Bangladesh blog III – “we are stewards appointed by Allah to take care of our world”
Sunday 21st December 2014: Diversifying Income Generation through Livelihood Projects
This morning, we took a boat ride to the furthest region in the south of Bangladesh. Closest to the Bay of Bengal, a vulnerable area prone to disasters, we made way to Gabura district, in particular Koyra. North of Koyra, we saw fishery livelihoods provided by Islamic Relief which included nets, boats and training. This enabled people (women and children included) to source their own livelihood having lost everything they owned after cyclone Aila in 2009.
We had the pleasure seeing the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) and meeting volunteers of North Koyra. They have been trained to warn the community through the raising of a number of flags (depending on the scale of the disaster) or the use of a megaphone, alerting the community to take refuge in the cyclone shelter provided by Islamic Relief. The community are instructed to take dried food, medicine, and transportable ovens. I was amazed at the system put in place to prepare the locals in supporting one another. These small effective methods go a long way in saving lives.
In the south of Koyra, Dakshin Bedkashi, we visited shelter homes. These were a package consisting of a shelter home, a latrine, a solar panel, and a cost and energy efficient oven. First we met Salma (blue and purple sari) who lived with her husband, mother in law and 3 children. She told us that her life had been much improved with the vegetation and garden provided by Islamic Relief. Salma, 34 years of age, told us that after cyclone Aila, there was no vegetation. Now, thanks to Islamic Relief, she has her own garden of spinach, cauliflower and cucumber. She was more prepared in case of disasters and her health and life had significantly improved.
We then Manjoura Begum who lost her home during cyclone Aila. Manjoura shared with us that she was relieved and content as her life had become easier. She lives with her husband and 2 sons.
Thirdly, we visited a lady who started off her own business with the help of Islamic Relief, making boxes for sweets. She is able to generate income by selling boxes with sweets she makes. This livelihood project enabled her to buy poultry and diversify her sources of income. After hearing the sad stories of loss, I was overjoyed to see the livelihood projects implemented by Islamic Relief to help people adapt to the effects of climate change.
The wheat crops and vegetation gardens planted prepare the agriculture needed in the event of a disaster preventing food shortage and further loss of life. Some of these seeds are specially proven to enhance plant growth despite drought and low rainfall. These people were trained to generate harvest to help them in the event of a future drought. It is not shocking that this is in line with Islamic teachings from the Qur’an, such as the story of prophet Yusuf preparing the people of Egypt in case of a drought.
There is evergreen beauty present in so many districts, yet at the same time, it is heartbreaking to observe the ominous cloud hanging over the heads of these vulnerable communities. It is our duty to help protect these families, for we are stewards appointed by Allah to take care of our world.
We drove back to Jessore and spent the night in Hassan International Hotel. The following morning, we were to fly back to Dhaka.
– by Madiha Shah