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‘Sufferings Start from the Mothers’ Womb’ : Vulnerabilities and Livelihood War of the Small-Scale Fishers of Bangladesh

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  • Apurba Krishna Deb

    ()
    (Manitoba Conservation, Government of Manitoba, Western Region-Environmental Operations, 1129 Queens Avenue, Brandon, MB R7A 1L9, Canada)

  • C. Emdad Haque

    ()
    (Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, 319 Sinott Building, 70 Dysart Rd., Winnipeg, MB R3T 3X8, Canada)

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    Abstract

    Due to its deltaic geographical position and precarious socioeconomic and demographic conditions, Bangladesh is recognized worldwide for its exposure to recurring environmental hazards. Based on a 21-month long field study in two fishing villages that are characterized by distinct ecological settings and ethnic groups, this article examines the arrays of cross-scale environmental, social and institutional stressors that singly or cumulatively impact fishers’ livelihood well-being and generational poverty. Analysis of the vulnerabilities makes it clear that the degree to which poor fishers suffer from environmental stressors and calamities is determined not only by the frequency of abnormal events, but also by their internal capabilities of self-protection, resilience against those stressors, position in the social network and asset and resource ownership. Coastal and floodplain fishers identified cyclone and long-standing floods as strong drivers of poverty as their bundles of ‘safety net’ capital are usually disrupted or lost. For a majority of the fishers, income/day/family declines to as low as US$ 0.7–0.9. Fishers lack appropriate sets of endowments and entitlements that would allow them immediate buffer against livelihood stressors. Vulnerability here is intricately related to one’s socio-economic status; poor and ‘socially vulnerable’ ethnic fishers are concurrently ‘biologically vulnerable’ too. The corollary of multi-faceted stressors is that, poverty persists as an ever-increasing haunting presence that thousands of floodplain and coastal fishers of Bangladesh are forced to cope with. It is evident that nature-induced stressors exert ‘ratchet effects’ on fishers with low endowments who critically risk nutritional deprivation and social standing. Lucidly, most of the fishers are trapped in a form of ‘ livelihood war’.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by MDPI, Open Access Journal in its journal Sustainability.

    Volume (Year): 3 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 12 (December)
    Pages: 2500-2527

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    Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:3:y:2011:i:12:p:2500-2527:d:15325

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    Web page: http://www.mdpi.com/

    Related research

    Keywords: environmental vulnerability; natural calamity; livelihood well-being; livelihood war; small-scale fishing community; poverty; coping; Bangladesh;

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    References

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    1. Glewwe, Paul & Hall, Gillette, 1998. "Are some groups more vulnerable to macroeconomic shocks than others? Hypothesis tests based on panel data from Peru," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 181-206, June.
    2. Allison, Edward H. & Ellis, Frank, 2001. "The livelihoods approach and management of small-scale fisheries," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 377-388, September.
    3. C. Haque & Ian Burton, 2005. "Adaptation Options Strategies for Hazards and Vulnerability Mitigation: An International Perspective," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 335-353, July.
    4. Jentoft, Svein & Chuenpagdee, Ratana, 2009. "Fisheries and coastal governance as a wicked problem," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 553-560, July.
    5. Pritchett, Lant & Suryahadi, Asep & Sumarto, Sudarno, 2000. "Quantifying vulnerability to poverty - a proposed measure, applied to Indonesia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2437, The World Bank.
    6. Banerjee, Abhijit Vinayak & Benabou, Roland & Mookherjee, Dilip, 2006. "Understanding Poverty," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195305203.
    7. Chambers, Robert, 1994. "Participatory rural appraisal (PRA): Analysis of experience," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 22(9), pages 1253-1268, September.
    8. Ellis, Frank, 2000. "Rural Livelihoods and Diversity in Developing Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198296966.
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