Bangladesh counters climate change while improving livelihoods

Members of the Chor Kukri Mukri community, south of Bangladesh, are working on mound and dyke mangrove plantations to protect the island against floods and storm surges. Photo: Salman Saeed/UNDP

Many of the coastal communities in Bangladesh are reliant on subsistence agriculture and fishing for their livelihoods. Bangladesh is a country that has a relatively low carbon footprint, yet climate change is having a dramatic effect on the 150 million citizens. Increasing intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones, rising sea levels and salt water from flooding have led to catastrophic losses of lives and disrupted livelihoods. 

The United Nations Development Programme, with financing from the Global Environment Facility and the Least Developed Countries Fund, is supporting an innovative coastal plantation programme for the affected communities. This project works to counter effects of sea level rise, while maintaining the sensitive ecosystem and creating economic opportunities for coastal communities. These communities work together to plant combinations of trees and vegetables including mangroves, fruits and timber along the coast in four districts, Patuakhali, Bhola, Noakhali and Chittagong. The green belt minimises flow of water during tidal surges. The more trees there are, the more the soil stays attached to the land.


  • More than 6,000 ha mangrove, 444 ha non-mangrove plantations, and 593 km of strip plantations have been planted.
  • More than 900 households were received training in modern livestock rearing and nutrition management technologies.

One of these trial plantations, ‘Fish, Forest and Fruit’ uses a combination of protective and productive vegetation, mound and ditch land structures, and water ponds.  The integration of protective and economic services provides incentives for local communities to manage these natural resources in a joint and sustainable way, reducing new human encroachment on vulnerable greenbelt areas. Most of the villagers earn extra income by selling additional crops and fish in the local market, as an added benefit in the lean period of the year when there is little agricultural and fishing activity. By 2012, more than 6,000 ha mangrove, 444 ha non-mangrove plantations, and 593 km of strip plantations were planted. More than 14,000 households actively participated in training to reduce risks from climate change and increase resilience in communities.

Along Bangladesh’s rivers, people are adapting to the erosion by reclaiming the river sediment. It’s a race against the river but their aim is to continue to provide for themselves. 

Shirmen Akaster, a resident of Kukri-Mukri village in Bhola district says, “The trees are the life of our community. There is no embankment here along the river, so when the tidal flow comes, these trees will protect us. If the trees did not exist, my family would have to move to the city. Life along the coast would be totally impossible without the trees.”

The activities of these projects showed that diversifying the use of land is a favourable option for conservation and long-term sustainability in fragile coastal areas with few resources. From several livelihood options including ditch and dyke structure, mound plantation and other measures, the project is able to provide recurrent production benefits to the vulnerable communities. These communities worked together to solve the problems of flooding and restore livelihoods. Periodically flooded, encroached and salinity dominated unused coastal lands were converted into high productive areas.

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Photos from our documentary 'Revealed: The Himalayan Meltdown'
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