Prioritization of adaptation measures for improved agricultural water management in Northwest Bangladesh

Acharjee, T.K.; Hellegers, P.J.G.J.; Ludwig, F.; Halsema, G.E. van; Mojid, M.A.; Terwisscha van Scheltinga, C.T.H.M.


Adaptation strategies are essential to manage water demand and ensure optimal use of available water resources under climate change. Identification and prioritization of adaptation options would greatly support decision-making in drought-prone Northwest Bangladesh. This study identified climate adaptation options by literature review and stakeholder consultation, then used multi-criteria analysis to evaluate and prioritize the options. The complexity of the options was also evaluated, specifically social, institutional, and technical obstacles to their local uptake. Seventy-two adaptation options were identified, spanning six sector categories. The options were further classified as in-system dependent, i.e., options that could be implemented by local actors, or as out-system dependent, i.e., options reliant on actions by external actors. Finally, they were defined as on-farm or off-farm strategies. Transboundary cooperation to increase surface water flows was ranked as the overall top-priority option, though this option is very complex and out-system dependent. Integrated water resources management and integrated crop management were the top-ranked options in the water management and crop production management sectors, respectively. Clustering scattered households and offering training programs in on-farm water management were the most and least complex measures, respectively. Stakeholders exhibited a clear preference for higher scale out-system dependent strategies, rather than in-system dependent options focused on changing the agricultural system itself to cope with climate change. Nonetheless, it is recommended that short-term and medium-term planning focus on opportunities to implement achievable adaptation measures within the local agricultural system. Investment in complex, externally dependent strategies is important for long-term planning.