Community Resilience Action Groups build flood resilience in Bangladesh

Monday, July 5, 2021

Find out how Community Resilience Action Groups (CRAGs), community based volunteer groups, are contributing to the flood resilience of communities that Concern Worldwide are working with in Bangladesh as part of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance.

Concern Worldwide’s flood resilience work in Bangladesh

Concern Worldwide is a member of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance. As such, we are implementing the Flood Resilience Project with our local partner organisation Assistance for Social Organization and Development (ASOD) in 22 flood-affected communities in Bangladesh.

Doing so we have recognised the importance of genuine community engagement in the project. The communities themselves are the key to understanding what resources, risks and vulnerabilities exist. They are the key source of information during the assessment of community resilience we carry out using the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) process.

Find out more about how Concern has used the FRMC in Bangladesh and what we’ve learned in this brief.

How the Community Resilience Action Groups were born

During the FRMC process it was vital to ensure that the whole community was consulted, had opportunity to provide feedback on the findings of the assessment, and give their opinion on what actions to prioritise for resilience building.

To make sure that everyone’s viewpoints were taken on board, our team consulted small groups of volunteers in every community. These small groups then repeated the consultation process themselves with other groups in their communities. This meant that all people within the community had a chance to make their voice heard.

Cluster feedback workshop, Belka Nobabganj, Sundarganj
Feedback workshop. Photo from Concern Worldwide

Later, as part of the process to identify and develop activities, communities decided that they wanted to form community action groups in order to take forward the agreed resilience building actions. Members of the volunteer groups we’d worked with originally came together to form Community Resilience Action Groups (CRAGs).

Who is in the Community Resilience Action Groups?

The members of each CRAG are nominated from the community to represent the community as a whole. At least 40% of the members should be women. The CRAGs have also agreed that either the role of President or Secretary in the CRAG should be held by woman. This ensures women’s representation both in the general membership and at the leadership level.

Our project team (Concern and ASOD staff) have trained the CRAGs according to their capacity and requests. This includes topics such as flood management, first aid, gender, leadership, communication and responding to and preventing COVID-19 in their communities.

CRAGs ensure communities receive support during and after floods

Since receiving this training, the CRAGs are communicating with local government institutions and government departments at sub-district level to integrate the actions identified in their Community Resilience Action Plans with the Departments’ plans.

The Community Action Plan in Hatibanda, Bangladesh. Photo by Finola Mohan, Concern Worldwide

The CRAGs are also using this communication channel to advocate for support to the most vulnerable in their communities for better response to, and faster recovery from, floods.

Early support during the 2020 monsoon was focused on communities based on the mainland. People we work with, who are living on the Chars (riverine islands), were overlooked until the CRAGs reached out to authorities and successfully advocated for expanding services to Char communities.

The CRAGs communicated with the Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE), Sub-District Health Department, Department of Agricultural Extension and the Department of Livestock well in advance of the floods. As a result of this early engagement, the Sub-District Health Department organised a medical team and arranged nine medical camps in the area where we work.

A total of 1,883 people including children, women, people with disabilities and elderly people received advice and medicine from the Upazila Health Department during the monsoon floods.
The DPHE provided water purifying tablets to 12,000 households. 10 temporary tube-wells and sanitary latrines were established at flood shelters and a further two community tube wells were installed for a group of 35 households.

Building flood resilience using resilient agriculture practices

The CRAGs have also engaged with the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE). This has resulted in a joint plan and training provided by DAE (with logistical support from the project) on flood resilient agriculture and vermi composting to farmers in these communities.

The farmers received input support from agricultural institutions which included seeds for winter cropping. This helped the smallholder farmers recover from the impacts of both floods and COVID-19.

CRAGs took on additional responsibilities because of COVID-19

110 volunteers received orientation, information and an introduction to the Union Councils to ensure continuity of contact with communities even when our staff were unable to physically reach the communities during COVID-19 lockdowns.

These initiatives have enhanced coordination between the community representatives and government departments, which in turn is improving disaster response support for the communities.

Local leadership has been strengthened. We have seen improvements in linkages between Union Councils and communities. As a result, CRAG representatives had the opportunity to advise government representatives on prioritising the most vulnerable people in their communities for government support. The CRAGs have also taken ownership of a database in which disaggregated data is gathered, identifying the most vulnerable members of their communities.

Successful activities inspire other communities to take action

In early 2020, the project supported two communities and Union Councils to repair a road. This proved effective in protecting agricultural lands and houses in two of the communities we work with, as well as two neighbouring communities during the 2020 monsoon floods.

Observing this success, another community we work wanted to replicate the project. They included community road repair and reinforcement in their Community Resilience Action Plan. The CRAG coordinated with community members, Union Council and the Union Disaster Management Committee (UDMC) to undertake this road project. Meanwhile, our Flood Resilience Project only provided technical support, and contributed a fifth of the cost.

750 ft road repaired through active community engagement,
750 ft road in Dhubni, Hatibandha repaired through active community engagement. Photo by Md. Ohidul Islam, Concern Wordwide

These examples of what the CRAGs have achieved so far show that social capitals, particularly participation, coordination and leadership, have been enhanced in the communities. As has human capitals like awareness, knowledge and governance.

The CRAGs are proving valuable and empowering. This community level structure enables people to influence how the threat of floods is being managed in their own communities.

Find out more

If you want to learn more about the work Concern Worldwide is doing in Bangladesh as part of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, have a look at our Bangladesh country page.

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