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Community radio cuts disaster risk in flood-prone Bangladesh

Radio stations that broadcast in local dialects along Bangladesh’s coast warn residents about storms and help farmers cope with erratic weather.

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“Through our programs we advise fishermen [on how] to find alternative livelihoods, and draw the attention of policymakers to take steps so that fishing communities do not remain unfed,” he said.

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Sharif Iqbal, station manager of Barguna’s Krishi radio, said his station’s main goal is to help people with disaster preparedness and risk reduction, but that offering agricultural advice is also important because of the difficulty of farming on land vulnerable to flooding from the sea.

“For the farmers we broadcast expert opinions on what steps they need to take, and when, to get a better yield,” he said. “We suggest to them what types of seeds they should choose and which one will be suitable for saline-affected lands.”

Real-time information is vital for farmers, according to Iqbal, because land in the area only allows for a single harvest each year.

“If they lose the crop, they will starve,” he said.

Amal Babu, a farmer and listener of Krishi radio, has no illusions about the difficulty of making a living and believes the broadcasts could help.

“This area is prone to disaster. The crop yield is comparatively good here but salinity, drought, flooding, and cyclones destroy [it],” he said. “If the farmers can get advance information on calamity and advice about farming tools they will be able to get a good yield.”

Babu has already taken the advice of a program broadcast on Krishi Radio about a salt-tolerant variety of rice paddy that can survive more than three weeks under water.

“Farmers have started to cultivate the variety and are now less worried about losing crops,” said Babu.

The convener of Bangladesh’s national climate change negotiation team, Quazi Khaliquzzaman Ahmed, agreed that community radio can play a significant role in explaining how to adapt to the effects of climate change and helping people improve their preparedness for disasters.

“In Bangladesh there are 45,000 volunteers ready to act when disaster hits. The community radios can inform them as well as [other] people ... what to do before and after the disaster strikes,” he said.

• Syful Islam is a journalist with the Financial Express newspaper in Bangladesh. He can be reached at: youths1990@yahoo.com. This story is part of a series supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.

This article originally appeared at AlertNet, the Thomson Reuters Foundation humanitarian news service.

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