Food Security and Climate Change in Bangladesh

HELIX members organized a workshop on Food Security and Climate Change, in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 8 to 9 May 2017, aimed at providing a forum for scientists, food security experts, government officials and NGOs to come together and explore the major climate impacts on the availability, accessibility, utilization and stability of food for the people in Bangladesh. The workshop provided a unique opportunity to discuss the current climate induced hazards and impacts on Bangladesh’s food security and the regions of Bangladesh most at risk to these.. The workshop also provided an opportunity for stakeholders to offer feedback on the potential output of the assessment on climate change and food security under the HELIX project and how information generated through work package 9 of HELIX project is used by decision makers.

During the event, food security experts indicated that i) hazards are increasing and are having an impact on food access specifically on farmers’ income in climate hot spots (i.e. coastal south, central riverine flood plain); ii) farmers are the most vulnerable to climate change, especially women, given the low income they receive, iii) currently, there are no major threats to food availability for rice and fish but this could change with an evolving climate; iv) except for lightening, all the other climate risks mentioned in this report have had an adverse effect on the stability of food supply; and v) the major climate risks impacting on food utilisation are flooding in the north, north-west and cyclones in the south, mainly for the most vulnerable and poor population, because their low income impedes them buying nutritious food. In addition, participants pointed out that the percentage of the underweight and undernourished population in Bangladesh has decreased.

The workshop participants indicated that the output of a climate change and food security assessment should ideally be in the form of a web – based portal incorporating dynamic maps, graphs etc. showing different climate projections both at local level and at national level to be able to compare the two. Ideally, this output would be divided into AEZ (agro-ecological zones; there are 30 in Bangladesh), containing demographic information, identification of vulnerable areas to develop early warning systems and investment plans, vulnerability index by region, seasonality, adaptation measures, food production projection considering climate variability, likelihood of climate induced hazards and migration pattern/rate. In addition, it was also recommended that the assessment results should be endorsed by the government in order to ensure ownership and that information can be used for planning, technological innovation and research purposes to build resilience.

Workshop Results

All participants agreed that a common understanding on different elements of long term climate change and their implications on food security in different climate vulnerable areas are extremely important for the country. There is an overarching need of how the food security situation of Bangladesh may be impacted under different scenarios of climate change at different time scales (preferably for the 2050s and 2080s) – and at the lowest administrative (district) or agro-ecological zone level. Therefore, the food security and climate change assessment as part of WP9 of the HELIX project will aim to pull together and prioritise all relevant information about food security, climate and climate change in Bangladesh to understand and communicate how long-term climate change may impact the current food security situation.

Whilst taking the requests of the participants into account, the complicated nature of combining and interpreting information of this type meant that the output generated through HELIX project, would be limited to qualitative descriptions at a wider regional level based on quantitative analysis of the climate data, and interpretations of the impact on food security at the district level, if possible.

Finally, it was agreed that the output will be in the form of a report with the potential to produce communication material around the results, such as an accompanying poster and website where the qualitative descriptions would be available as part of an interactive map.  This information will help government, development planners and civil society to address the food security needs in their policies, strategies and programmes.

This workshop was organized by the World Food Programme and UK Met Office funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (P7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n 603864. Special thanks and gratitude are due to the participants from different government ministries and departments; UN agencies, NGOs, research institutes and academia for their time and contribution. We would like to thank Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Bangladesh Meteorological Department and Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council for sharing the data and information. A special thank also to Md. Golam Rabbani for his facilitation work during the workshop.