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Improving flood plain management

Improving flood plain management through adaptive learning networks in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh many Community Based Organizations (CBOs) have been formed and left to continue managing wetlands when projects ended. This project brought 150 existing CBOs involved in managing floodplain natural resources together into a learning network. The CBOs identified lessons and good practices and spread their adoption. They identified gaps and opportunities, and coordinated innovation to address common problems. The adaptive learning process evolved through workshops among CBO leaders at a regional level and two-way communication between leaders and members of their CBOs. By bringing together CBOs that had before concentrated on either fishery management or water management for rice, and reviewing together constraints and opportunities, proven practices spread and new options were tested.

Over three years 56% of participating CBOs acted to improve fisheries management, and 72% now have fish sanctuaries. Taking a system-based view of natural resource management encouraged a quarter of the CBOs to test dry season crops that need only about 20% of the water used by the dominant irrigated rice. The research indicates that an adaptive learning network results in: more rapid and systematic learning than individual trial and error, encourages innovation, enhances access to advice, and strength in numbers improves ability to face threats such as external pressure to access common water resources.

The project was coordinated by the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), with involvement of a nongovernmental organization, Banchte Shekha. The Flood Hazard Research Centre provided technical support and led the research activities.


International Development Research Centre (IDRC)


2007 – 2010

FHRC Project Manager:

Dr Parvin Sultana

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