Three United Nations (UN) agencies have launched the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy Plus Livelihoods (SAFE Plus) project in Dhaka alongside the Government of Bangladesh to mitigate deforestation and improve livelihood opportunities in Cox’s Bazar.
SAFE Plus is a joint project between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the World Food Programme (WFP) to address environmental degradation through avenues such as the distribution of Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) and stoves, reforestation, and improved access to food production through livelihoods programming.
The LPG stove and gas distributions lessen the need for people to collect firewood, causing further damage to the environment. The reforestation activities rehabilitate unique forest reserves and protect natural resources. The livelihoods and self-reliance programming bolster food production and business opportunities for the host community through which they can benefit economically.
The three-year project was designed in partnership with government agencies to increase collaboration between several sectors. Previously these activities were being completed under a humanitarian programme, this signing ceremony means SAFE Plus is now a development programme to improve livelihoods and lives in the most vulnerable region of Bangladesh.
“My ministry is delighted to be working with the UN to address the environmental issues in Cox’s Bazar, and we urge development partners to further support this,” said Mr. Shah Kamal, Senior Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief.
At the agreement signing ceremony, the Additional Secretary Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance and UN Wing Chief, Ms. Sultana Afroz thanked the UN agencies for coming forward to support the Rohingya as well as the host community.
“The generosity that the government and the people of Bangladesh has shown, despite our own development challenges is exemplary,” she said. “Now it is the international community’s responsibility to ensure that Bangladesh does not bear this burden alone and that there is a durable solution to this crisis in the form of repatriation to Myanmar.”
In addition, the Additional Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mr. Md. Mizanur Rahman stressed that the, “SAFEPlus programme should continue as long as Rohingyas are residing in Cox’s Bazar”
“SAFE Plus capitalizes on the technical capacities of the three UN agencies and government partners to meet the evolving needs of the people of Cox’s Bazar,” said Robert Simpson, FAO Representative in Bangladesh. “It is expected to have significant multiplier effects – from improved food and nutrition security, to sustainable management of natural resources increased livelihood opportunities, and strengthened social cohesion.”
“IOM is delighted to announce SAFE Plus as a programme that addresses both the human and the environmental needs of the refugees and host community” said Giorgi Gigauri, Chief of Mission of IOM Bangladesh. “In addition to cutting household expenditures, SAFE Plus promotes smokeless homes, making them healthier and safer.”
“Protecting our environment and improving livelihood opportunities is key to ensuring food security for people in Cox’s Bazar,” said Mr Richard Ragan, Country Representative for WFP. “By working together with other UN agencies, we are ensuring we have a comprehensive and well-rounded programme that addresses the underlying causes of environmental degradation whilst simultaneously improving livelihoods opportunities for people in Cox’s Bazar.”
Throughout this year SAFE Plus will reach households in the host community with a livelihoods programme, technical support will be provided to farmers’ to increase the production of high-demand vegetables and reforestation activities will continue.