Bangladesh

Andharmanic Ecovillage, Bangladesh: A Model for Sustainability in Climate Sensitive Regions

Andharmanic village is situated in Khulna district of Bangaldesh, near the Bay of Bengal and beside the biggest mangrove forest ‘Sundorbon’. This village community experienced the very powerful cyclones ‘Sidr’ in 2007, and ‘Aila’ in 2009, which affected the community tremendously. Houses fell down, big trees uprooted, crops were destroyed, domestic animals died, soil and water were polluted by saline water, and many villagers were injured. Today, having incorporated a variety ecovillage techniques, many families have significantly increased their standard of living. Boniface Gomes reports.

Although BASD formed a savings group here early in 2006, after cyclone Sidr that group function was disrupted. Later they reviewed the group but it was disrupted a second time after cyclone Aila. People lost interest and for them it felt useless to continue the group. BASD staff met again and again with community members and strongly encouraged them to continue the work. After various discussions and meetings, community members agreed to review their group again and started functioning from October, 2009 with new name, "Village Development Society" (VDS), which is now continuing at a greater speed.
VDS members sat together, thoroughly discussed and scrutinized their problems and prioritized them. The main problems were poverty, illiteracy, landlessness, unemployment, soil and water pollution, natural disaster, less food production etc. They listed dozons of problems of the village but selected a few of them for immediate addressing. They decided on depositing regular savings in a savings fund, learned the using of that, took out loans for income generation activities, children’s education and emergency purposes paying service charges.
VDS leaders developed leadership, management and accounts capabilities by training. Later they trained group members for preparing and running small income generation projects, marketing and related business. VDS also organized various kinds of skill development training for the members and school drop outs, such as tailoring, embroidery, handicrafts, carpentry, mechanics, driving, electrics, welding etc. So, by now in 2015, we can see poverty is lessened, illiteracy has almost gone, people are aware about their problems, most unemployed people are employed, members started purchasing land, cultivating saline friendly crops, vegetables, fruits different times in the year, each family adopted various climate change adaptation and mitigation techniques at home and many other development works are going on in the community for life safety, food security, financial, social and spiritual growth.
Now the question comes, how it was possible for this village community to come to these dramatic changes within such a short period of time. How this village community became a development model living in the disaster prone area.
The story is like this: two farmers, Francis and Kallany, became trained in permaculture and ecovillage design by BASD in 2009. They visited houses in the village, talked to the village community and made a committee among the ecofriendly members. They created an eco-centre in the village and started working together for their financial, social and ecological development. They designed their houses following permaculture principles and practices, designed whole compounds, roof top, fruitless trees, road sides and surrounding of house for cultivation of varieties of vegetables, crops, fruits, spices, planted different kinds of wood, fruit, medicinal and ornamental saplings, started rearing fish, domestic animals and birds. They took loans from VDS, started small income generation activities and small businesses. They formed a cultural group and perfomed regular cultural programs where all classes of people gather and spend time. Members strengthened observing and practicing social programs including marriage, death, religious festivals, conflict resolution etc. Observing better production, financial growth, social unity and value, surrounding neighbors came forwad with great interest for learning and practicing the same. So, almost the whole village community was attracted by the ecovillage members for practicing permaculture works and joining ecovillage.
Some of the village community had dramatical changes financially, socially, spiritually and also behaviorally. Among them Francis Halder, Kallyani Roy, Shonjit, Rehana, Kingshuk Roy, Ajit, Kalipodo, Madhobi, Bipro Bishwas and other ecofriendly community members talked about the benefits of permaculture design works and ecovillage. Today they feel proud to be ecovillage members and talk about this to the sourrounding community people.
Francis and Kallyani were trained on EDE and PDC from BASD and started "Integrated Fish Cultivation" from January 2014 along with Shonjit and Rehana. Initially, they received a small project fund to start this desired venture. This project was financed by the Scottish Government implementing by BASD and Cifal Scotland as a part of climate change adaptation and food security.
Francis and Rehana jointly started this project in their own ponds and Kallyani and Shonjit started the same. Before receiving the training, they cultivated only fish in their ponds and received little profit. Francis received only 30000-40000 taka (259£-345£) as profit from his fish cultivation in 2013. But the picture was different after the training.
They learnt from the training, how to prepare the pond before integrated mixed fish cultivation, what fishes to collect - different layers of good young fishes and prawns for fish cultivation, (Labeo Rohita, a carp like fish as upper layer fish, Catla as middle layer fish, Mrigal, Silver Carp and Grass Carp as lower layer fish) from fish hatchery or river, learnt how to prepare organic fish food and medication for different fish diseases. Moreover, they cultivated Prawns with mixed fish in the ponds and cultivated various kinds of hanging vegetables and fruits in the bank. They used vermicompost, liquid and quick compost for cultivation of vegetable and enjoyed plenty of production of white gourd, bottle gourd, brinjal, radish, red Indian spinach and tomato.
Francis, Kallyani, Sonjit, Rehana have started to earn money by selling fish and prawns in the local market. Francis earned 150,000 taka (1293£) in 2014 in the first year, Kallani, Shonjib and others also earned more than double than in the previous years. They hope the production will be more in the 2nd year.
Some of climate change adapttion techniques – five feet high floor, low ceiling, five feet high floor toilet, clay pitcher installed under ground for preserving emergency dry food, water, medicines, valuable documents, during disaster period.
Now their families are enjoying plenty of good fresh fish, prawns, organic vegetables, fruits during the whole year and have reduced their food and medical cost. That´s why they say that family food security and happiness have increased. Moreover, they have good waste management, various composting, poultry, and have adopted climate change adaptation techniques.
Observing their fantastic work, the neighbouring Ajit, Kalipodo, Madhobi and Bipro Biswas and surrounding neighbours came forward and started the same. They often visited Francis, Kallyani, Sonjib and Rehena’s houses and asked them for solutions regarding successful implementation of integrated mixed fish cultivation and other different permaculture practices.
From 2 ecofriendly families in 2009, it came today in the list 32 families. These members hope that, with in the next 5 years all 74 families of the village will be the member of Andharmanic Ecovillage. This Andharmanic eco friendly community is such a beautiful model community now that surrounding 19 villages from Banishanta Union and 10 villages from Sutarkhali Union are showing keen interest to visit the village and like to know more from them. Some GO-NGOs and educational institutions are visitng now this village and talking to the eco friendly community.
Boniface Subrata Gomes, Dhaka, Bangladesh ([email protected])

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21.03.2015