Webinar recap : Securing tenure - Enhancing Disaster Management and Adaptation | Land Portal

Climate-change induced disasters and communities’ responses to protect themselves and design solutions have become a top priority on the climate agenda. This webinar aimed to draw attention to the underexplored nexus of climate change, natural disasters, and tenure (in)security through presentations from participants from across regions. 

Suggested questions that the webinar addressed were: 

  • What are key obstacles for families with insecure tenure rights to engage in and apply mitigation or adaptation measures?
  • In which ways do natural disasters magnify tenure insecurity?
  • How does tenure insecurity add to deforestation and the increase of climate change-induced natural disasters?

This webinar took place in the framework of a collaboration between ANGOC, Land Portal, ALRD and GLTN to mainstream the land rights of the rural poor in the climate agenda. This collaboration has the support of the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR).

Moderator: 

Henry Bonsu - British African broadcaster and media consultant 

Panelists: 

Bulbul Ahmed - deputy manager at the Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD).  

Sarah Marquez - co-founder of the Caranguejo Tabaiares Resiste collective. 

Please see a brief recap of the full captivating conversation:  

What are key challenges for families in the coastal parts of Bangladesh as well as the Char lands, with insecure land rights to adapt to climate change? Which strategies do they use?

In the coastal part and char lands in Bangladesh, families face significant challenges due to climate change and insecure land rights.  Coastal regions are prone to cyclones, storm surges and coastal erosion. And the South western part of Bangladesh has undergone extreme weather events, such as successive cyclones from 1988 to 2022, drought and change in precipitation patterns. 

For example, cyclone Sidr in 2007, cyclone Aila 2009 and cyclone Ampan in 2020 swept away houses and properties of many families. Many shrimp and soft-shell crab farms that used to dominate the landscape of the village were wiped out. Livestock, such as cows, goats, and chickens, became a rarity. Land use became a challenge after these extreme weather events.  According to members of the community, the high salinity of farmlands following the cyclones affected the growth and quality of crops and livestock. Due to salinity, many agricultural lands became largely unproductive. 

Rising sea levels exacerbate flooding and salinity intrusion in this part also affect livelihoods and habitability as well.  In Bangladesh we have thousands of char lands. A piece of land or an island in the course of a river or an estuary is called a char.  The families of char lands often face flood and river erosion. And most of the larger char lands which are situated in the coastal area additionally face cyclones, storm surge and coastal erosion. So do erratic weather patterns, such as hotter summers and milder winters. This has negatively affected farmer’s production calendars and expected incomes.

Families in the coastal areas and char lands often lack secure land tenure. This insecurity hampers their ability to face and rebuild after the extreme weather events like cyclones, storm surges or floods. Showing proof of land title is essential to avail credit and in receiving agricultural and social services offered by the government following climate hazards. Due to lack of tenure security most of the families become left out of these services which make them more vulnerable than those with secure land tenure. Tenure insecurity also hampers the families’ ability to invest in sustainable practices.  

In terms of the adaptation strategies, agricultural households often adopt various disaster-response strategies to reduce the impact of climate change on their livelihood, such as diversifying their income sources, changing cropping practices, and crop diversification. Other adaptation strategies included growing vegetables on Mud Towers and dams and in the floating beds; cultivating saline-tolerant vegetables around the shrimp ponds; applying recycled household water for irrigation and vegetable production; installing Pond Sand Filters to filter water; rainwater harvesting; rearing livestock; forestation in the islands and community based early warning system and nature based solutions, e.g. applying Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge and customs on conservation of mangrove forest.  

 

In which ways do more frequent and extreme natural disasters contribute to tenure insecurity in Bangladesh?

Natural disasters, especially floods and river erosion have a high impact on land tenure and land use issues. Every year, many parts of Bangladesh are flooded by heavy rainfall and the overflow of river banks. Haor areas in the North-East part experiences flash floods almost every year. Poverty forces people to cultivate marginal lands that may be too steep, too dry, too wet, or prone to erosion, or else to occupy fragile public lands or areas that are vulnerable to flooding, high tides, and storm surges.

One important example of such marginal, flood prone areas are the charlands, char dwellers are mostly the landless families whereas land ownership of these char areas is at times highly disputed. River erosion is a serious threat that people living along the rivers and the coastal areas have to face on a daily basis. Given the population density and unequal land distribution, many poor rural people are forced to live in flood- and erosion-prone areas along the rivers and the coast. 

It has been estimated that at least 20,000 families become homeless due to river bank erosion every year, and are forced to migrate within the locality or to urban areas, thus contributing to the growing number of urban poor. When river erosion occurs very fast and suddenly, people can lose everything overnight. In other instances, river erosion is more gradual and people have time to move their assets but loss of cultivable land and homestead is inevitable.  The Bangladesh Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) notes that every year, Bangladesh loses 32 square kilometers of land due to erosion in rivers and more than 250,000 people become victims of land erosion.

Many of the people losing their land have no other options than moving to major urban centres, and some end up as pavement dwellers, with even a slum shack beyond their reach. Moreover, It is estimated that by 2050, the rate of bank erosion along the three main river systems will increase by 13 percent, and by 2100, by 18 percent. As a result, some 15 to 20 million people living in these areas would lose their homes, lands, and area-specific livelihoods.

 

What data is relied on to raise awareness of the interface between land rights and climate change? Is the data easily accessible?

In terms of credibility of data related to land rights and climate change, we prefer either a CSO study or non-governmental research institutions, or academies i.e. universities. Although the government statistics office, research institutions, and international finance institutions like the World Bank more often carry out surveys which cover a large sample size of respondents, those surveys focus more on the macro and physical impacts of climate change. Social impacts of climate change from the perspective of the community is something that is often missing in those surveys. 

One issue of the CSO study or of a study conducted by a particular department of a university is the data accessibility. Online versions of those study reports are not much available despite the current trend of publishing the study report in the researchgate or other servers. Same goes for government data. We might get access to the national data at ease, but it is very difficult to get government data at the micro level. 

In recent times, some useful data in relation to land rights and climate change can be found from a FAO and UN Habitat publication ( ‘On Solid Ground’). We also rely on the data of USAID, IIED which can be used for awareness raising. Community, however,  is the best source. We rely most on the community, the affected people and the people who closely work with them. 

 

 

Related content: 
Event
22 November 2023
Global
Organizers: 
Land Portal Foundation
Global Forum on Agricultural Research
Asian NGO Coalition (ANGOC)
Association for Land Reform and Rural Development
Global Land Tool Network

Climate-change induced disasters and communities’ responses to protect themselves and design solutions have become a top priority on the climate agenda. At the center of mitigation and adaptation discussions have been urban populations, particularly in informal settlements. At the same time, the rural poor with limited or no secure access to land tend to be overlooked.

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