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Agrarian changes and rural livelihoods in an upland landscape of Bangladesh


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Presented by Terry Sunderland on behalf of Ronju Ahammad at the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Mérida, Yucatán (Mexico) on July 11, 2017. This presentation was part of the Agrarian Change Project Symposium: The impacts of agrarian change on local communities: Sharing experience from the field.
Background: Trajectories of land use change poses great challenges in sustaining rural livelihoods and environmental benefits. In the recent past decades, the south-eastern upland landscape of Chittagong Hill Tracts region in Bangladesh has experienced changes in agricultural land use accompanied with forest conversion and the establishment of monoculture plantations. However, there is a lack of understanding on the changes and associated livelihood impacts on rural households. This study examines how the agriculture and forest-based livelihood provisions have interacted over recent years and assess the implications of this agrarian change on food security and income.

Methods: We interviewed 304 households with structured questionnaires in three sites (ie. remote, intermediate and on-road). The questionnaires covered information regarding the changes of agriculture and forest land uses and associated contributions to food production and income at household level.

Results: In over half of the households surveyed, the respondents experienced a decrease of their overall farm land with a concomitant loss of crop variety and livestock resources. Farming area relatively increased in the remote site associated with land/forest clearing activities, with almost 90 percent households perceived decrease of the forest cover, yet food sufficiency and annual income remain low here. While farming areas decreased in intermediate- and on-road sites but increased monoculture fruit garden, intensive cash crops and wage activities contributed to greater food production and income. Two-thirds of the households experienced more travel time and distance required for forest product collections in the landscape. While the loss of forest cover largely affected intermediate- and on-road communities in accessibility and availability of the forest products, fuel wood and fruit availability increased to a certain extent due to the planting of trees on farms and monoculture establishment.

Discussion and conclusion: Overall the study has provided insights into agrarian changes with both positive and negative social-ecological outcomes. We recommend that further investigation of integrated strategies for landscape management might be effective to deal with the various changes and complex problems of food production and conservation at the landscape scale.

Published in: Environment
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Agrarian changes and rural livelihoods in an upland landscape of Bangladesh

  1. 1. Ronju Ahammad, PhD Candidate, Charles Darwin University, Australia Natasha Stacey, Associate Professor, Charles Darwin University, Australia Agrarian changes and rural livelihoods in an upland landscape of Bangladesh 54th Annual Meeting of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation Merida, Mexico July 11, 2017
  2. 2.  Bangladesh is pre-dominantly an agrarian-based country in southern Asia. Agriculture accounts for approximately 60 % of total land use;  Forests and trees provide direct and indirect benefits to the livelihoods of rural people in diverse ways;  Increasing population growth within the land area of the country put concomitant pressures on its forests and other land uses
  3. 3. (GoB & FAO 2013)  Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is located in eastern upland region of Bangladesh;  Nearly 40% of the country’s forests (tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen) remain in the region  Agricultural expansion for subsistence farming is associated with the loss of forests  Agricultural change and conversion of forest land uses has diverse impacts on the rural livelihoods in the landscape
  4. 4. Research Aim This study examines the changes of the agriculture and forest-based livelihood provisions and their implications for food security and income
  5. 5. Data collection  Study undertaken 2015- 2016)  12 villages in 3 sites (remote, intermediate and on-road)  Structured interviews with 304 households  Farm surveys with 30 farmers  Participatory Rural Appraisal tools - historical trend analysis, scenario modelling - exercises in six villages
  6. 6. Intermediate results
  7. 7. Perceived changes in agrarian patterns (1)
  8. 8. Perceived changes in agrarian patterns (2)
  9. 9. Forest cover change (1)
  10. 10. Forest cover change (2)
  11. 11. Using contemporary forest cover only ignores historical dynamics which shape perceptions of landscape change and livelihoods %forest • Forest mapped within 2km of households • Forest gains from 1989 to 2003 in all zones • Forest losses from 2003-2013 in all zones We mapped forest cover change with composites of Landsat images from three different years
  12. 12. Markov models show the probability of transitioning between different land cover types • Forests both gain and lose patches over time • These opposing dynamics may influence human perceptions of change and may, in part, explain any discrepancies in remote sensing and perceptions surveys
  13. 13. Food production
  14. 14. Household income
  15. 15. Food security
  16. 16. Summary 1) Forest land has decreased across the landscape though the patterns and associated impacts on food production and income are relatively different; 2) Total farm area increased in the remote site, but it has not improved food production or income of the households. 3) Total farm area decreased in the intermediate site, but the income increased by large extent due to diverse income sources including fruit garden, forest, wage activities in agriculture and forest sectors and employment; 4) Food shortage largely affect the households in the remote site followed by on-road site though the agricultural production is relatively higher in both sites.
  17. 17. Acknowledgements • CDU Post-graduate research scholarship • Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) for travel grant under Global Agrarian Change Study project • South Asian Network for Environment and Development Economics (SANDEE) for PhD Dissertation Fellowship • CHT residents, Chakma Circle King Office, NGO and Government Officials for time and support in accessing the information
  18. 18. Thank you all for listening Contact: Ronju Ahammad E: B4AAAAJ&hl=en