Assasuni Upazila (Bangladesh)

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Integrated Farming

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Kumirmari (India)

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Inland Fisheries

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Poster to present ENGAGE4Sundarbans

Poster for the Congress of Ethnobiology - May 2024

In May 2024, we are participating in the 18th International Society of Ethnobiology Congress (ISE Congress 2024) in Marrakech, Marroco, with the poster presented below.

The Congress is a great opportunity to meet with World experts in the domain of ethno-ecology, ethno-biology, political and environmental sciences. The variety and variability of life known as biodiversity and the symbiosis of human activity and environment expressed in cultural landscapes are nourishing debates within international conventions ratified by hundreds of nations. 

Impact on policies

MoU 2011 on Transboundary Sundarbans: action-oriented roadmap for ENGAGE

Overview: On September 6, 2011, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the governments of India and Bangladesh, countries that share the common social ecological landscape of the Sundarbans delta. The MoU was entrusted to the respective ministries of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in the two countries, calling for an adoption of joint management and common principles of conservation. To oversee the MoU’s implementation, a Joint Working Group was established. As a part of the consortium, the Bangladesh-India Sundarban Region Cooperation Initiative (BISRCI) was undertaken in June 2015, to implement a ‘knowledge-based advocacy’, facilitating and supporting effective bilateral cooperation in the region. BISRCI brought together research associations, civil society organizations, think tanks, key members of the strategic community from two countries in order to deliberate on enhancing further cooperation for formation of cross-sectoral platform that will provide actionable plans for management of the delta as well as boost bilateral coordination on Sundarbans.

SOR4D-ENGAGE, a transdisciplinary consortium of three country teams (India, Bangladesh and Switzerland), is motivated to conduct and pursue participatory action research in the transboundary delta with a shared set of objectives and motivation. The project brings together primarily social science researchers, practitioners and user groups, who have long-term experiences on working in delta. The exploratory as well as accommodative approach of the research allows it to deploy archival and ethnographic methods to meticulously explore, map and highlight the physical, political, ecological and social factors mutually operating and driving changes in the transboundary Sundarbans. Through the coupled methodology, a pluri-dimensional realities that have been felt with physical attributes, social demography (migration, assets, livelihoods, gender) and political economy (regulation acts, arrangements, apparatuses, conservation and impacts) in two sides of the common delta, will be sketched, compared and assessed.

ENGAGE acknowledges the MoU as a vital policy template that strategizes mainstream conservation and management of the Sundarbans. Here, we critically read and review MoU articles to understand their current status (from secondary literature) and map the impediments and imperatives to effectuate the provisions, induced by nuanced ‘grounded’ analytics and empirics towards crafting socially resilient trajectories in and for the transboundary delta.

[Note: There are eight articles in the MoU template and among them, three articles (II, III, V) are directly related to the vision and plans of ENGAGE]






Article II


Both Parties, with a view to exploiting the potential of the Sundarbans for development and alleviation of poverty, agree to undertake, but not limited to, the following endeavours: a) consider and adopt appropriate joint management and joint monitoring of resources; b) explore the possibility of implementing conservation and protection efforts, encourage mangrove regeneration, habitat restoration and rehabilitation programs, which would eventually increase the potential for carbon sequestration; c) develop a long term strategy for creating ecotourism opportunities for both countries, which will create synergy and generate greater revenue.


Specific provision Current status Envisioning ENGAGEment (SOR4D plans and visions)
Joint management and monitoring of resources


Fragmented, non-systematic and sporadic


Ø ENGAGE critically interrogates the mainstream conservation-management-monitoring framework and instead, conforms to the theoretical context of ‘social resilience’.
Habitat conservation, mangrove regeneration, habitat restoration and rehabilitation


Confined to the protection of designated species and spaces


Climate change impacts are not taken into account


Ø The ‘social resilience’ approach and agenda, undertaken by the project, advocates ‘staying’ in the delta pitted against technocratic managed retreat and rehabilitation plans.

Ø ENGAGE is anchored to compile and collate place-based, plural perspectives on climate change-induced risks and resilience to offer solution-oriented ‘pervasive and persuasive pathways’, activating an inclusive governance framework.

Ecotourism opportunities


Specific needs and priorities need to be identified Ø We envision participatory, community-agency based ‘eco-educational tourism’ to simultaneously ensure local socio-economic viability, knowledge exchange and augmentation of research practices (practical-empirical-implementation laboratory attracting field schools and propagating ideas on Environmental Humanities) in the site, rather than following a conventional path that is mostly attracted by business models of outside practitioners or organizations.





Article III

The Parties are in agreement that the Sundarban ecosystem is greatly influenced by human use and the human beings living around the Sundarban. The Parties will map and delineate these human settlements on respective sides so that a better understanding emerges of the relationship between human settlements and the ecosystems. The Parties will further develop a management plan that utilizes this information to address issues of livelihood, deprivation by flooding and other climate related disasters, man-animal conflict, pollution, resource depletion, etc. The Parties will through the management plan, also identify opportunities for livelihood generation that do not adversely affect the Sundarban ecosystem.
Specific provision Current status Envisioning ENGAGEment (SOR4D plans and visions)
Map and delineate human settlements on respective sides


Local-level management plans exist but, they are not transformational


Ø A detailed exploration and nuanced analyses of multiple interconnected risks, imbricated in the socio-cultural and political-ecological attributes of the region, will pave the way through which ‘situated adaptive practices’ could be collectively identified, mapped and classified.

Ø We would rather be emphasising (trans)local stories of transformation, facilitating knowledge sharing and actions, and envisioning systematic ‘scaling up’ and ‘scaling out’ approaches.


Develop management plans for:

i. Livelihood improvement

ii. Disaster management


Needs to promote the development of cooperation in fisheries, aquaculture and allied activities between the two countries

Disaster management plans do not include recovery

Ø Co-identification and co-adoption of solution-focused pilot intervention plan for experimentation on small-scale inland fishing and integrated farming in the translocal project sites.

Ø The project’s impact on knowledge co-creation and livelihoods of stakeholders will be felt in forms of economic stability; socio-cultural belongingness and cohesion; gender empowerment, and improved ecosystem functioning through rejuvenatory practices.

Ø The project’s inclusive approach will allow it to create a comprehensive, practice-oriented knowledge base and facilitate policy outcomes (training guides, knowledge products, digital platforms hosted in policy network) on disaster risk mitigation mechanisms and climate-resilient, gender-neutral livelihood strategies.

Article V Both Parties will carry out research to develop a common and shared understanding of the impacts of climate change along with adaptation strategies that can be implemented.
Specific provision Current status Envisioning ENGAGEment (SOR4D plans and visions)
Develop a common and shared understanding of the impacts of climate change




Site-specific knowledge of climate change impacts exists Ø By engaging partnerships among and perceptions of multiple groups of actors (academia, development practitioners, policy makers and local communities) across transboundary, transdisciplinary and within translocal contexts, the ENGAGE platform will bring to the fore prominent drivers of climate change, its varied implications and adaptation ‘tactics’ by communities in the delta.
Design implementable adaptation strategies Small-scale projects have been undertaken without addressing ‘adaptation’


Ø The plural understandings of disaster-induced risks and co-mapping of livelihood as well as adaptive practices, will be mobilized, used and shared through local and regional platforms (workshops, seminars, visual presentation, interactions etc.).







Gobeshona Session: Building resilience

Gobeshona Session: Building resilience

“The Gobeshona Global Conference 4 – March 2024

 The 4th Annual Gobeshona Global Conference took place on 1st March to 8th March 2024, virtually by International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). The conference provided the opportunity to bring together a distinguished and multidisciplinary group of scholars, policy-makers, researchers, and practitioners from around the world who shared their knowledge, research, and practical experiences on climate change issues with a broad range of themes and sub-themes. The event featured keynote speakers, panel discussions, workshops, thematic sessions and networking sessions, and provided a platform for knowledge exchange and collaboration on Climate Change. This year’s Gobeshona Global Conference focused on ‘’Monitoring the Locally-Led Adaptation and Resilience’’. The conference provided floor to those local organizations who directly work with the vulnerable communities who are at the frontline of climate change impacts. 

Our team talked in the Session “Building resilience: climate change impacts and governance in the sundarbans”

Watch the record of the session: 

V2V-ENGAGE Winter field school in Kumimari (India)

V2V-ENGAGE Winter field school in Kumimari (India)

The inaugural edition of the Sundarbans Winter Field School on Transboundary, Transdisciplinarity, and Transformation through Transitions took place in the Kumirmari village of Indian Sundarbans from 19 – 26 January 2024. This year’s theme was ‘Social-Ecological Resilience for Vulnerability to Viability in the Sundarbans’  Riskscape’.

Center for Sustainable Development, ULAB in collaboration with University of WaterlooIndian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, University of Lausanne – UNIL, SAJIDA Foundation and Sundarban Jana Sramajibi Manch (SJSM) have successfully organized the Sundarbans Winter Field School in Kumirmari, Gosaba Block, Sundarbans, India. Starting on January 19th, 2024, the remote rural setting of Kumirmari have gathered 30 people, including members from the local communities hosts and the SJSM NGO and researchers (seniors, early career researchers and graduate students from academia) to engage in an in-depth discussions, learning sessions, and collaborative brainstorming with the aim of exploring social-ecological theories and their practical uses to foster democratic dialogues and exchanges among participants, creating a conducive environment for understanding and crafting just transitions from environmental vulnerability to community viability in the long run. The field school encompassed a total of six days- concluding on 24th January, 2024.

The versatile and interactive platform of the Sundarbans Winter Field School has equipped the participants with concepts, approaches, and methods through the classroom teaching practices and then they took the learning into the field training while engaging with the community. Sundarbans Winter Field School expects that the theoretical, conceptual, and practical insights and knowledge gained during these six days will enhance the critical problem solving skills and the participants will take this learning further by contributing towards just and equitable vulnerability to viability transitions for sustainable transformation and eventually to the broader goal of sustainable development.

ENGAGE4Sundarbans team arrived a few days before the winter school, starting from the 16th of February in Kumirmari, to benefit from 10 days of intensive field research. We planned to test our survey tools (Questionnaire, FGD, KII), brainstorm on paper outlines and collaborate on the development of a paper on 4T concepts e.g. Transdisciplinary, Transboundary, Transformation and Transition led by the V2V team.

Here is our field diary

16th to 19th of January : ENGAGE 4 Sundarbans Field work before the meeting with V2V

On the 16th of January, we started from Kolkata early in the morning. The winter mist was covering the coastal plain and the large agricultural fields. We could see the large area of wetlands in the east of Kolkata and the large drainage system of waste. Then, we crossed 100km of kilometres of shrimp farms (locally called gher). This inspired us for our manuscript on shrimp farming and supply chains which depend on the global market of shrimp.  

Our small Maruti drove us until the first ghat, where we needed to take a boat to cross a tidal river. We took again a second Maruti, and a second boat to finally reach Kumirmari.  

In the evening, we arrived at Kumirmari and discovered the Sundarban bari. We were struck to see the production of Brinjal (aubergines) and carrots and vegetables. Souradip also showed us the experimental pond on our campus. The Kumirmari Bari campus was created only two years ago. The land was given by our team member Debajyoti and Tapas Mondal helped a lot to develop the site. The village community also joined the effort and was now preparing the camp to host our winter school members. They were also thankfully cooking delicious vegetables and local fish products for us!  

The next day, the 17th of January, we went for a walk to look at the planting of paddy. we were able to observe the entire process, from the burning of the last season’s straw to the preparation of nurseries and the transplantation in the field. When we came back, Mahmuda and Biplob were fishing in the pond.  

On the 18th of January, we woke up early in the morning, without any breakfast, we started our day by running some of our Questionnaires and observing the conditions of the Kumirmari embankment. We could observe the very weak condition of the embankment, even during the dry season. We went to the area where a strong embankment was built in 20XX. But this embankment was damaged by Aila and subsequent cyclones. Only the trees could some patches of embankment. The mangrove remains also strengthen a part of it. After observing the embankment, we went to the house of the veterinary and our team organised an FGD with the inhabitants of the area.  

On the 19th, we went to another embankment to see the condition and run another FGD. The Monda community members explain to us how they used to go to the Sundarbans forest to harvest some small fishes and crabs, but how they feared the tigers. A fence was built along the bank of the Sundarban forest to limit the area of the tiger … 

 In the evening, 15 colleagues arrived at the camp. We worked all together on the concepts of Transboundary, Transdisciplinary, Transformation and Transition.  

20th January: First Day of the V2V-ENGAGE winter field school

The following day began with reflections on the previous day, followed by insightful sessions with Dr. Prateep and Dr. Jenia introducing the concept of the 4 Ts: Transboundary, Transdiscipline, Transformation, and Transition. Divided into groups, each focusing on one T, the day’s task involved household interviews to understand the local perspective through the lens of our chosen theme.

The afternoon sessions comprised presentations and discussions on our findings, setting the stage for the days to come. The day concluded with each participant sharing two elements from their research, fostering a culture of shared learning.

21st January: Biodiversity Walk and Social Walk

The day began with a biodiversity walk, discovering and tallying different species of wild birds. In the afternoon, a social walk explored various aspects of Kumirmari based on each group’s theme, culminating in insightful presentations on the findings.

22nd January: Focused Discussion Groups (FDGs)

Groups worked collaboratively, conducting Focused Discussion Groups with fixed audiences to gather points and ideas for the final presentation on the 23rd. The discussions revolved around the four Ts, uncovering key aspects of Kumirmari’s situation and proposing solutions.

Final Presentation and Conclusion:

On the 23rd, the Winter School reached its climax with presentations based on the findings. Technological advancement, social unity, gender equality through the Panchayat system, and various other factors emerged as highlighted aspects. The final suggestions and reflections by peers guided the formation of comprehensive group papers.

The Winter School concluded with a sightseeing tour of Sundarbans, providing a perfect ending to a knowledge-filled and memorable five-day journey. As we embarked on the 5-hour journey back to Bamun Ghat, the Winter School left us not just with knowledge but with enduring memories and a strengthened sense of community.