Disasters Photo gallery

Rising above the cyclone

How women’s empowerment, cash programs, and resilience training are helping families in the coastal region of Bangladesh to prepare and rebuild their lives in the face of recurrent storms and floods.

Purnima Mistri lives with her husband and only son in Paikgacha, a small and remote  community in the heart of Bangladesh’s sprawling, southern coastal delta region. Surrounded by picturesque riverways and shrimp farms, Purnima’s home rests on one of the most vulnerable and climate-hazard prone regions in Bangladesh. Climate change has only increased the severity of devastating storms and floods. Communities like Paikgacha, and nearby Dacopne and Koira, face overwhelming challenges in adapting and recovering from recurrent crises.

To help vulnerable communities cope and adapt to the changing climate conditions, the Bangladesh Red Cresent Society (BDRCS) started a project called “Coastal Disaster Risk Reduction Program” in Paikgacha. Its primary purpose is to raise awareness about disaster management within these communities and to provide families with new skills and alternative livelihood sources that will help them withstand compounding crises. During a series of group sessions, community members learn how to rear livestock and grow vegetable gardens more effectively, among many other activities.

In 2021, Purnima received a total of 4,500 Taka (approximately 50 USD) for participating in a nine-day training with BDRCS, which she decided to invest in new ways to generate income for her family. After completing her training, Purnima started reaping the benefits of her investment and hard work. She now has hens and ducks that provide eggs to feed her family and to sell in the local market. Purnima also built a small vegetable garden around her house that bears nutritious herbs and vegetables.

Now she is doing well and providing enough for her family.

“My life is very different now. We can earn and provide for the family,” she says. “Now, I also participate in the decision-making for my family and my husband. Once we had nothing, but now we are building our life slowly.”

In Southern Bangladesh, many families in remote communities are living the impacts of extreme weather events exacerbated by the effects of the climate crisis. In the Paikgacha community in Khulna, many families make a living by farming shrimp. Unstable weather patterns, however, have made shrimp farming increasingly difficult and now most of the population lives under the poverty line. Another looming crisis is the decrease in fresh water supply due to increased salinity in local water sources, which makes farming and garden a lot more complicated.  Families like Purnima’s are trying to cope with harsh realities, but several BDRCS initiatives are helping them to look forward to a better tomorrow.

In a beautiful red and gold saree, we see Purnima Mistri, who lives in Paikgacha with her husband and only son. Living in a shrimp farming community, she and her family have found different ways of generating income, especially when farming is impacted by constant storms and cyclones. Despite the challenges, Purnima keeps a positive attitude, smiling and helping not only her family to cope, but also other community members who live nearby.

One way that Purnima Mistri has diversified her income is through a project called “Coastal Disaster Risk Reduction Program”, supported by BDRCS. Today, she and her family raise and sell ducks (along with an abundant supply of eggs) in the local market, keeps the family with a positive cashflow.

Purnima usually gets four to five eggs per day from each duck, and she uses the money for further investment. Also, a big part of her family’s nutrition comes from her livestock.

Purnima Mistri cooks for her family every day. After receiving a cash grant from BDRCS, her earnings help keep her family healthy with nutritious food on the table. Purnima feels confident and no longer spends days worrying about food availability. Her family means everything to her and she loves cooking her son’s and husband’s favorite dishes.

One other source of income for Purnima and Somiran Mistri is making fishing nets. They take outside orders and deliver ready-made fishing traps to the local market. These nets also help them fish in the nearby river, after which they sell their catch at the market. Purnima’s weekly income from livestock allows them to buy the materials they need to build the nets.

Purnima continues with her daily household chores with an ease that didn’t exist before – she feels more productive and enthusiastic. Since starting livestock farming, the family income has doubled, and they have become an example in their community.

Purnima helps her son, Simanto Mistri, with his homework. For both, this is a daily treasured moment because they can spend quality time together. “I worry about my son Simanto’s education and future,” she says. “There is no educational opportunity for children. We always live in fear of floods and disasters. Life is hard for people living in the coastal area.”

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This story was produced and drafted by Mustakim Billah Muhit
– a talented, dynamic and creative storyteller from Bangladesh Red Crescent.

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