Approximately a year ago we launched the Climate Resilient Microfinance project in Bangladesh. The project had big ambitions – it sought to tackle serious problems in the current way the microfinance sector operates in Bangladesh. It doing so, it aimed to better protect families who are most vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change.
The project took a whole system approach to addressing this challenge, looking at everything from the risk assessment process for microfinance loans, to providing training to communities on climate-resilient income generating activities, to investing in disaster preparedness measures such as food banks, livestock shelters, low interest crisis loans and an early warning system app, and strengthening linkages to government social protection schemes.
After a slow start due to changes in the core team, delays in key in-country stakeholder approvals and further discussion and realignment of project activities to ensure we have the best chance of achieving the project goals, we are now firmly underway and are excited to update on progress.
So far, we have reached almost 4,000 people directly, against a target of 7,900, so are well on track in terms of overall project reach
Recommendations have been developed on how microfinance institutions can better promote resilience in the face of climate change, and how they can promote women’s equal access to resources and decision-making. As part of the recommendations, we have revised loan application forms to better assess the resilience of proposed business activities to climate change.
10 climate-resilient demonstration plots have been established including homestead gardens, goat and pigeon rearing setups, and ginger cultivation plots. Community members will be able to attend training session and visit the demonstration plots so they can establish similar activities themselves to generate income
600 women have participated in training on agriculture, poultry and livestock farming. As a result, practice on climate resilient agriculture has increased which is supporting communities to adapt to climate risk. This training is being conducted in partnership with local Government to ensure sustainability
Community committees have been established to increase awareness on gender-related issues including gender equality, dowry, early marriage, and divorce.
Two meetings have been held with local leaders and government, with the aim of advocating for women representatives to be included in standing committees. As a result of the meetings, 15 women are now being included in two standing committees and 1323 women have been included in various government safety net programs, including Vulnerable Group Development, Vulnerable Group Feeding, Pregnancy allowance, a food for work programme and disability allowance
Linking to discussions at COP28
Central to this project are considerations around loss and damage – the negative consequences and damage that result from climate change (from slow on-set changes such as rising water levels or prolonged heat waves, to sudden onset disasters such as cyclones). This is a subject which is also dominating conversations at global level. One of the key challenges facing the negotiators at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai at the end of the year is how to get the loss and damage fund, established at COP27, up and running. The aim of the proposed fund was to provide financial assistance to enable poorer nations to deal with the negative impacts of climate change.
This project seeks to gain a detailed understanding of the coping mechanisms families employ when dealing with climate change, in order to use this to inform the best strategies to support these communities moving forward. Using financial diaries, the project will explore day-to-day monetary transactions over a six-month period. Our sample includes users of blended financing schemes - around 80% of total investment is grants-based support from the project, blended with a 20% low-cost loan from the ITL project. This will help to identify women’s roles and potential in terms of loss recovery and rehabilitation through analysis of financial decisions in the family. At the end of the research we will develop evidence-based recommendations for policymakers, funding agencies, and relevant stakeholders specifically focused on Rajibpur and Rowmari Sadar unions, Kurigram district.
Given the conversations on this subject at global level, such research is very timely and will help ensure that it has maximum influence on future decisions in both in the project locations and far beyond.