Achieving the SDGs and Climate Resiliency in the Barind Tract: First Steps Towards a Multi-Sector Strategy

Barind Tract Workshop Photo 2.jpg

Workshop participants in Bogra, Bangladesh come together to formulate a multi-stakeholder platform with the potential to establish the Barind Tract as a global leader in practical, integrated strategies for achieving the SDGs.

From December 3rd to 5th, 2017, EcoAgriculture Partners led a Landscape Leadership Workshop, Transforming Barind Agriculture: Achieving SDGs and Climate Resilience through Water-Centric Integrated Landscape Management, at the Rural Development Academy in Bogra for approximately 40 high-level representatives of stakeholders from regional public, private, and civic sectors and national thought-leaders within the northwestern Barind Tract region of Bangladesh. The two and a half day workshop was facilitated by Dr. Louise Buck (Director, Collaborative Management) and Kata Young (Project Manager) of EcoAgriculture Partners, and hosted by Dr. Akram H. Chowdhury (Chairman of the Barind Multi-Purpose Development Authority, Government of Bangladesh), Bastiaan Mohrmann (2030 Water Resources Group, IFC-World Bank Group), and Sayef Tanzeem Qayyum (Coordinator of Bangladesh Program, 2030 Water Resources Group, IFC-World Bank Group).

The workshop aimed to build a shared understanding about the Barind Tract landscape from across sectoral perspectives for implementing water-centric ILM to achieve SDGs and climate resilience in the Barind context; exchange leadership experiences to facilitate group discussions and build collaborative partnerships for the establishment of a multi-stakeholder platform in the Barind Tract; and introduce new tools and resources for MSP assessment, collaborative planning and design, implementation of ILM action plans, engaging the private sector, and innovative finance mechanisms for funding ILM through “blended finance” investment strategies.  It was also intended to lay the foundation for accelerated and more cost-efficient implementation of SDGs and climate resilience in Barind through synergetic, integrated approaches that will strengthen the traditional sectoral approaches from the government.

The participants reflected an exceptionally high intellectual caliber (approximately 30-40% held PhD degrees) and a strongly diversified public, private sector and civil/academic presence. Guest presentations on the ‘Historical Barind Landscape’ (Prof. Dr. M. Shamsul Alam, Rajshahi University) and ‘Recent Trends in Climate Change’ (Dr. Md. Sajidur Rahman, BRAC University, The Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research (C3ER)), set the Barind context. Expert panels provided insightful multi-sector leadership perspectives on key Barind issues and priorities, current initiatives and programs being implemented there, and linkages between their programs and the SDGs (Dr. M A Matin, Rural Development Academy, Dr. Sattar Mandal, advisor to 2030 WRG, and Dr. Akram Chowdhury, Barind Multi-purpose Development Authority).

Achieving the SDGs in an Uncertain Climate

Bangladesh is rapidly emerging as a middle-income country, with growing interactive and interdependent pressures on natural resources for water use, agricultural production and food security, forestry and wildlife habitat, among others. The country is also increasingly prone to climate change (specifically flooding- and drought variability), urbanization (Dhaka is the world’s fastest growing megacity as per World Bank), and to land use changes. Agriculture remains the most important sector of the Bangladeshi economy, contributing 19.6 percent to the national GDP and providing employment for 63% of the population. The agriculture sector makes up 93% of the total national water demand, which is mostly met with groundwater. However, population pressures, upstream withdrawal of water, and low recharge of groundwater due to limited rainfall and a semiarid climate is putting increasing pressure on already limited natural resources in certain geographies.  This has raised questions about the future of agriculture-based development in the region, and has precipitated the need for a new, multi-sectoral approach to sustainable land management.

In response to these growing pressures, the government of Bangladesh is strongly committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The SDGs provide a universal framework of 17 strategic goals and 168 targets for governments, businesses, and civil society to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new global sustainable development agenda. However, to date, conventional single-sector approaches to achieving the SDGs are inefficient and remain deficient to achieve these ambitious goals over the next 12 years. To address the challenges of the Barind, and stimulate innovative possibilities to amplify the potentials and alleviate the adversities, water-centric integrated landscape management (ILM) approaches offer a means of implementing SDGs by integrating policy and practice to ensure equitable and sustainable use of land while strengthening measures to improve environmental conservation, production, and wellbeing outcomes. The Barind Tract landscape is unusually well-positioned to implement an ILM approach to achieving the SDGs for Bangladesh. Strong multi-sector leadership, local capacities, promising technical innovations, and a strong regional identity make the Barind Tract region a potential leader in practical strategies for achieving the SDGs at scale.

Barind Tract Workshop Photo
Bastiaan Mohrmann (IFC-World Bank Group) introduces panelists and begins workshop proceedings.

Developing a Shared Vision for the Landscape

One of the central goals of the Leadership Workshop was the development of a shared vision of the Barind Tract landscape with the potential to accommodate the needs of all stakeholders within the landscape while actively building climate resilience and implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDGs).  To do this, participants engaged dynamically and critically in small group and plenary discussions, raising thoughtful questions and offering insightful comments to deepen discussions on key entry points for achieving SDGs and climate resiliency in the Barind Tract. While nearly all the SDGs were brought forward, participants identified six SDGs as critical to addressing water issues in the Barind landscape: SDG 6 (clean water & sanitation), 15 (life on land), 13 (climate action), 8 (good jobs & economic growth), 9 (innovation & infrastructure), and 17 (partnerships for the goals).The enthusiastic participation catalyzed momentum for a sustainable, water-centric integrated landscape approach in the Barind Tract by laying the foundation for a regional MSP to achieve multiple water-centric SDG ambitions. Principles for developing a Barind multi-stakeholder platform to advance a sustainable landscape strategy were identified in plenary discussions, including:

  • Recognition and inclusion of the whole Barind Region – High, Medium and Low;
  • Collaborative Community Engagement (diverse disciplinary partnership, inclusive of value chain stakeholders, youth and 2nd generation farmers and their communities);
  • Mandated MSP rules and regulations;
  • Emphasis on Water Resource Management;
  • Maintaining analytical and scientific approaches (utilizing baseline data and accessible information); and
  • Preparedness for drastic changes due to climate change and global warming.

Out of these discussions, workshop participants identified six key elements that would be central to the group’s vision of the landscape:

  1. The importance of regional, heritage-centric socio-economic development in the Barind Tract.
  2. Water resource usage and management with a primary focus on sustainability.
  3. Integrated and sustainable agricultural practices that are both resilient to climate change, and economically beneficial to the region.
  4. Digitally recorded transformation for greater transparency in planning and monitoring, knowledge sharing, and collective learning.
  5. Improvement of healthcare services for the region’s population.
  6. Development of Ecotourism, centering Barind’s proud cultural heritage.
Barind Tract Blog Featured Photo
Participants engage with Barind Division maps to identify areas for possible interventions.

In addition to these six key elements for developing the landscape, a significant portion of the workshop focused on identifying suitable areas for land-use practices, technologies, market and/or institutional interventions within the Barind Tract landscape. Two large maps of the Barind Tract divisions were used in an interactive mapping activity that identified a distinct concentration around High Barind, nicely clustered in some places for synergistic effects. Some of the key agricultural practices identified as being resilient to climate change and economically beneficial included:  environmentally adaptive cropping patterns and livestock grazing; the diversification of drought and heat tolerant cropping systems; vertical settlement to promote land usage for agriculture, agroforestry, horticulture, and livestock grazing; the development of agro-based industries, agro-processing and cold storage facilities for perishable items; and new market creation and exploration, including the opportunity to become a part of global agricultural value chain.

Looking towards Barind Tract 2030: Sustainable Landscape Strategy

Next steps to address the key obstacles to a future of climate resiliency in the Barind Tract region are far from simple. Establishing climate resiliency in the region will require a massive, multi-sectoral effort focused around implementing the SDGs using an ILM approach. Thankfully, such an effort is already underway. At the conclusion of the Leadership Workshop, Md. Tofazzal Hossain (Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture) and Ked. Hamidur Rahman (Ex-Director General, Dept. of Agricultural Extension) offered words of strong encouragement for building partnerships to pursue the development of a Barind Tract MSP and to achieve water-centric SDG goals through ILM. Strong multi-sector leadership, local capacities, promising technical innovations, and a strong regional identify in the Barind Tract makes the region unusually well-positioned to pilot the ILM approach to achieving the SDGs for Bangladesh. Dr. Akram H. Chowdhury (Chairman, BMDA), related the ILM approach with the Father of the Nation’s speech on 7th March, 1971: “Be prepared with whatever you have, build forts in every household to fight the enemy”, referring in this case to hunger, poverty and climate change through a “fortified” ILM approach towards economic freedom of the People of Barind Region. In turn, Bangladesh can potentially take a leadership role globally in demonstrated  practical strategies to achieve the SDGs in an integrated way.  This initial momentum, developed by a dynamic leadership team during the workshop in December 2017, represents strong initial steps towards this aim.

PARTNER SPOTLIGHT logoThis story, by Katherine (Kata) Young, is part of our Partner Spotlight on EcoAgriculture PartnersPartners in GFAR are keenly aware that it is crucial to mobilize better investment in agri-food research and innovation. GFAR’s multi-stakeholder partners can have a collective, evidence-based voice for informing policy and promoting better and more coherent investment, beyond specific institutional interests. Moreover, new mechanisms must be created for directly empowering communities to attract and make use of funding for innovative technologies and approaches, like the Landscape Approach. If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the metrics for success in agri-food innovation need also to be completely re-thought, and the underlying value systems changed to allow multiple partners, from across sectors, to work together. GFAR Collective Actions aimed at improving investments and developing common metrics are part of GFAR’s Key Focus Area Demonstrating impact and improving investments.

GFAR Secretariat is turning the spotlight on the work and collective actions of Partners in GFAR who share in our mission to strengthen and transform agri-food research and innovation systems globally. Not a GFAR partner yet? Join now!


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