researchers’ experiences at training workshops or their findings. Hailing from a non-science background, I initially found it difficult to talk about work with my team and I could not see myself writing about their scientific findings and experiences.

The one thing that I had to do was ask questions to learn more and ensure I understood the research findings myself. My colleagues were patient and kind enough to answer my questions or discuss my interpretations.

Soon I was able to simplify jargon into understandable phrases – “5m contoured areas” became “areas within 5m of height from mean sea level”; “negative net migration” became “more people leaving than entering (In-migration< Out-migration)”.

It is DECCMA’s policy for researchers to write a blog post after engaging in fieldwork, or attending a conference or workshop.  When I would request researchers to submit a blog post it would often be met with displeasure, or the output would be a highly technical one, fit to be published in an academic journal.

I used to edit the articles they submitted by asking questions (again!) and checking if I interpreted the technical bits correctly. Then I planned to make my life a tad easier by sharing a questionnaire with them which would coax them to provide brief and simple answers. With specified word limits and seeking answers in only certain areas which would be relatable by all, this simplified the writing process for the researchers and me. They did not have to think and write from scratch to suit a blog audience and I did not have to get stuck at every second sentence and ask questions to produce a simple write up.

Going by Plato’s concept of Art being twice removed from reality, I am often concerned while simplifying write-ups if I have over-simplified and distorted the message or not communicated it accessibly for a non-expert. As a cross-checking process I use a method which my dad used to employ on me before my exams, which I hated back then but value so much now.

My dad used to come around and ask me if I am all set for the exams and start chatting with me. I expected him to ask me questions to test my preparedness but he never asked questions and instead asked me to “teach” him what I learnt. Every time I tried sharing a well-memorised definition, he would discourage me and ask me to explain it to him as he found the definitions too difficult. I used to get annoyed that, in spite of knowing the concepts, he pretended not to know anything and wasted my time before an exam!

I feel so grateful to him for encouraging me to explain things in my own words  with examples and funny imaginary stories. Now, I use this method after writing a simplified piece. I share what I have understood and written in the form of a short narrative with the researchers and if they feel I have captured what they tried telling, half my job is done. Their approval is a nod that I have not distorted the message.

The next thing that I do is give the article a good read – as a non-expert if I feel comfortable reading the article and understanding the message, I feel convinced that a stakeholder would do too. Working in a research team, I have been somewhat inducted into their world of jargon and at times I fear (yes, it is fear!) that unknowingly I would use or retain some of the jargon and it would not strike me as “unrelatable”! As a double check against this, I narrate a gist of it to my husband who is in advertising and quite removed from research or academia. If he understands what I say, I feel happy that it will be an easy read.

This communication of research messages has been a learn-as-you-go experience for me and I find this interesting. This learning would not have been possible without the patience of the people who endured my questions and narrations. My quest to understand and simplify research messages involves informal chats and asking a lot of questions. I often felt hesitant to ask questions that I might be bothering but I decided to stick to what a wise person once told me –

“It is better to ask questions and do the right things than not ask questions and do the wrong things.”

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DECCMA 7th Consortium Meeting held in Ghana

By Prosper Adiku and Gertrude Domfeh

The DEltas, vulnerability and Climate Change: Migration and Adaptation (DECCMA) project held its 7th Consortium meeting in Ghana on Sunday July 2, 2017 at The Royal Senchi Hotel. DECCMA is a research consortium of five institutions from Africa, Asia and Europe conducting a comparative research on climate related vulnerabilities in four major deltas namely the Mahanadi and Indian Bengal Deltas (India), the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta (Bangladesh) and the Volta Delta (Ghana) and is jointly funded by International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Launched in May 2014, the DECCMA research is being undertaken in nine districts within the Volta delta in Ghana (South Tongu, Ada East, North Tongu, Keta Municipal, Ada West, Ketu South, Central Tongu, Ketu North and Ningo Prampram) under the leadership of the Regional Institute for Population Studies (RIPS) of the University of Ghana, Legon.

Kwasi and MESTI

(Image: Honourable Professor Kwabena Boateng, Minister for Environment, Science Technology and Innovation & Prof Kwasi Appeaning Addo)

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Special guests at the opening of the four-day meeting included the Minister for Environment, Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Honourable Professor Kwabena Boateng, the Canadian High Commissioner to Ghana, H. E. High Commissioner Heather Cameron and the members and Chair of the National Experts Advisory Group (NEAG) of DECCMA Ghana, Hon. Clement Kofi Humado .

In his welcome statement, the Principal Investigator of the Ghana project team and Director of RIPS, Professor Samuel Nii Ardey Codjoe indicated that the Institute has been involved in a number of headline research activities, and has contributed to national activities including the Nationally Determined Contributions (iNDCs) now the Ghana Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Professor Kwasi Appeaning Addo, the head of Department of the Marine and Fisheries Sciences and the Co-PI of DECCMA Ghana elaborated on the role of the project in managing adaptation issues in the country and stressed the need for collaborative efforts in tackling the myriad of challenges in the delta areas.
The Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in addressing participants, reiterated government’s commitment to ensuring the mainstreaming of climate change issues as part of Ghana’s holistic development agenda. He enumerated several government interventions and outlined some plans to avert the recurrent flooding and erosion issues in the delta areas. He noted specifically the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) as one of the key documents that stipulates government’s direction in relation to climate change issues. He further stressed the role of research, science and technology in dealing with various environmental challenges and urged the DECCMA team on a good job well done while indicating his Ministry’s preparedness to collaborate with and support innovative ideas from the activities of the DECCMA project.

H. E. Heather Cameron (middle) with Hon. Prof. Frimpong Boateng (L) and Prof. Samuel Nii Ardey Codjoe (R) during the opening ceremony (Courtesy: Canadian High Commission)
The Canadian High Commissioner on her part expressed her excitement at being part of the DECCMA Consortium in discussing migration and climate change issues and was happy that the IDRC, DFID, the University of Ghana and others from Africa and Asia are collaborating to consider the shared challenges of communities living in delta regions. She was of the view that “cross-border research networks help to advance shared research priorities, and to also bring ideas, expertise and collaborations to advancing understanding at local levels”. Noting that migration and climate change will disproportionately affect women and girls, she was happy that the research consortium has already produced a number of papers on specific gender issues. She remains hopeful that the ultimate agenda-setting of the research consortium will reflect gender issues in similar fashion by helping give women and girls (in the delta regions) the tools and opportunities to be powerful agents of change in creating more resilient communities. She noted that the UK will continue to reinforce investments and strengthen research and innovation as part of its new international assistance policy operations in recognition of the important role of research and innovation in the development process so as to help bring research into policy and practice, and to scale-up innovative solutions that demonstrate development results.
There was also poster presentations highlighting some of the research outputs of the consortium across the various participating countries.

DECCMA7th Group

(Image: DECCMA Consortium and Honoured guests)

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