Through local initiatives, WFP supports the improvement of women’s access to food. The women receive food rations in exchange for work or training that benefit communities. Activities include building schools or sanitary facilities. Photo: WFP/Chu Cancan

Enhancing resilience to disasters and the effects of climate change

The World Food Programme (WFP) targeted 2,000 ultra-poor families (10,000 beneficiaries) in Bangladesh to promote sustainable development in targeted communities by strengthening social safety nets whose lives and livelihoods are affected by environmental degradation, poverty, the cumulative effects of climate change on food security and hunger.

The work has contributed to Millennium Development Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. This project lasted three years (2011-2013). It focused on achieving physical, environmental, and social resilience, economic resilience, as well as capacity enhancement of ultra-poor women, men and their families. The project was carried out in partnership with the private sector partner LG Electronics.

Case study

Enhancing Resilience to Natural Disasters and the Effects of Climate Change

HFA Priority

HFA Priority 4: Reduce the underlying risk factors:

·       Sustainable ecosystems and environmental management;

·       DRR strategies integrated with climate change adaptation;

·       Food security for resilience.


What was the problem?

·       Cyclones.

·       Salt water intrusion into agricultural lands.

·       River erosion.

·       Floods in 2004, Cyclone Sidr in 2007, and Cyclone Aila in 2009, caused millions of dollars of destroyed homes, damaged fields and added to long-term food insecurity.


Patherghata Upazila in Barguna district of Barisal Region

How the problem was addressed?

Phase 1: Food and Cash for Training.

Phase 2: Food and Cash for Work.

Phase 3: Cash Transfers for Investments and Consumption Support.

Phase I (2011)

The first phase of Food and Cash for Work took place from January to June 2011. A total of 2,000 labourers (73% women) were provided with short-term employment to develop identified community infrastructure: canal re-excavations and road-cum-embankments.

The first phase of Food and Cash for Training was took place from July to December 2011. The 2,000 participants were engaged in training on disaster preparedness and risk management with the aim of contributing to improved social and economic resilience. Training was also held for representatives from local institutions and selected community leaders focusing on disaster preparedness and management.

Phase II (2012)

The second phase of Food and Cash for Work was undertaken from January to June 2012. This phase included the development and rehabilitation of 20 community infrastructures, including canal re-excavation, road-cum-embankments, pond excavation, ground raising and homestead raising. This created much needed short-term employment opportunities for the targeted women and men, and developed infrastructure that aimed to contribute to improved flood control, increased irrigation and agricultural opportunities, and protection of homesteads.

The second phase of Food and Cash for Training was undertaken from July to December 2012; all 2,000 female and male project participants attended the planned sessions. The local level planning teams established within the community and the Union of Disaster Management Committees were also engaged in training on “Disaster Management and Local Level Planning for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation” through local planning.

Government officials, non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives and elected community people reviewed maps and prioritized community needs, focusing on disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation schemes. During 2011 and 2012 these teams identified 25 canals, three embankments, six road-cum-embankments, 10 pond re-excavations and 11 homestead-raising schemes to be constructed with technical guidance from the local government engineering department (LGED).

Phase III (2013)

Building upon the platform for growth established by Phase I and Phase II, Phase III consisted of the new ‘promotional’ component of the ER programme, ‘Cash Transfers for Investment and Consumption Support’. Over Phase III, each female participant (and in the case of a male labourer/trainee, his wife or mother) received a substantial one-off cash grant for investment in an income generating activity, complemented by a monthly allowance to smooth consumption, and relevant training to build required knowledge and skills to support the investment.

Who was involved and what role did they play?

The project was the result of a joint partnership between WFP and the private sector partner LG electronics. The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) under the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives was WFP’s government partner agency which provided necessary technical support services for local level DRR planning, preparation of schemes and technical monitoring of the implementation of activities.

The cooperating partner NGO Shushilon, provided facilitation in the process of local-level planning, identification of schemes by the community and provided training and necessary support services to participants.

Main Challenges

Protracted political strikes and transport blockades in the last quarter of 2013 led to delays in distribution of the monthly allowance. In particular, many local bank branches experienced liquidity crises during this period, which meant that cash was not available for withdrawal. WFP proactively engaged with the banks to mitigate these delays as fast as possible.

The Food and Cash for Work period was somewhat shorter than planned, resulting in participants accruing less savings than anticipated; BDT 1,900 versus the BDT 3,000 expected over a normal work period. Together with delays in distributing the cash grant, this led some households to use a portion of their savings for a purpose other than investing in their income generating activities

Seasonal diseases of goats and poultry during the wet season were a concern. However, the cooperating partner NGO coordinated with the Department of Livestock and private service providers to ensure that participants received necessary inputs and support to mitigate the risk of lost assets. Accordingly, almost all cattle, goats and poultry were de-wormed and vaccinated, and losses were minimal.

What are the lessons learnt? What could have been done differently and why?

The content of the individual business plans prescribed in the template was found to be too complicated. It would have been better if the template was made in a format understandable by rural women with little or no education.

As a lesson learnt for future implementation, this will be reviewed to better suit participants’ experience and knowledge.


What was the result of this approach/intervention?

Physical and environmental resilience: Community assets built such as:

1.     Homestead raising of the targeted households and communities to protect from flooding;

2.     Re-excavation/rehabilitation of drainage and irrigation canals to increase agricultural productivity, and subsequently increase employment opportunities of the poor in agriculture;

3.     Reconstruction/rehabilitation of rural access roads/feeder roads and embankments to improve communication (e.g. access to farms, markets and flood/cyclone shelters) and protect the community and cultivable land from flooding and erosion;

4.     Excavation/re-excavation of community ponds, used for drinking water and/or irrigation;

5.     Construction of raised ground for community use as flood and cyclone shelters.

Social resilience

Activation of local institutions and establishment of their links with vulnerable families and communities and thereby enhancing the scope of preparedness and resilience of the targeted poor families to disasters/shocks.

Economic resilience

1.     Protected existing productive assets and created short-term employment opportunities through food and cash for work during the lean agricultural seasons.

2.     Provided cash transfers to targeted families to: protect household productive assets from stress-induced sales and/or investment in recovery of assets lost and/or build new assets that would enhance their income and economic resilience to future shocks; and to assist them in maintaining required consumption levels over the initial phase of investment.

Capacity enhancement of ultra-poor women, men, and their families

1.     Provided a set of training on disaster preparedness, life skills, nutrition behavioural change, and income generating skills to targeted individuals and their families through the Food and Cash for Training component.

2.     Empowered women by providing equitable access to employment, knowledge and skills.  

3.     Enhanced the status of women at household and community level through their involvement in household income generation and investment decision-making.

Measuring success

What were the key elements of success?

1.     Rural communities vulnerable to natural disaster and climate change have become more shock resilient.

2.     Livelihoods, food security, and the economic capacity of ultra-poor households have improved

Was the success/impact measured? If so, what indicators were used to measure? If not, why not?

·       28 schemes completed under the Food and Cash for Work component. This included homestead raising for targeted households and communities protected from flooding and erosion.

·       28.5 km of improved roads, canals and embankments. This resulted in improved community resilience to disaster related shocks and threats, as demonstrated by an increase in the community asset score from an average of 50 to 56, out of 100.

·       75 days of employment opportunities provided for ultra-poor women and men during the lean agricultural seasons.

·       73 percent of labourers were women.

It is estimated that food consumption increased by 47%. Food consumption scores were not specifically measured in Patharghata upazila. This estimate is based on food consumption scores in comparable areas where the same activities were implemented: Dacope upazila, Khulna District; Shyamnagar upazila, Satkhira District; and Kalapara upazila, Patuakhali district.

·       Households accrued savings totalling US$49,243 or an average of US$25 per household.

Relevance to HFA

How have the results contributed to HFA progress in the country?

HFA Priority 3

Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels 

Disasters can be substantially reduced if people are well informed and motivated towards a culture of disaster prevention and resilience, which in turn requires the collection, compilation and dissemination of relevant knowledge and information on hazards, vulnerabilities and capacities. 

Education and training 

Promote community-based training initiatives, with the use of volunteers, as appropriate, to enhance local capacities to mitigate and cope with disasters. 


In line with WFP’s goal of enhancing resilience to disasters and the effects of climate change, LG Electronics followed a disaster risk reduction and comprehensive resilience building approach. It involved vulnerable families and communities in food and cash for work and food and cash for training activities, largely by female members of households. 

The capacity of ultra-poor women, men, and their families was enhanced through a variety of comprehensive trainings. In Phase I and II, each project participant completed a total of 75 hours of training in over 25 sessions. 

Training modules covered disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation, Food and Nutrition, women’s empowerment, and Income generating activities. Furthermore, in Phase III, each woman participant received 15 hours of entrepreneurship training and nine hours of training in income-generating skills. This training built the confidence of the women to take ownership of their own income generating activities and provided them with the necessary technical skills, and links with government services and markets, to establish income-generating activities.

HFA Priority 4

Reduce the underlying risk factors 

Disaster risks related to changing social, economic, environmental conditions and land use, and the impact of hazards associated with geological events such as weather, water, climate variability and climate change, are addressed in sector development planning and programmes as well as in post-disaster situations. 

Implementation of integrated environmental and natural resource management approaches that incorporate disaster risk reduction, including structural and non-structural measures* such as integrated flood management and appropriate management of fragile ecosystems.

Structural measures refer to any physical construction to reduce or avoid possible impacts of hazards, which include engineering measures and construction of hazard-resistant and protective structures and infrastructure. Non-structural measures refer to policies, awareness and knowledge.


Through the construction and repair of priority community assets, the projects built the physical and environmental resilience of targeted ultra-poor households to disaster related shocks and threats.

Promoted food security as an important factor in ensuring the resilience of communities to hazards, particularly in areas prone to drought, flood, cyclones and other hazards that can weaken agriculture-based livelihoods.

It is anticipated that the establishment of income-generating activities, and subsequent reinvestment and diversification, led to sustained improvements in the economic resilience of the targeted women and their households in the longer term.   80 percent of the women participants completed one cycle of reinvestment before second phase.  

Did HFA OR Making Cities Resilient Campaign play a role in enabling this initiative?


If yes, how / If no, what needs to be done in HFA2 to enable such initiatives?

·       HFA2 could support WFP with technical assistance for research on using technology for disaster preparedness and response.  

·       HFA2 could promote the implementation of local risk assessment and disaster preparedness programmes in schools and institutions of higher education.

·       HFA2 could support WFP with funding opportunities.

Potential for replication

Can this initiative be replicated? Or has it already been replicated? If so, where. Provide a brief explanation on: how, and if there is no potential for replication.

Yes, this project has been replicated across Bangladesh. This programme ‘LG Hope Family-Enhancing Resilience’ activity has been implemented as part of the ongoing WFP country programme “Enhancing Resilience to Natural Disasters and the Effects of Climate Change” that aims to build resilience of poor households and vulnerable communities against weather related shocks while promoting an enabling environment for sustainable development activity. The project lasted 3 years, from January 2011 to December 2013.

Contribution by



§  Families In Bangladesh Learn To Cope With Storms And Cyclones

1.     Rezaul Karim,

2.     Siddiqul Islam Khan,

3.     Maherin Ahmed,