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Blogging for pro-poor climate adaptation series: I. Nailing down pro-poor adaptation

Rasmus Heltberg's picture

[Originally posted at the Development Marketplace Blog]

Nailing down pro-poor adaptation
   Photo © Planinternationalty

We hear that climate changes – ongoing and those to come – are hitting the poor the hardest and the soonest. So what can we do about that?

Well, adapting to climate change is such an abstract and wide-reaching concept I find it sometimes hard to nail down. How do you actually adapt, especially if you are poor and struggling to put food on the table and send your children to school? I find myself wondering what are the ideas that can help poor people cope with harsh weather?

I can envision France crafting emergency plans for better coping with heat waves such as the one that killed tens of thousands of elderly stuck in city apartments without air conditioning in a recent summer. But I have been struggling to imagine what the Bangladeshis can do, realistically, against the flooding and cyclones that hit them more and harder?

Well, I learned that the Bangladeshis (and many others like them) are actually doing quite a bit already, achieving much with the few means they have.

The other week I participated in an award ceremony for the winners of a micro video contest called "Vulnerability Exposed". The winning video documentary, "Flood childen of Holdibari," featured this amazingly sweet and brave 11-year old girl called Shapla. Shapla is from a poor family whose house on an island in the river gets flooded for weeks at a time.

Shapla and the other girls on the island have created family flooding plans. When the island and the family house floods, they use rope to hoist the bed up under the roof and live on that bed, waiting until the waters recede. How do they eat? This is where Shapla’s plan comes in.

The children hang rice, a stove, a little money, and other items needed for survival under the roof. Scared of the deadly snakes that are brought in with the flood waters, Shapla shows how she places carbolic soap in the corners of the house to keep the snakes at bay.

The determination of this girl is stunning. I couldn’t help but think of my own privileged daughter, also 11, who gets hysterical over even spiders. Here was this brave little girl with all the odds of life stacked against her, yet with the wits to help bring her family through the floods.

That is pro-poor adaptation and this is what my blog will be about.

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