Community based adaptive learning in management of conflicts and natural resources in Bangladesh and Nepal

The Community based Adaptive Learning in the management of Conflicts and Natural Resources project, or CALCNR, has worked towards addressing knowledge gaps between community management of natural resources, local adaptation innovations and national policy debates over climate change and conflicts related to natural resource access. The project’s research has found that water management has focused on technical and structural measures, but is often compromised by local conflicts.

CCMCC | Presentation CALCNR at Adaptation Future 2018


Action research with community organisations in 70 sites in Bangladesh and Nepal transformed 80% of local natural resource related conflicts (associated with climate stresses, government policy and resource access) into cooperation. Combinations of eight main factors enabled change; in particular facilitated dialogue and negotiation, incentives, and other communities sharing knowledge and providing peer pressure through a learning network. Collaboration has built capacity and understanding of community organisations and their networks, and developed links with government stakeholders. Dialogue with government at sub-national level has proved to be important, as inappropriate policy application and political interference are significant factors underlying unresolved conflicts.


Briefs and papers



  • Springs of Life - One case of using innovation and local knowledge to overcome conflict over water for irrigation
  • From Water Conflict to Cooperation - Two cases of improving cooperation in local water management and addressing conflicts by CBOs)
  • Hidden Wetland Use - Challenges for women dependent on wetland common resources in Sundarbans and freshwater floodplains


  • Climate Change Adaptation – overcoming local water conflicts in Nepal (examples of Multiple Use Water systems and local adaptation planning to address seasonal water shortages)
  • The Pastorals: An Untold story of High Himalayas (Yak herders’ conflicts and challenges with community forestry and changing climate)
  • Forest, Water and Conflict - Case of Dipdol: emergence of conflict from natural resources (drinking water), conflict minimization through cooperation and dialogues
  • The 'North' and the 'South' in Nepal's Forest: Existing conflict of far and near users of natural resources and conflict resolution through adaptive learning and intervention


Addressing local water conflicts through innovative systems by Vijaya Sthapit
A look at how CALCNR has addressed local conflicts through community engagement, cooperation, and the development of community-run multiple-use water systems.


The project will address knowledge gaps between community management of natural resources, local adaptation innovations and national policy debates over climate change and conflicts related to natural resource access.

The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin hosts over 500 million people highly vulnerable to climatic changes, particularly in Bangladesh floodplains and Nepal uplands, but the findings will be more widely applicable.

This research will generate evidence from multiple levels. Extensive data on a wide range of community management groups will be collected. Intensive quantiative baseline and impact surveys will cover community organisations and control sites representing key climate stressed environments and types of natural resource conflict. This will be complemented in a sub-set of locations by in depth qualitative case studies,and assessments of policies and their implications.

The approach blends participatory action research and testing adaptive learning methods, with a formal research design including control sites and surveys to generate robust evidence. It will assess the potential and challenges of community led adapative learning innovations in fostering suitable institutional arrangements and stakeholder cooperation in situations of climate stressed resource management and conflicts.

Adaptive learning among networks of community organisations comprises the action part of the research. The project will support testing and documenting innovative adaptation practices, pro-poor local governance, and community-policy stakeholder linkages. Linkages of community networks and individual CBOs with meso-level processes will be a crucial component, because this level is well positioned to steer conflict management and responses to climate induced shocks and stresses. In addition the meso-level can help develop economies of scale, translate national policies into practice, and bridge communities with higher level policy spheres.

Relevant policies will be reviewed and analysed to understand vertical linkages or disjuncture among households, communities, local government and national policy processes. This is particularly critical as national policy reform and adaptation debates in Bangladesh and Nepal are hardly informed by community adaptation practices. Donors including DFID are making large investments for climate change adaptation and local adaptation planning (LAPA).

As an action research project engaging with local communities, government, and donors, the study will generate knowledge and understanding to inform them and build capacity. Policy dialogue informed by scientific evidence and local knowledge will be facilitated through the community networks complemented by capacity building, and champions among key stakeholders. The project will share knowledge within the two countries, between community networks and policy makers, and with wider regional and international audiences.


Scientific article

Professional publication

  • P Sultana(2015): Adaptive Learning through Networks pp. 1 - 4
  • P Sultana(2015): Changing Tidal Environment: responses and conflicts
  • U Regmi, P Bhusal, NS Paudel, J Karki(2015): Landlessness and forest management: what can community forestry offer?
  • P Bhusal, U Regmi, NS Paudel(2015): Potential Role of Expanded Community Forest in mitigating north-south conflict and forest management challenges in Terai region of Nepal
  • GP Paudel, P Bhusal, NS Paudel(2015): Community Forestry and Yak Herders pp. 1 - 8
  • P Sultana(2015): Conflict over Water Management in a Changing Climate pp. 1 - 4
  • P Sultana(2016): Sluice gate operation and maintenance facts and fallacies: Goakhola-Hatiara and Bakri Beels, Bangladesh

Publications for the general public

  • MM Rahman(2016): A complete participatory action research - not conflict only cooperation in managing natural resources
  • PM Thompson, P Sultana(2016): Conflict and cooperation over coastal polders of Bangladesh
  • P Sultana, PM Thompson(2017): Converting local conflicts over water to cooperation in a changing climate


Project number

W 07.68.412

Main applicant

Dr. P. Sultana

Affiliated with

Flood Hazard Research Centre

Team members

H. Ahmed, Dr. L. Colavito, A. Gofur MD, Dr. H. Ojha, M.P. Pariyar, Dr. N.,S. Paudel, Mr. M.M. Rahman, Dr. P. Sultana, Dr. P.F. Thompson, S. Yadav


01/12/2013 to 01/10/2018