Friday, 1 October 2010

Into the field - Day 3

The next field visit is nothing like the first two. We are off to visit JOYNOGOR - Kamarkhular Union, sub-division Dacope, Khulna District. It takes several hours by car, followed by several hours of boat travel (no seats, sitting on the hard deck) to get to this isolated location. We stop on the way for some delicious freshly caught prawns and crab, which is cooked & handed to us by some men and women living on a sliver of land. 

family that caught & cooked fish

On we go to the community, which has been affected by two cyclones, Sidr and Ayla, the first of which happened two years and the second of which happened about one year ago. These cyclones put the entire district under water, washing away any existing infrastructure such as roads and putting buildings, schools, cropping fields and houses partially or totally under water. 

under water

erstwhile school
The approx 70,000 people in this community have built make-shift houses on top of mud banks and feeble polder dikes that were constructed to cultivate crops. Bamboo bridges connect the slivers of land. The technology needed to rebuild the polders is lacking, keeping the women and men of this community in a vunerable position. They live on Bangla government and UNDP aid.
bamboo bridge

We walk around the main village area and we are invited into one of the huts where we are served an ample and unexpectedly scrumptuous lunch of rice, fish and duck. No sign of food shortage here, yet there is no work for the men and women of this community ~ apart from some fishing ~ until the polders are reconstructed.

Literacy levels in this community are about 20% although enrolment in the make-shift school nearby is high, and especially well attended by girls (enrolment is 70% ). School is free for Bangla children through primary and free for girls through year 11. As mentioned in an earlier blog, graduation needs to be paid for and this is often where girls' ongoing education falls over. 

make-shift school
We take a small boat to tour around the makeshift dikes and stop at a spot where there a number of families have set up house. Mud everywhere and I manage to get one of my feet stuck in the mud! We return to the 'main' land and sit down with the community for a chat. 

community members
They want to know if I can help create a future for them. I hesitate to answer ~ I have no magic wand and wonder what sort of future there could possibly be for the members of this community ~ if water levels don't drop, they cannot rebuild infrastructure or farm their land. They are not willing to relocate as their wealth is vested in their (currently underwater) land.

I leave this community with a heavy heart.

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