Back in June, I went to Rwanda, and in early August I got to go to a country I never thought I would visit - Bangladesh. From the moment I landed into Dhaka, I knew this was something different. The sheer size of this huge city of over 14 million people was something I had never experienced before. The roads were chaotic and the heat and humidity were unbearable. Interestingly, where there were proper cement roads, they were of a much better quality than roads here in Cali, although many in Dhaka were in fact dirt roads or dirt mixed with smashed bricks. One aspect that was particularly sad was to see the level of poverty that exists there. I saw no upper-class areas, no nice parks or gardens reserved for the rich, demonstrating the significant lack of inequality compared to Colombia, but also the extent of the deprivation in Dhaka. Yet, one of the most pleasant surprises was just how lovely all the locals were. In the short amount of time I had to myself to explore a little, not once did I feel unsafe, not even at night. I felt respected and like I was allowed to blend in (although clearly I stood out like a sore thumb!). I also was surprised to see various big red English-style double-decker buses. An obvious remnant from colonial times.
Regarding the work my team carried out, it was fascinating to see how much is going on in Bangladesh to protect them from climate change. This is logical since it is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate shocks as it is so low-lying, and relies so heavily on agriculture. I saw numerous examples of Feed the Future and its implementing partners developing climate-smart solutions to ensure that Bangladeshis do not suffer in times of floods and droughts and the increasing salinity of freshwater resources due to sea level increases. This was an adaptation that I was fascinated by. The use of saline-tolerant bamboo to work as a physical barrier to the rising sea, and the development of saline-tolerant seed varieties to make sure that land remained profitable and that food security would not suffer. Equally, I really enjoyed hearing about the increase of aquaculture (fish and shrimp) in ponds as the sea creeps further inland. This was often accompanied by growing vegetables on the side of these ponds. Very innovative and making the best out of a worrying situation.
All in all it was a valuable experience both personally and professionally and it is always eye-opening to see such contrast to what you are used to. Here are some photos of the city itself: