Community Based Water Governance and Farmland Management to Improve Resilience and Food Security

August 2, 2017

Bangladesh Placeholder

Community Based Water Governance and Farmland Management to Improve Resilience and Food Security

About the Implementing organization

Name: Sabkhali Sarbik Gram Unnayan Samabay Samity

Country: Bangladesh

Year of establishment: 2007

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization, Community enterprise or business , Cooperative business


The initiative has established a model of equitable water governance. The agriculture of the area is rain-fed. The remnant from the monsoon rain is used for irrigation in the winter. The consecutive cyclones in 2007 and 2009 silted up the canal at large and increased salinity in the cropland, majorly limiting agricultural production, especially in winter. Since the winter cultivation area varies depending on the amount of water stored, the community of Shabkhali has decided, that the cultivation area will be decided by the cooperative based on the availability of the water. The determined area is then distributed among all the 360 farmers equally (irrespective of landownership) and they get equal share of the water to cultivate in the winter. The farmers who own the land gets a rent from the user, if the owner him/herself is not cultivating it.
To increase the storage capacity and maintain it, the community created a fund with equal contribution from all farmers and they also raised fund through grants from donors, with support of Mangroves for the Future, an initiative co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP.

The grants were used to establish 6 community enterprises to ensure sustainable use of freshwater and by products of agriculture by introducing aquaculture, horticulture and livestock rearing integrated with paddy farming, and improving the value chain. Wheat cultivation was also introduced as less water requiring option.
As a result, crop production has doubled in last 3 years

Nature Element

Coasts / Wetlands

Type of Action

Restoration / Sustainable use / Advocacy for land & water rights

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Food security / Water security / Disaster risk reduction / Climate action

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

Fish and bird diversity has increased in the canal and the farmland in last 3 years due to increased availability of freshwater. The farmers have also planted more than 2000 trees along the dykes of the canal, creating a greener landscape. Due to increased salinity levels after cyclone Aila, grasses disappeared from the croplands in the canal adjacent area. Since 2015 the grasses have started to re-appear which is considered a sign of reduced salinity level in the soil.

Sustainable Development Impacts

The initiative contributes to the following targets under the SDGs:

SDG 1.4: by providing access to natural resources (canal water in this case) for women

SDG 2.3: by doubling agricultural productivity and income of small scale farmers in Shabkhali area and fruits production, aquaculture and livestock rearing

SDG 6B: by ensuring participation of local community in water management for Shabkhali area

SDG 13B: by building capacity of the community of Shabkhali farmer’s community to adapt with salinity ingress and variability of rain through local level planning and management (climate change-related planning and management in local and marginalized communities)


This model can be scaled up throughout the coastal zone of the country where salinity ingress and freshwater shortage is a major challenge for agriculture and agriculture dependent communities. This initiative has demonstrated how coordinated action at the community level can succeed with support of civil society organizations and local governments.

Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) of UNDP has already recognized it as a disaster risk reduction strategy and provided the Union Disaster Management Committees in two different locations in Shyamnagar sub-district to scale up the intervention as a disaster risk reduction strategy already.

National Coordinating Body (NCB) for MFF under the MoEF, GoB has already discussed the issue of reclaiming the public access to the canals and other common pool resources and advocate for community based management, inspired by this action. NCB is a multi-stakeholder body for influencing & improving coastal zone management in Bangladesh.


The model was replicated in another part of the Shyamnagar sub-district and has been similarly successful. However, this model requires technical backstopping and motivation from a civil society organization to gear up and work as mediator for the community consultation process and consensus on local rules and principles of access and benefit sharing.

This can be replicated in coastal countries with share similar geographic context and climatic challenges, especially in South and South East Asia. It has already been shared in Regional Steering Committee of the MFF with all member countries has been appreciated and has a strong chance of replication.

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