Every year the embankment protecting the farmland surrounding the village of Pashurbunia in southern Bangladesh, collapses due to flooding and rising sea levels.
Hawoa Begum, 35, explains how the community campaigns for the local authority, Lalua Union, to rebuild the embankment so that their crops and livestock can survive.
“Due to high tide and flooding the embankment is collapsing. The water is getting into the crops and the crops can’t grow due to high salinity,” she says. “The salt water is damaging the ponds, the rivers and the crops. Our fishermen can’t make any profit because fish can’t survive in salt water.”
She is a women’s leader in an ActionAid-funded local research group called Gonogobeshona Dol, which also raises money from community members to help pay for repairs when the embankment is damaged.
“Due to the high number of cyclones and embankment collapse, there are no jobs and that means that many people from our villages are moving to Dhaka,” she says.
Hawoa is also a member of ActionAid’s General Assembly and has travelled the world to bring attention to the human impacts of climate change in Bangladesh, where increasingly extreme weather events, including cyclones, river erosion and soil salinity are destroying lives and livelihoods.
“My only request to world leaders is that we want a strong embankment, so that we can protect our crops. If we had a strong embankment, we will not have unemployment and we will not have problems earning our own living, problems harvesting our crops.
“We cannot avoid natural disasters, but we can minimise the risks by having a strong embankment system.”