Tackling climate change with local innovation | ActionAid UK

What do tarpaulins, fighting cockerels, and raised villages have in common? Not much, on the surface. But together they're some of the creative solutions that ActionAid, in collaboration with the communities that we work with, has been developing to tackle the impacts of climate change. Find out how these innovative approaches are helping communities adapt to extreme weather. 

Abdullah, 7, holds a climate-resilient chicken bred by his neighbour Rafiza in Bangladesh.
Abdullah, 7, holds a climate-resilient chicken bred by his neighbour Rafiza in Bangladesh.

Climate-resilient chickens

During the hot months from March to May in Bangladesh, heatwaves were killing the local breed of chickens in 28-year-old Rafiza's village. 

“The women who raised the local chickens were experiencing severe problems,” said Rafiza. “They were rearing the chickens in the hope that they could sell them. But before the chickens could grow the heat would kill them."

Rafiza joined an ActionAid-funded women's group that was searching for a solution. They enlisted the help of Professor Akhthar-Uz-Zaman, an animal husbandry expert from the area. He gave them the idea of producing a "climate-resilient chicken" by crossbreeding local hens with a fighter cockerel from eastern Bangladesh.

Rafiza was asked to rear 10 climate-resilient chickens and help Professor Zaman with his research. Over a three year period she carefully monitored the chickens’ weight, food intake and health. Her data helped Professor Zaman to calculate that the climate-resilient chicken has a 10 per cent mortality rate, compared to the 20 per cent mortality rate of the original breed.  

Rafiza's climate resilient chickens have changed her life for the better.

Rafiza said that breeding the climate-resilient chickens has transformed the lives of many women. "Before these chickens came along we didn't have much of a livelihood. Now the women who rear the chickens can buy books and pens for their children, and pay for their tuition," she said.

Bulbuli, a mother of two, is one of them. “Before, we could eat three times a day, but it was a struggle. Although we had some food to eat, it was not enough to get rid of our hunger," she said. 

Having these chickens has meant I can feed my children properly. Now when we eat it is enough to fill our stomachs and get rid of our hunger. I have two sons. I give them eggs from the chicken and I eat them too. Our bodies feel stronger.

Bulbuli also sells chickens at the market, meaning that she now has a good source of income. 

Bulbuli cares for her climate-resilient chickens.

Raising villages above flood levels

In Faridpur, Bangladesh, Nazma's small hut where she used to live with her young children regularly flooded. Nazma has struggled to walk since she got polio at the age of 9, and the floodwater would make her slip on her crutches. The family had no land to cultivate and she often went without food to make sure that her children, Nazmul, 10, and Sabia, 4, could eat.

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In 2011, ActionAid supported the build of an innovative flood-proof village at 2.5ft above the highest recorded flood levels. The most vulnerable families moved to homes on a raised mud plinth that withstands flooding, and were given a cow, solar panels and a small allotment. Nazma's was one of them. 

Since moving to the adjacent flood-proof village, her home has never been flooded. She now grows a variety of fruits and vegetables in her allotment. She said, "Before, I used to worry about finding money to buy food for my children. Now, I can just pick mango and guava from my garden and hand it to them.”

Nazma gathers vegetables in her new allotment in the flood-proof village.

Tarpaulin sheets

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. Just a simple tarpaulin sheet can make a huge difference to a family who are struggling to conserve water.

Before the drought in Somaliland, Malyuun was given a tarpaulin sheet by ActionAid.  She used this to cover a berkhad, a traditional water tank, which stores water. The  tarpaulin keeps the water clean and reduces evaporation in the hot sun.

Malyuun said she is grateful for this help. "When the rain comes, we have a place to save the water,” she said.

Malyuun's rubber sheet helps to keep her water clean and reduces water loss from evaporation.

Diversifying income

A loan might not seem to be a way to tackle the impacts of climate change - but they enable women like Anab in Somaliland to diversify their income and not be entirely reliant on livestock. 

Anab used to worry about putting food on the table for her family. Her sole source of income was her cows and sheep - and she struggled to keep them alive during droughts. If Anab’s animals didn’t have enough to eat, neither did her children or grandchildren.

Thanks to ActionAid, life is very different for Anab and her family today. She got a loan of US$200 to set up a shop and stock it with food and other essentials, which she buys in the nearest town. Her neighbours pop in to Anab’s shop for everything from tomatoes, onions and potatoes to salt, oil and soap. "I know I have profited when I’ve managed to feed my family properly," she says. 

Anab, 65, with daugher Ferdousa, 30, and granddaughter, aged four

The shop doesn’t just mean that Anab and her family don't go hungry. It also gives them security for the future. 

My daughters and granddaughters will benefit from the business. When I retire my daughter will take over. It will mean she will be independent and will not have to rely on livestock.

These are just some of the ways we're supporting women and children who are being pushed to the brink of starvation by extreme weather. But we need to do more. Please help by donating to our hunger appeal.

Donate now to our urgent hunger appeal

Photo credits: Mahmud/MAP/ActionAid, Jennifer Huxta/ActionAid