Climate change is now a burning issue globally. The potential impact of climate changes is facing by developing countries. Adverse effects of climate change continue to be a major threat to rural livelihoods.
Such as the Northern part of Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable regions to climate change impacts.
The majority of the population lives in this area in abject poverty. People are extremely dependent on rain fed agriculture for their daily livelihood.
As a consequence, the abnormalities in rainfall patterns and temperature adversely impact their socio-economic and environmental survival.
Climate change with expected long term changes in rainfall patterns and shifting temperature regions are resulted to drought.
The long-term climate variability impacts include significant changes in rainfall patterns and temperature which resulted drought affect agriculture has resulted significant reduction in food security, worsening water security, decimation of livestock herds, decrease in fish resources in natural water bodies due to rising temperature and rising water stress.
As a result of extreme climate variability, such as drought in the northern part of Bangladesh, is recurrently accompanied by ecological decline, widespread food scarcity and environmental migration.
In Bangladesh like other developing country, the agricultural activities are mainly rain-fed and heavily depend on rainfall. In the northern part of the country, the other main source of water for daily livelihood and particularly for agriculture is harvested from the Teesta River.
In Bangladesh, the major rivers passing through are Ganges, Brahmaputra, Meghna and Teesta.
However, India has constructed a barrage in its side at Gozaldoba. This has resulted is low water flow in Teesta river of Bangladesh part. The northern part of Bangladesh experiences droughts regularly.
Records show that 19 drought periods has occurred in Bangladesh between 1960 and 1991 which means a drought every 1.6 years. In the last three to four decades when climate change reported to be observed in the northern part of Bangladesh, the situation has gradually decreased.
Surface water has moved out from small ponds natural canals. Even major rivers have reduced water level and flow volume. Deep wells, shallow machine wells were used for agricultural activities.
The tube wells used for domestic needs have been deepened with time due to the ground water level continues to go down. Whereas the northern part of Bangladesh had become a food surplus region after promotion of deep well water for agricultural activities.
This dependence makes this northern region particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. It has been reviewed in the literature that the scope (geographic coverage), frequency and magnitude of climatic changes and environmental degradation (disaster) such as deforestation, water level decreasing and soil erosion have been gradually increasing in this region. The potential adverse effects of climate change on this region’s agricultural sector are of a major concern because of this dependence.
The climatic disasters, particularly drought, are becoming the major forces challenging the livelihoods of most farmers. Although the country’s crop production and productivity seem increasing since 2006’s, the problem of food insecurity at national level remains the concern because of severity of food production constraints in this northern region.
The rural population in this region, for whom agriculture is the primary source of food, direct and/or indirect employment and income, will be most affected due agriculture’s vulnerability to climate changes. As the sector is the largest consumer of water resources, variability in water access has a major influence on health and welfare of agriculture dependent poor.
Vulnerability analysis made across the different regions of Bangladesh by reference indicated that the exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity of people differ from region to region.
The other report indicated that Kurigram district in the northern part of Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable regions because of higher frequencies of drought and floods, lower access to technologies, fewer institutions dealing with climate related hazards, and lack of infrastructures.
Vulnerability to climatic change is highly correlated with poverty and living status of farmers determines their vulnerability to and adaptation with climatic changes. An increase in the frequency of climate related disasters could lead households to lower expected income which in turn can cause to fall below poverty threshold level.
The study was aimed to generate primary information from the farming communities of Kurigram district related to climate change. It would also draw implications that would assist policy makers to decrease the vulnerability of rural farming communities to adverse impacts of climate change to secure food in drought area.
Non-farm economic activities are found to be higher than farm economy in the affected area. But the situation was different before 50 years stated a number of respondents. As the farm economic activities are disturbed due to drought, people are occupied themselves nowadays in non-farm economy.
Consequently, this has influences crop diversity and finally people are changing their food habits which have observed in the sampled area. This may be due to drought. In the field survey, it was observed that people are suffering of water scarcity. Therefore, some of them are not interested about agricultural activities due to weather constraints.
It was observed that a number of daily activities are impacted where the prevalence of the impact was observed to be higher on cropland, food consumption and finally on food habit change indicates that the target populations have already been adapted with changed food habit.
People are happy and satisfied about their food habit change in the study area. This may suggest that peoples have already received the ‘food habit change’ as an adaptation process. However, the results show that food habit change in daily dietary can be a suitable adaptation process due to climate change. This may be an effective adaptation process in the area where local crop is affected due to climate change. But the farmers need to be habituated with the diversified crop and farmland.
While climate influences pragmatically all aspects of life, the impact on agricultural production and consequently food consumption is likely to be particularly important. Because food demand is inelastic, the reduction of agricultural production from the direct impact of drought can induce more increase in agricultural price and raise people’s food habit change.
Researchers have pointed out that rural people are particularly vulnerable to climate change, especially in the case of extreme weather events such as droughts. In the dry regions of northern districts in Bangladesh such as Kurigram, a reduction in rainfall and an increase in the incidence of drought in recent years have been shown to affect local farming activities and farmer income.
In the future, if not adopting adaptation measures such as adjusting crop varieties or improving farm management, it would be difficult to change food habit as an adaptation process.
In order to improve adaptation capacities by food habit change through agricultural production, it is not only the role for government to undertake actions such as improving irrigation strategy and adoption of improved technology or farm management, but also necessary for farmers to make appropriate responses such as cropping patterns change. If these actors are able to adapt adequately, it is possible that Bangladesh’s agricultural sector can actually take advantage of changes in drought.
Future agricultural crop pattern will depend on the ability of these actors (population in drought area) to make effective responses.
Farmers in drought places are more likely to produce peanut, potatoes, oil crops, spice crops, and maize and less likely to grow rice, wheat, jute, and sugar.
These results indicate that they have already started to make crop planting shifts according to local climatic conditions. Farmers faced with drought are inclined to choose a crop that is more adaptive, multi-functional and high yielding, with better economic returns under such conditions.
Despite the importance of improving adaptation capacity to mitigate the impacts of climate change on agriculture sector, the current level of knowledge on climate change and its impacts such as drought is not adequate to support the implementation of strategic plan on adaptations. The implementation of adaptation plan is constrained by the institutional, socio-economic, attitudinal and behavior barriers and the availability of resources and building adaptive capacity are particularly important for developing countries.
How to identify these constraints or barriers is one of the key steps to facilitate the adoption or implementation of suitable adaptation options in the study area. In addition, understanding the effectiveness and cost-benefit of adaptation options are also particularly important for policy makers to design suitable adaptation strategies.
Presently, although some scientists have applied the top-down approach (mainly crop model) to examine the effectiveness of some adaptation options, the bottom-up approach to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-benefit of adaptation practice are still in their infancy.
According to the scholars climate change might force changes in diets around the world as certain staple foods become harder to produce. The present study revealed the similar results in the study area. This may be a suitable adaptation process for the people who are affected due to drought.
Some crops in the northern region of Bangladesh are able to adapt. It is an emerging time to have to think about switching out of growing some crops entirely. For example, by later this decade the drought prone area will no longer be suitable for growing some crops such as millet (local name ‘coun’), some oil corps (local name teel, tishi, kalijira) and some rice varieties.
Potatoes, maize, and peanuts are becoming better options. When we start thinking through all that, it means changes in people’s diets and these are fairly fundamental cultural changes due to drought. A number of studies have been outlined the predicted impacts of climate change on food production, and also on food safety.
But not all the news from climate change is bad. Many farmers are adapted through crop diversity which will open up in what used to be drought area. It suggests overall, the food supply may not suffer in near future through food habit change as an adaptation process.
But, the question is what will happen most to people is what occurs when local crops begin to fail? Are we going to deal with that by greater global interconnectivity so that people can shift out of agriculture but buy their food from somewhere else, or do we deal with it by major changes in how people are growing food, and eating?
In next future, there will need to expand wide range of trade, and adapt local farms to the realities of climate change. It is now emerging issue to produce different crops which may struggle in the farmland due to climatic changes, loss of biomass and over-irrigation.
Food habit change is not the complete solution. This may be an adaptation to the changes that are real, controllable and within their reach. This has been doing since the first human being started to grow his own crops. This will help a verity of uncommon food products, from farmers that want to optimize, safeguard and maintain their and our future existence, without having to worry about environmental issues.
Climate-friendly food consumption seems to be challenging for farmers. Adaptation to climatic changes requires a combination of various individual responses at the farm-level and assumes that farmers have access to alternative practices and technologies available in their area.
But it mainly involves changes in agricultural management practices in response to changes in climate conditions for agrarian community. Adaptation of people to different hazards vary from household to households and region to region based on existing support system to increase the resilience of affected individuals. Despite growing literatures on the impacts of drought in the northern part of Bangladesh due to climate change on food habit change, there are still several research gaps that need to be addressed by the scholars in the near future.
(Shah Forid is a Master's student of the Department of Political Science, Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur (BRUR) and the vice president of Sobujer Potha, an environmental organization)