ABSTRACT

At one level, this chapter looks at Bangladeshi villagers making livelihood choices amidst new economic opportunities and development patterns. At another level, it looks at how climate- and environment-related stresses and shocks make livelihoods difficult and make additional or better income necessary. It builds on peer-reviewed research that analyses focus groups and interviews in 14 villages across three districts affected by multiple hazards and disasters, including floods, riverbank erosion, cyclone and drought. With data, insights and contextual explanation, the chapter argues that it is not only cost-benefit or risk-resilience considerations that matter in livelihood decision-making, but also the ways in which people perceive changes and response options and act according to the socio-cultural acceptance of the choices before them. 1

“I worked as a day labourer in the village then. However, most of the time I had no work to do. In 1989 I went to Chalna (a sub-district town in Khulna district) in search of work with a group of seven or eight persons. I got the work of paddy harvesting. I worked for 13 days and earned BDT 1500 (GBP 15.5) and came back home. After two months, I went to Faridpur with the same group. At that time, we got the work of digging of pond. We worked the whole Kartik (mid-October to November) month there. Later we went to Jaldumur in Khulna for paddy harvesting in the months of Agrahayon and Poush (mid-December to mid-February). Thus, I have continued my livelihood as internal migrant and worked in the nearby districts.

“When my elder son left school at 14, I took him with me for work in Khulna and Faridpur. My second son is also a migrant worker. He works in brickfield in other districts such as Magura, Comilla. In 2010, a local contractor asked me [for permission] to hire my son for six months in return for BDT 35,000. When I agreed, he gave me BDT 20,000 in advance. In 2011 my son also went to work in a brickfield in Comilla district.”

– Muhammad Kazim (name changed to protect identity)