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Addressing Health Impacts of Climate Change by Transforming Agriculture in Coastal Bangladesh

Community-based transformation of adaptive food systems will help coastal Bangladesh tackle the health impacts of climate change.

Photo of Byomkesh Talukder
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

The Amader Gram NGO & Cancer Care and Research Center, Bagerhat, Bangladesh

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large NGO (over 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

1. Ashar Alo (Local NGO), Satkhira, Bangladesh 2. Institute of Remote Sensing and GIS, JU, Dhaka, Bangladesh 3. DIGHR, York University, Toronto, Canada

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 10+ years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Bagerhat District, Bangladesh & Satkhira District, Bangladesh

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Coastal zone of Bangladesh = 47,201 km²; Bagerhat District= 3,959 km²; Satkhira District = 3,817 km²

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I have been working with the Amader Gram NGO and the Cancer Care and Research Centerin Bagerhat, Bangladesh, as a planetary health advisor. For the past 20 years, I have been involved in the research and capacity development of planetaryhealth issues in coastal Bangladesh. During this time, I have seen that thepeople of coastal Bangladesh are facing serious health problems due to theimpacts of climate change and current agricultural practices (shrimp farming). Some studies show that the incidences of communicable and non-communicablediseases (NCDs) such as diarrhea, scarcity of drinking water, vector-bornediseases, cancer (particularly breast cancer), hypertension and miscarriage arerising in coastal Bangladesh, and these may be influenced by climatechange-driven ecological changes. In particular, the confluence of sea level rise, increased salinity of land and potable water, and an increase in extreme weather events converge with inadequate development to aggravate vulnerabilityto communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Our team under the AmaderGram NGO and the Cancer Care and Research Center has been documenting, investigating and studying the health impacts on the people in the Bagerhat and Satkhira districts. We have observed that the transformation of the coastalagricultural system (i.e., shrimp cultivation to shrimp + rice + vegetables-basedagriculture systems) can address the planetary health issues and be a community-basedadaptive strategy to address health impacts, strengthen socio-economic development and ensure long-term sustainability. That is why we have selected the Bagerhat and Satkhira districts as our study areas.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The coastal zone of Bangladesh is low-lying: 62% of the land has an elevation of less than 3 metres and 86% less than 5 metres (Islam et al., 2006). Depending on elevation and other factors, the defined coastal area can reach from 37 to 195km from the shore (MoWR, 2005). The whole coast runs along the northern border of the Bay of Bengal, forming a 710 km-long coastline (MoWR, 2005). Most of thecoastal zone consists of extensive flat coastal and deltaic land of the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta, which is crossed by large tidal rivers discharging into the Bay ofBengal (Rashid and Kabir, 1998). In general, much of the western part of thecoastal zone is a moribund or mature delta, the middle part is an active delta,and the eastern part is a stable landmass (Ahmed, 2003). Continuous accretionand deposition are taking place in the active delta regions due to strong riverand tidal currents (Chowdhury and Hossain, 2006). 

Oneof the main economic and agricultural activities in the coastal zone isaquaculture (Islam and Ahmad, 2004). The significance of shrimp farming has grown rapidly over the last 30 years (Alam and Phillips, 2004). Shrimp areas have expanded from 51,812 ha in 1983 to 137,996 ha in 1994 and 218,649 ha in 2004 (DoF, 1995 and 2005). At present, Bangladesh supplies around 2.5% of the global shrimp trade (DoF, 2004). This shrimp-based agricultural system iscreating huge ecological degradation which leads to many health problems, including food and nutritional insecurity. 

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

A 1 m sealevel rise will place the whole coastal area under water. According to the IPCC, climate change will have profound impacts on ecosystems and human health in Bangladesh in the coming decades. The most affected regions in Bangladesh arethe coastal areas, where the causally associated impacts of climate change(e.g., sea level rise and encroaching salinity), natural calamities (e.g.,cyclones, storm surges, floods), inadequate development and the difficulties of livelihood have created a highly vulnerable and complex context. In the coastal areas, indicators related to climate change and clinical public health (e.g.,food insecurity and chronic undernutrition, disruption in health services,increases in specific infectious diseases) are below national and international standards. 

Due toclimate change and shrimp farming, there is a chance that the entire coastalzone of Bangladesh will be ecologically devastated, which will have multiplecascading effects among the population in these areas. For example, the entire agriculture system in coastal Bangladesh may be destroyed, making a huge impacton the total food security, socio-economic and health systems of coastal Bangladesh. This can lead to mass migration, climate refugees and conflict.

If thecurrent practice is continued in the agriculture of coastal Bangladesh, currentand future food systems will face negative impacts on ecological services (degradation biodiversity, scarcity of potable water and freshwater), extremeweather, infectious diseases, food and nutritional insecurity (loss ofdiversified food), clinical public health problems, disaster risk, and forcedadaptation of the local economy, community and ecosystem. 

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The projectaims to improve the health and food systems affected by the impacts of climate change and shrimp farming in coastal Bangladesh. To this end, we propose the development of two activities: developing a rainwater-supported integrated agricultural system and cage-based floating vegetable and fish farming. Thetransformative agriculture will develop a regenerative landscape for enhancing local capacities of biosafety and biophysical resilience through the practice of agroecology at the landscape level. The key assumptions that will be tested are whether these activities will improve health outcomes through a positive causal relationship with the following trends: (1) Reducing malnutrition from under consumption and/or poor dietary diversity; (2) Increasing agricultural productivity (yields of crops, forage, livestock, fish, etc.); (3) Sustaining community food stocks and the local economy; (4) Reducing greenhouse gas emission and agrochemical-based air pollution; (5) Restoring habitat and reducing conversion; (6) Reducing infectious diseases (cholera, acute diarrheal disease and water-related diseases) and food and nutrition security-related diseases; (7) Reducing freshwater biodiversity risks from water use (e.g., irrigation); and (8) Reducing water pollution (e.g., agrochemical and sediment pollution). 

The positive impacts of reduced malnutrition from under consumption and/or poor dietary diversity and increased agricultural productivity (yields of crops, forage,livestock, fish, etc.) will be evaluated by a quasi-experimental evaluation of the outcome indicators in the pre and post conditions of community participants. 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The project will also create a secondary database platform of extreme weather, ecological services, infectious diseases, food security, and clinical public health and disaster risk management systems. The database will be managed with StructuredQuery Language and shared by the collaborators of the project. This data set will be used to model scenario planning and as a dashboard for health risks from agrochemical-based air pollution, restore habitat and reduce freshwater biodiversity risks from water use (e.g., irrigation) and water pollution (e.g.,agrochemical and sediment pollution) by using system dynamics and agent-based integrated techniques. We will use AnyLogic software to develop this model.

Another high-level vision is that through transforming their agricultural systems, the coastal communities will learn how to adapt and cope with the changing environment due to climate change and current agricultural practices, conduct sustainable agriculture, address food insecurity and maintain good health. It is expected that the people will have better health, quality of life and equity than in the present situation. 

Anotherhigh-level vison is that transformative agriculture will increase gender equity in the community since it is labour intensive agricultural practices. The outcomes of this project will be published and will be used as teaching anddemonstration materials in many parts of the world. 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

We have ahigh-level vision to develop a mobile-based platform to bring farmers together to share their knowledge of agricultural practices and create a digital ecosystem for marketing agricultural products. This will help to grow the local economy, which is important for the sustainability of the transformative agriculture.

We believe that transforming the agricultural system in coastal Bangladesh will address issues related to the environment, diet, economy, culture, technology, and policy for the people of coastal Bangladesh. Since it will be a community-based project, the people will be engaged and informed about the transformative food andagriculture systems in the study area. This project is capable of addressing the challenges facing the food and agricultural systems in coastal Bangladesh.The vision is based on the complex adaptive systems framework and will be evaluated by the indicators of system of systems.  

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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Photo of Jun Suto

Byomkesh Talukder  great problem statement definition!!  

Photo of Byomkesh Talukder

Hi Jun, Thank you very much for liking our statement. We are open to collaborate in joint programme.

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