Climate resilient participatory afforestation and reforestation project: A brief outline

--Uttam Kumar Saha Project Director Climate Resilient Participatory Afforestation and Reforestation Project Department of Forest

Bangladesh is among the most densely-populated countries in the world, already vulnerable to natural disasters and now becoming highly-affected by climate change. Tropical cyclones, storms and surges are major features of the coastal zone’s climate. These storms have a significant negative impact on the area and its growing population of about 16 million people. As a result of its historically large population and geography, the coastal area has suffered significantly from cyclone landfalls. The most deadly ones occurred in 1970 and 1991, causing over 350,000 and 140,000 fatalities, respectively. .  A thick forest belt along the coastline has a high potential as a buffer zone to reduce future climate change-induced threats, particularly the impacts of cyclones and storm surges. Forest ecosystems and biodiversity are also vulnerable to current climate risks and future climate change. Delay in afforestation and reforestation will increase the climate vulnerability and further reduce the potential for carbon sequestration.  As such, afforesting and reforesting accompanied by improved forest management and participation of forest dependent communities is critical for addressing the challenges of vulnerability to climate change in Bangladesh and also preparing the BFD to mainstream climate change in planning and management of future forestry investments. Considering that coastal and hilly areas are ecologically sensitive and extremely vulnerable with climate change already manifesting, adhering to a structured approach to development planning and disaster management is essential. Two-thirds of the land area of the country is under crops, the share of land under forest cover is the second lowest in the region.  Moreover, degraded forests and ecosystems are more vulnerable to climate change.  In this context, participatory afforestation and reforestation in coastal and hilly areas is a key contributor in meeting the challenge of climate change vulnerability and depleting forest resources.

Substance of the Project

The project is being implemented from July, 2013 and will continue till December, 2016. According to the World Bank procedure, the physical works of the project should be completed by December 2016.

Project Areas

In coastal region, target geographic area will cover nine coastal districts out of the nineteen coastal districts of Bangladesh. These coastal districts are Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Barisal, Patuakhali, Barguna and Bhola. In the hilly area, the project will target the core and buffer zones of the Reserved Forest Land of Chittagong District and Cox’s Bazar District. The BFD administrative divisions are different from the administrative districts and the above districts are divided in ten Divisional Forest Offices. The divisional forest offices involved in the project implementation are: Cox’s Bazar North Forest Division, Cox’s Bazar South Forest Division, Chittagong Coastal Forest Division, Chittagong North Forest Division, Chittagong South Forest Division, Noakhali Coastal Afforestation Division, Feni Social Forestry Division, Barisal Coastal Forestry Division, Patuakhali Coastal Afforestation Division and Bhola Coastal Afforestation Division.

Project Jurisdiction in Brief

CRPARP will be implemented in the jurisdiction of 51 Upazilas in 9 coastal districts under 2 Divisions.

Objectives of CRPARP

The overall objective of the project is to reduce forest degradation and increase forest coverage through participatory planning/monitoring and to contribute in building the long-term resilience of selected communities in coastal and hilly areas to climate change.

The specific objectives are

(i)         To establish newly afforested and reforested areas using climate resilient species to work as windbreak along the coastal and hilly areas;

(ii)        To support alternative livelihoods of forest-dependent communities; and

(iii)       To strengthen the institutional capacity of the forest department to manage forest in a participatory and sustainable manner.

Project Goal

It is expected that at the end of the life cycle of the project, the project will enhance the resilience to climate change, of selected communities in the coastal and hilly areas of Bangladesh.

Components of CRPARP

The project is comprised of four components and is designed in such a way to complement and support each other:

1.         Participatory Afforestation and Reforestation

2.         Alternative Livelihood Sup-port to Forest Communities

3.         Capacity Development for Forest Resource Planning and Management

4.         Project Management

Participatory Afforestation and Reforestation

The objective of component 1 is to increase the afforested/reforested areas through participatory forestry and co-management approach in the degraded forestland, marginal, fallow and newly accreted land in coastal and hilly areas.  In achieving the target of participatory afforestation and reforestation, the component is also supporting the rehabilitation/reconstruction of the existing field offices of the Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD). Component 1 has two sub components:

Participatory Afforestation and Reforestation:

This subcomponent will include two types of forestry technologies (i) treatment and reclamation of coastal mangrove land, and (ii) treatment of the undulating terrain within 20 km radius of coastal zone and also will contribute to afforestation and reforestation of total 17,000 ha land and 1,672 km roadside plantation. Both types of land are affected by frequent cyclones. It is an initiative with a clear climate change related productive purpose. The project will plant around 7,000 ha as part of stabilizing the newly accreted land which is subject to increasing incidence of cyclone and also extremely critical for ensuring a sustainable mangrove succession process. This will subsequently reduce the impact of the cyclones. The remaining around 10,000 ha afforestation and reforestation are selected for two districts that fall between 15 and 20 km of coastline and are frequently affected by cyclones. The afforestation and reforestation will be undertaken on available lands of BFD. This component will support nursery raising, tree planting, 2 years of maintenance, beneficiaries’ selection, and monitoring and evaluation of the plantation program.

Rehabilitation/Reconstruction of Forest Department Field Infrastructure:

The objective of the subcomponent is to rehabilitate and/or reconstruct the existing field level offices in the project area to ensure proper operation of BFD. The subcomponent will follow the design and construction practices and that have no or little residual impacts on the biological, physical and natural environment that could potentially support forest biodiversity conservation by (i) minimizing and mitigating adverse impacts of infrastructure through appropriate site selection and construction methods; and (ii) remediating and compensating for any residual damage to have a net positive impact.

Alternative Livelihood Support to Forest Communities

The objective of this component is to improve and diversify non forest-based livelihood opportunities of poor forest dependent households in selected forest communities. Scientists have projected that the frequency of climate change event in Bangladesh is likely to impact all natural resources and food security systems in the coming decades.  There is realization at the national level on the need for increasing the climate resilience efforts at the community level particularly in degraded forest areas.  The livelihood interventions under this project have been designed as part of the resilience strategy at the community level.  200 community based groups will be formed in project areas to demonstrate alternative livelihoods options that not only conserve the newly planted areas but also help demonstrate reducing the dependency on forest resources.  Piloting such resilience approaches in project areas is critical to mitigate climate change in a cost-effective way while providing multiple socio-economic and environmental co-benefits. The success of such resilience approach is mainly determined based on the type of catalytic organization involved in community mobilization and institution building. Arannayk Foundation (AF) and its partner NGOs – IPSA and Uttaran are implementing the key catalytic organization to provide such support to the project since it has proven experience with the improvement of livelihoods of the forest communities. The activities under Alternative Livelihood Support will be implemented both individually and at community level.

This component will target 6,000 households comprising no less than 25,000 people in 200 forest communities in 9 project districts with a clear and sound selection method.

Capacity Development for Forest Resource Planning and Management

The objective of the component 3 is to improve the technical knowledge based on forest resource assessment, program monitoring and long-term planning for the sustainable development of the forestry sector. This component aims to improve forest management practices through three specific interventions i.e., improving the current management practices backed by technological interventions; building the capacity of the department not only by deploying appropriate manpower and training plans, but also by proper resource planning, resource management and human resource (HR) assessment. Such capacity development plan would also include specific requirements keeping in mind the climate variables evident in Bangladesh for both mitigation and adaptation and  reviewing and revising the existing forestry master plan with evolving trend in forestry practices, socioeconomic, livelihood and climate resilience attributes, increasing land use change pressures and new policies/strategies.

The project will also support the review and update of the existing Forestry Sector Master Plan (1993-2013). It will be done by adopting a consultative and inclusive process to prioritize the relevant issues and challenges. The update will include contemporary issues of climate change impacts, adaptation measures and carbon sequestration. The analytical studies such as economic cost-benefit of afforestation/reforestation investment, impacts of climate change, improved water management in hilly areas, land tenure issues in accreted afforested areas, policy, institutional and governance structure of BFD for participatory approach and improved forest management practices will be carried out to strengthen the knowledgebase and contribute to the relevance of the master plan.

Project Management

This component is supporting the establishment of a Project Implementation Unit (PIU) in BFD for implementation of component 1 and 3.  The PIU is providing necessary support for financial management, social and environmental safeguards, communication and procurement to Arannayk Foundation. BFD has established a full-fledged PIU, headed by a Project Director and supported by other consultants. BFD’s ten Divisional Forest Offices, headed by the Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs), are responsible for implementing activities on the ground.  Assistant Conservator of Forests, Range Officers, Beat Officers and accounts/admin staff assist the DFO in implementing the field level activities.  Each DFO is supported by one Community Mobilization Officer (Junior Consultant) and one Account Officer (Junior Consultant) through project financing.

Project Beneficiaries

The core beneficiaries of the project are landless, destitute women, socially disadvantaged and insolvent freedom fighters living in and around the forest. The afforestation and reforestation will work in the long-run as the natural green belt (wind breaker) against cyclones and contribute in stabilizing denuded land.  Participating communities are selected based on clear criteria, such as proximity to areas to be afforested and reforested, poverty level and degree of impact from climate changes.

Afforestation and Reforestation Program

CRPAR Project will carry out the following plantation activities with the species mentioned below

Environment and Social Safeguards

The Bank applies safeguard policies to all projects funded under it. The policies intended to minimize adverse impacts on environmental and social issues that may occur during the planning, implementation, operation and maintenance and de-commissioning of a project.  Environment Management Framework (EMF) and Social Management Framework (SMF) serve as the detailed guidelines on how to conduct environmental and social activities during the implementation of the project.

Awareness Program

CRPARP has designed an awareness movement to educate and create awareness among the masses of the local community of the project locations so that they can see the benefits they will experience from the activities of this project. Arranayak Foundation is turning on to propel the local community on Alternative Income Generation (AIG). Likewise, Community Mobilization Officers are regularly motivating the local masses, holding consultation meetings in the community. A Communication and Information Consultant has been employed to appraise the knowledge of the local community and a firm will also be employed, supervised by the Communication and Information Specialist to design and follow out the communication campaign in the project location.

Job Opportunities to be created through this Operation of the project:

Throughout the implementation phase of the project, a large number of job opportunities will be generated in the project areas. It is estimated that the participatory afforestation and reforestation activity will generate around 3.6 million man work days. The civil works (rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Bangladesh Forest Department field offices) will generate around 0.38 million man work days.

ConclusionIt is anticipated that, CRPARP will make a positive long-term contribution to the environment and Bangladesh Forest Department by increasing the forest cover through afforestation and reforestation in the target areas. It will also improve the present afforestation and reforestation practices in the project area by protecting against soil and water erosion, forming as a roadblock during the cyclone and storm surge, reducing atmospheric pollution, by providing habitat for flora and fauna and building of minor infrastructure and alternative livelihood for the community living close to the forest.