Land and Climate Conversations
From Nov. 6-18, the world gathers in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), to discuss the global climate change agenda. While we are hopeful that these high-level conversations will result in meaningful progress toward addressing the climate crisis, they may largely exclude the voices of local civil society and grassroots organizations – many of whom represent communities most directly impacted by the adverse effects of climate change.
To elevate the voices of our local partners, Landesa spoke with a few of our partners about climate change themes in their work. This Q&A is one installment in a three-part series on the links between land rights, climate change, and crosscutting themes of gender equity, youth empowerment, and rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
In Bangladesh, marginalized communities bear the brunt of the harsh, multiplex impacts of climate change. Farmers, many of whom are women, are frequently displaced by climate-induced disaster. Strengthening the land rights of these communities elevates their ability to adapt to climate change and make empowered decisions to reduce inequalities.
National advocacy organization Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) explains the vital nature of inclusive land rights for Bangladesh’s climate resilience.
Responses by Rowshan Moni Jahan, ALRD Deputy Executive Director
What kinds of social, cultural, and economic challenges are Bangladesh’s marginalized communities experiencing as a result of climate change?
Due to climate-induced disaster, Bangladesh’s internal displacement rate is increasing, which affects social and family bonding. Social characteristics are based on local norms and practice and are different for each class, caste, ethnicity, religion, and occupation. As groups are displaced, people from different backgrounds inhabit the same areas and often struggle to keep social practices intact. Farmers, for example, experienced several social events based on seasonal and crop cycle changes, from sowing to harvesting. Special social gatherings such as village fairs are losing relevance, resulting in a weakening of social capital, and ultimately a loss of socio-cultural integrity.
Indigenous Peoples, such as the Munda people in coastal Bangladesh, are finding their cultural practices undercut by the effects of climate change. A particular tree, known as a Karam tree, is central to the religious practices of the Munda and to their main religious festival, known as the Karam festival. Some coastal areas are completely devoid of Karam trees because of coastal erosion and frequent natural disasters, leaving members of the Munda community limited in their opportunities to engage in religious practices that are central to their culture.
Bangladesh’s agriculture-based economy made up of rural livelihoods is directly threatened by climate-induced disasters like cyclones, droughts, and flash floods. Farmers lose their investments and fall into a poverty trap when they become unable to replay loans. Women in particular, constituting 72.6% of the total farmers in Bangladesh, experience this vicious cycle of poverty for the climate vulnerable.
What do women need most to create a climate secure future for themselves and their communities?
Women in rural areas need secure access to their main source of livelihood: natural resources like land, water, and forest. Full authority in women’s decision-making at all levels is vital for not only food security but also empowerment through building their technical knowledge and capacity, and ultimately their leadership to raise their voices to reduce the power gap.
Why are land rights important for communities that are in greater risk of sudden or slow climate disasters such as soil erosion, tsunamis, storms etc.?
Access to and control over livelihood means like land, water, and forest is important so communities can use the productive resources in their own way—deciding to sell products, accessing support services like financial credit and technology, and so on. Inclusive land rights can lead to greater knowledge around climate-smart agriculture and a choice to practice it on one’s own land.
Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) was established in January 1991 as a rights-based national advocacy and networking organization. In the subsequent years, ALRD emerged professionally trained and equipped with knowledge and experience as a collective voice of the rights of the marginalized communities and people (landless poor, women, Indigenous Peoples, and economically and socially disadvantaged groups). ALRD facilitated stronger voices of these marginalized communities and people to address the inequalities on a broad range of issues pertaining to their resource rights and livelihoods.
As an organization that fosters solidarity among national and international networks, how can collaborative advocacy confront challenges posed by climate change?
International frameworks like the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Commission for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provide an opportunity for a broad coalition of stakeholders to leverage their impact. Nationally determined commitments to UN climate change conventions provide a vehicle for governments to apply national policies to advance global goals. And global campaigns like Stand for Her Land (S4HL), of which ALRD is a member as the lead of the S4HL Bangladesh coalition, convene advocates from the grassroots to global level to champion a common cause – in this case, to close the gap between policy and practice and secure women’s rights to land in Bangladesh and around the world.