32 SES 14 A, Organizational Education for a Sustainable Future
Scientists around the world are convinced of the fact that human induced climate change is happening on the basis of surveys and peer-reviewed literature. IPCC (2014) reported that increased population growth and economic growth have increased the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) more than ever. Global climate change that we are witnessing right now is a result of increasing GHGs in the atmosphere and other anthropogenic drivers. It is widely accepted that climate change is responsible for increasing extreme weather shocks such as storms, flooding, glacier melting, changes in rainfall pattern, drought, heatwaves and sea level rise (Janković & Schultz, 2017). But the harsh impacts of climate change are more critical more for the poorest people residing in developing countries and one such developing country is Bangladesh.
Bangladesh was once labelled as ‘the test case for development’ but in recent times the country has been praised for economic progress and social development (Asadullah, Savoia, & Mahmud, 2014). Especially since the 1990’s, coinciding with the return of democratic government and large scale economic reforms, the country’s poverty rate reduced from 60% to 30% (Al-Muti, 2014). Since the last couple of decades Bangladesh’s economy grew steadily with more than 5% each year. With regards to social development, the country has reduced illiteracy, inequality, fertility rate, child and maternal mortality (Masud-All- Kamal, 2013).
However, Bangladesh is a densely populated country of 162 million people residing in an area of only 147,570 square kilometres (BBS, 2018), with 31% of its people living below the poverty line with earning of less than US $2 per day (Alam, Alam, & Mushtaq, 2017). Due to onslaught of climate change, Bangladesh has become increasingly vulnerable to an increasing number of hazardous climatic events (Glennon, 2017). These events disproportionately imperil millions of rural Bangladeshis by impacting their livelihoods. About 60% of rural Bangladeshis are involved in either farming or fishing (Parvin, Shimi, Shaw, & Biswas, 2016), and climate change effects are detrimental to agriculture, fishery and livestock sectors (Ferdous, Gazi, Abul, & Che, 2013). This has forced these people to adapt their traditional livelihood to cope with the changing climate. Climate change is threatening the economic progress and wellbeing of these rural Bangladeshi communities and adaptation to climate change has become a necessity for them. However, these communities have the least amount of resources and capacity to successfully cope with climate change.
This has compelled the Government of Bangladesh, international donor organisations and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) to help the concerned rural communities to foster adaptation to climate change through developing pathways for resilient livelihood. The assistance is usually provided through development projects that assist these communities in modifying their existing livelihood to the changing climate. Many such projects have become successful and have immensely helped embattled communities in coping with climate change by updating their livelihood. Achievement of these development projects are well-reported with regards to enrolled beneficiaries, livelihood training provided, increase in earnings, and attaining project objectives that are usually found in the annual and projects reports of NGOs and development agencies. However, there is a significant gap as these reports do not report the underlying success factors that make these projects effective. There is very little research that investigate underlying success factors of development projects that are intended to help vulnerable communities in coping with climate change.
For my PhD, I investigated five development projects that were implemented in Bangladesh to shed light on the factors that were responsible for making these projects effective for the beneficiaries. These projects were touted as successful by their implementing agencies and respective beneficiaries. In this paper, I will focus on one particular project and elaborate on the role of learning communities developed among project beneficiaries as a significant success factor. The outcome of development projects are considerably harder to put on paper compared to the outcomes of commercial and industrial projects (Ahsan & Gunawan, 2010). For an example, it is quite easy to report the effectiveness of a rural development project with regards to training provided or increased income of beneficiaries, but it quite tricky to gauge their behavioural changes with regards to farming that are needed to cope with climate change. As a result, many theorists advocate the use of qualitative approach to report the intangible outputs of development projects (Crawford & Pollack, 2004). Within the broader framework of qualitative research, I have utilised multiple case study approach to investigate five development projects implemented across different parts of Bangladesh. Yin (2003) informed that multiple case studies can be utilised to “(a) predicts similar results (a literal replication) or (b) predicts contrasting results but for predictable reasons (a theoretical replication)” (p.47). The usage of multiple case studies have showcased various activities taken by project beneficiaries to adapt their livelihood to climate change, their successfulness and failures, and other spill-over effects that have been generated from thick descriptions and narratives of key project stakeholders. The multiple case study approach allowed the collection of in-depth qualitative data (Kvale, 1996), which were situation specific (Stake, 2003), and provided thick descriptions of practices (Geertz, 1988). With regards to data collection, I utilised semi-structured interviews, photos, observation, research diary and secondary data from implementing agencies. The resulting data was analysed into various themes that ultimately resulted in the generation of the success factors. Of the five development projects investigated for my PhD, one was the Haor Infrastructure and Livelihood Improvement Project or commonly referred to as the HILIP project implemented by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). The HILIP project was funded jointly by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government of Bangladesh and is slated to be implemented from January 2012 to June 2021.
One of the main component of the HILIP project was to work with the farmers of north-eastern Haor districts of Bangladesh. The Haor districts are vulnerable to devastating annual flash floods that allow farmers of these areas a window of six months for agricultural activities. For the remaining six months, the area remains submerged because of the monsoon rainfall and water coming from the Indian states of Meghalaya and Assam. Beneficiary farmers were trained to diversify their agricultural practices by cultivating high yielding vegetables and embrace latest agricultural practices. This helped the farmers to increase vegetable production and increasing their earnings. Some of the project farmers became so efficient that they began to teach newly enrolled beneficiaries. Since the highly efficient beneficiaries and newly enrolled beneficiaries came from adjacent neighbourhoods and shared similar agricultural and profit intentions, which ultimately resulted in the formation of learning communities. Mitchell and Sackney (2001) argued that a learning community exists when a group of people “who take an active, reflective, collaborative, learning-oriented, and growth-promoting approach toward both the mysteries and the problems of teaching and learning” (p.2). I have observed these learning communities to enable the beneficiaries to form close knit groups that ultimately helped them to adapt their farming activities with climate change These learning communities in the HILIP project are known as CIGs (common interest groups) where a cohesive group of motivated farmers learned from their fellow farmers who received agricultural training from the project and successfully implemented them in real life. These grass-roots CIGs or learning communities share similarities with learning communities from other parts of the world that address various issues relevant to their respective societies.
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