My visit to Madaripara Char was a fantastic experience as it enabled me to see the scale of help Friendship was providing to the community and how the community was using this help in an effective and imaginative way. Madaripara is a remote and isolated island in Northern Bangladesh and like all the other islands in this region it was suffering with the growing effects of climate change and had seen flooding increase over the years. This flooding was devastating in so many ways.
Economically the floods were extremely damaging to a community that relied heavily on farming and rearing livestock so Friendship had created a programme focusing on economic development and economic resilience from floods, storms and river erosion. Friendship provide the community with livelihood support in the form of giving seeds, sheep and training to the community. The introduction of sheep to the islands was fantastic for the community as sheep are resilient to some of the consequences of flooding. When the floods come diseases can be spread which effect the livestock so the villagers had built mochas which are raised structures for the sheep to stay in and provide them with some protection from the floods and disease and Friendship would also provide vaccinations for the sheep to help maintain their health. Sheep meat was also beneficial to the community where in a region where the diet is very restricted sheep meat is good for the human gut. The meat could also be sold in local markets providing the community with an income. Friendship also introduced an artificial insemination program for the sheep which on average helps one sheep increase to three in a period of 8 months.
Friendship provided agricultural training programmes for the community, introduced seeds that were more resilient to the changing environment and so ultimately help give the community both a more sustainable diet and another source of income when theses crops are taken to the market.
Pride, resilience and hope were the emotions that I saw in the eyes of the villagers as I spoke to them of their plans, ideas and their partnership with Friendship. These emotions were obvious when I met Abdul Jolin who held his sheep with pride. He had experienced much in his life but he could now see a path way clearing. The damage and consequences of climate change was not going to go away and they knew it would probably get worse but they also knew that they were no longer powerless, they have a partner in Friendship and this partnership had helped plant the seeds of hope and hope was now flourishing.