The obstacle to microfinance and benefits, the Hindu minority in the coastal region of Bangladesh struggled to rebuild their lives after Cyclone Amphan.
Munda people in Bangladesh, a small ethnic minority has been living beside the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, for two centuries.
Abu Siddique, a senior journalist at the Dhaka Tribune, has described how this minority had to face the difficulties.
This minority is known as “bunos” or jungle-clearers. The Munda people came to the country from Bihar state in India. They are around 5,000 in number lives in the coastal districts of Khulna and Satkhira.
Suffering from climate change impacts, the Munda are particularly deprived by their minority status, lacking access to microfinance, supports and employment opportunities available to others. An initiative to help them find alternative livelihoods held off due to lack of funds.
Cyclone Amphan made landfall in western Bangladesh in May, triggering a tidal surge that overtopped the riversides and left fields flooded with saltwater for months.
Over recent years, sea-level rise and reduced river flow caused the increased soil salinity, so the rice could only be grown during the monsoon season.
After the storm, even that one annual crop became unviable across much of the region.
A few has fallen back on gathering resources from the forest, mainly crabs and fish. But it is not enough for a balanced livelihood.
As the sea encroaches on farmland, many leads to fish, shrimp and crab farming, or rearing goats. Others migrate in search of seasonal work. But the Munda face extra barriers to these adaptation strategies.
Few Munda families tried to lease some land to cultivate shrimp a few years ago but were refused a loan by local micro-credit organisations.
They are dependent on the mangroves, venturing into the forest two or three times a week for resources they can sell to support their children.
Munda people often had no assets to guarantee repayment of a loan. It is a barrier to getting local micro-credit loan.
Munda has no representation in local or national government bodies. They often lack awareness of social security entitlements and are not selected by local administrators to benefit from government-run work programmes such as road maintenance.
When there is an emergency like a cyclone, they hardly receive some relief.
They hardly receive such benefits from the mainstream people associated with the vote banks of the authority.
Moving to the cities for work is not easy either. They had to face difficulties to find jobs.
A local campaign group launched a project a few years ago to boost the Munda’s prospects, but it has been put on hold because the funding from donor ran out.
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