Strengthening resilience to climate risks 

Entrepreneurial ecosystems, Sustainable agriculture
The riverbanks in northern Bangladesh are eroding, constantly changing their course and at the same time, creating new land for settlements. These newly-formed lands are called Chars or islands, and are created by siltation and erosion. Since 2012, Swisscontact has been implementing a project on behalf of the Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh and the Government of Bangladesh that aims to improve the livelihoods of the Char dwellers by, among other things, mobilising investments from the private and public sector in this important agricultural production zone.

Due to their geographical location and recurring hydro-meteorological hazards, the Char areas are particularly affected by environmental and climatic risks, such as riverbank erosion, floods, droughts, cold waves and storms, as well as plant pests and diseases. A key objective of the project is to develop appropriate strategies to reduce disaster risks and to train all parties involved. For example, farmers learned which services and practices are suitable to prevent - or at least mitigate – the impact of natural events. In addition, microfinance institutions were supported in improving their products and services in line with climate change mitigation measures, and public actors and institutions were trained in disaster risk reduction.

Risk reduction through new methods

One example of risk reduction measures is the promotion of a drought- and bacteria-resistant aubergine variety in cooperation with AR Malik Seeds, a well-known Bangladeshi agricultural inputs company. This variety helps farmers to grow aubergines in the dry season and increase production. The project also encouraged farmers to let the seeds germinate in the bed by using mulch, which retains water in the soil and increases germination - the thin planting layer protects the soil and adds nutrients to it.

Belayet Hossain, farmer from the Gaibandha region

In recent years, the yield of Belayet Hossain's aubergine fields was low because the sprouts were affected by drought and bacteria. Now, thanks to the project, he is a member of a contract farming group and learned about the drought- and bacteria-resistant aubergine variety at an AR Malik Seeds event. This year, he grew these aubergines for the first time and was immediately able to achieve a 30 per cent increase in yield.

"I made a profit of 45 000 takas (about 370 francs), while other farmers earned much less due to bacterial infestation. I didn't know before that there are varieties that are resistant to drought and rot."

Success due to diversification

Although Tahmina Begum has faced many challenges in her life - from poverty to experiencing displacement due to natural disasters, she has defied adversity with unwavering determination and perseverance. She set up a business - initially a grocery shop and a tea stall, pursued an education and looked for new ways to increase her income. Her next step was to venture into selling seeds, which brought her additional customers and generated extra income.

Thanks to her good work and partnership with the seed company AR Malik, she gained access to finance and a low-interest seasonal loan, which enabled her to diversify further. By selling fertilisers, micronutrients and diesel, Tahmina's shop has become a one-stop shop for farmers in her area, 70 per cent of whom now buy their inputs from her. Today, the business provides her with a stable income and is an important part of the local economy.

Tahmina Begum, business woman from Kurigram district

Tahmina Begum is not only a successful businesswoman, but also an inspiration to her community. She has challenged traditional gender roles in a rural region of Bangladesh and proven to herself and those around her that women are very capable of running successful businesses.

Environmentally friendly technologies and lower costs

The project is also looking at the use of environmentally friendly renewable energy for irrigation of Chars in dry seasons, with the aim of improving the agricultural irrigation system, on the one hand, and reducing costs on the other. Since 2022, the Swisscontact project team, together with the Rural Development Academy, a national institution of the government of Bangladesh, has already developed and implemented several floating solar irrigation systems for the Char region.

The portable irrigation pump's solar panels are mounted on a mobile frame that can move in all directions and pump water from various sources - even from a river. In case of flooding or river erosion, it can be easily moved to another location, which is very useful in this disaster-prone region. The innovative pump can irrigate 40 hectares of land a day at maximum capacity, almost twice as much as a normal irrigation pump.

The main objective of this project is to engage both private and public actors to recognise the potential of the region and encourage them to invest and provide services there. These measures are intended to improve the economic strength of disadvantaged households in particular. In addition, men and women are to be equipped with the required skills and empowered with knowledge that will open new economic opportunities for them.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
Making Markets Work for the Jamuna, Padma and Teesta Chars (M4C)
To reduce vulnerability and increase wellbeing of vulnerable and marginalised char dwellers living in the northern char region of Bangladesh. Chars are riverine land, susceptible to erosion and soil deposition, which remain disconnected from mainland either seasonally or throughout the year. Due to this unique geographical positioning,...