Struggling to survive, or adapting for the future. Understanding climate change problems, responses and capacities from the perspective of farmers, fishermen and workers in rural Bangladesh

Manja Hoppe Andreasen

Studenteropgave: Speciale


This thesis investigates how people in rural Bangladesh perceive and respond to climate change, and how their adaptive capacity is shaped and constrained by the social, economic, political and institutional context in which they struggle to adapt Bangladesh is a low-laying coastal area in the middle of the heavily populated mega-delta of the Ganges-Brahmaputra plain. Combined with a high frequency of natural disasters, like floods, droughts and cyclones, a weak economy and high poverty levels, it make Bangladesh a hotspot for climate change vulnerability. Climate change and adaptation is studied from below, from the perspective of people living with climate changes. The research design draws on a grounded theory methodology. Four months of qualitative fieldwork on climate change and adaptation in rural Bangladesh constitutes the empirical backbone of the research. Climate change impacts are studied in their local forms based on the perceptions of villagers. For villagers in rural Bangladesh the primary focus is on problems, not causalities. Most of the problems that villagers associate with climate change are not in any way new. Climate change functions as a risk multiplier, adding new dimensions, enhancing or accelerating existing problems, and putting extra strain on people who are already extremely vulnerable. There are not any strategies exclusively used to tackle only climate change, because people respond to problems that are caused by multiple factors - and climate change is only one of them. The response strategies of villagers are categorized in two continuums: coping vs. adapting and planned vs. spontaneous. It is shown how most villagers deploy spontaneous coping strategies in response to immediate problems. The theoretical ambition is to contribute to an understanding of the concept of adaptive capacity as a social phenomenon. Distinguishing between coping and adapting highlights the choices that people make, as well as the choices that are denied to them, since it is outside the scope of their agency. It is shown how the strategies which contain further considerations for the future, and seek to address the underlying causes of the problems, are out of reach for normal villagers, as they require government planning and resources to invest. 3 The adaptive capacity of people is therefore studied in relation to access to resources and the adaption-efforts of the government. Most villagers do not have access to capital, land, or water, and this inequality in access to resources detracts from the adaptive capacity of those without resources. Poverty is severe, land is scarce and unequally distributed, and access to water is controlled by a few powerful people. Villagers consider themselves to be in a subsistence struggle. They do not have a basic resource base from which they can shoulder risks and bounce back from disasters, and they have no surplus to invest in adaptation for the future. Access to resources is related to local production and power structures. Distinguishing between planned and spontaneous strategies shows what options are readily available to villagers and what strategies requires the involvement of the government. There is a strong correlation between planned strategies and adapting for the future, but currently the government is not supporting the adaptive capacity of the people. Structural protection is insufficient, ill-maintained and shrouded in distrust and stories of corruption. Governmental extension services in relation to agriculture, livestock and fisheries are insufficient and inadequate. The government also mediates poor peoples' access to resources through laws and policies, but either the laws are not there, or they are not properly implemented. The causes of this inaction is studied from the perspective of local politicians and governmental service providers and related to the adaptation efforts of the national government.

UddannelserInternationale Udviklingsstudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato14 maj 2011
VejledereMogens Buch-Hansen


  • Climate change
  • adaptive capacity
  • Bangladesh
  • Local government
  • Grounded theory
  • adaptation
  • Coping
  • Resources
  • Adaptation processes
  • Adaptation strategies