An assessment of the livelihood vulnerability of the riverbank erosion hazard and its impact on food security for rural households in Bangladesh

PhD Thesis


Alam, G. M. Monirul. 2016. An assessment of the livelihood vulnerability of the riverbank erosion hazard and its impact on food security for rural households in Bangladesh. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

An assessment of the livelihood vulnerability of the riverbank erosion hazard and its impact on food security for rural households in Bangladesh

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorAlam, G. M. Monirul
SupervisorAlam, Khorshed
Mushtaq, Shahbaz
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages239
Year2016
Abstract

As the effects of climate change and hazards are starting to be felt worldwide, there are certain frontline countries that are most at risk and Bangladesh is genuinely at risk in terms of its economic viability and food security unless its citizens develop adaptation strategies to compensate for these effects. This study analyses how the impacts of climate change and hazards (specifically riverbank erosion) are already jeopardising the livelihood and food security of rural riparian (riverbank and char) households in Bangladesh, compromising their access to arable land, and thereby holding back their potential for both sustenance and economic development.

The researcher has conducted extensive research in two severe riverbank erosion-prone districts in Bangladesh to assess the severity of these problems and to seek the strategies the affected people deploy to offset the effects. This study takes a holistic approach to two key vulnerability assessment methods – the Livelihood Vulnerability Index (LVI) and the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI). Importantly, this study also develops an indicator-based Resilience Capacity Index (RCI) in order to understand the factors influencing the resilience capacity of these households.

This study reveals that the LVI and CVI values are different between char (sandbar) and riverbank communities: households inhabiting char lands display the most vulnerability to climate change and hazards. Also, riparian households are found to be vulnerable due to their relative inaccessibility and low livelihood status which, coupled with the impact of the climate on river morphology, are causing erosion and a loss of land with a consequent decrease in economic potential, thereby perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Creating employment opportunities, increasing the level of education and ensuring access to food, water and health services are potential strategies that are likely to enhance the resilience capacity of such vulnerable households in Bangladesh.

In regards to food security, more than 50% of the households are in the ‘food insecure’ category, with a per capita calorie consumption of 12% less than the standard minimum daily requirement. The estimated low Food Security Index (FSI) value indicates that these households can usually manage food twice per day for their family members. The results of logit modelling indicate that household size, educational attainment, adoption of livestock and access to non-farm earnings are important determinants of household food security. This study also finds new evidence that suggests access to improved health care also needs policy support in parallel with improved access to food to achieve and to sustain long-term food security in Bangladesh. Properly targeted income transfers and credit programs along with infrastructure and human development programs in the erosion-affected areas across the country may have very high payoffs by improving food security, and thus, reducing poverty in the long-term.

To build resilience, households are autonomously adopting adaptation strategies such as diversifying crops, tree plantation (generally by large and medium farmers), and homestead gardening and migration (generally by small and landless farmers). However, some important barriers to adaptation are felt heterogeneously among the farming groups: among these are access to credit and a lack of information on appropriate adaptation strategies. The results of multi-nominal logit modelling indicate that the choice of an adaptation strategy is influenced significantly by a household head’s education, household income, farm category, access to institutions and social capital. To support adaptation locally and to enhance households’ resilience to cope better with riverbank hazards and other climate change issues, government intervention through planned adaptation such as access to institutions, credit facilities and a package of technologies through agro-ecologically based research are required.

This study has contributed to our knowledge base through tailoring various theories and approaches in the context of riparian households in Bangladesh. The innovative coping and adaptation strategies could provide new insights for households in other hazard-prone regions in the world. The analytical framework used for assessing vulnerability, resilience, household food security and adaptation strategies should be replicated in other countries having similar characteristics to Bangladesh that are experiencing adverse impacts from climate change.

KeywordsBangladesh; food security; climate change; riverbank erosion
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020380118. Urban and regional economics
410406. Natural resource management
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Commerce
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