Rakhine ethnic farmers’ disproportionate access to early warning and weather information in coastal Bangladesh: Empirical insights

Authors: Saleh Ahmed*, Boise State University, Pei-Lin Yu, Boise State University
Topics: Ethnic Geography, Hazards and Vulnerability, Cultural Geography
Keywords: climate change, coastal Bangladesh; ethnic minority; Rakhine; weather and climate information
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 41
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Adverse climate impacts are of immediate concern for people around the world. This is particularly challenging for people who depend on farming or fishing and have limited capacities for coping with climatic stresses. The situation is more complex for ethnic minorities who have been historically excluded and marginalized. In coastal Bangladesh, Rakhine ethnic farmers who have lived there for generations are facing similar experiences. For people living in the region early warning and other weather and climate information are critical for their response to natural hazards, such as tropical cyclones, storm surge or rainfall variability. This presentation is based on research conducted in 2017 and 2018 when coastal Bangladesh experienced major rainfalls and flooding. Farmers lost almost 50% of their crops, and most ethnic farmers had no warming about the unpredictable rainfall although the government made announcements using national television or radio channels. Linguistic barriers, lower connectivity with the local markets, pre-existing political, cultural, and social marginalization, remote locations and poor road infrastructure, and limited ability to interpret or synthesize complex weather information contributed ethnic minority farmers' disproportionate access to public information compared to mainstream Bengali people. This highlights the structural exclusion of ethnic minorities in a climate-vulnerable context, where information is critical to avoid major human or economic casualties. In this context, inclusive adaptation is critical, since ethnic farmers are usually poor, experience marginalization, and have no or limited voice to decision-making that can affect their lives. These insights are relevant in other geographical contexts facing similar socio-environmental challenges.

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