Bangladesh and four other countries have been awarded the Local Adaptation Champions Awards at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.
"Our winners show that community-centric and locally led solutions to the climate crisis exist, but they require support and recognition to be scaled up and to achieve the most impact," said Professor Patrick Verkooijen, chief executive officer of the Global Centre on Adaptation, explaining what the award signifies.
The award was given to the Rangamati Hill District Council initiative, where it collaborated with five villages in Juraichari Upazila where the residents were combatting worsening droughts, landslides and flash floods.
With support from the United Nations Development Programme and Danida, the community worked to set up solar power-based safe water supply facilities and the provision of safe drinking water during crises.
Former UN Secretary-General and GCA Co-Chair Ban Ki Moon said the initiative is a combination of local and traditional techniques and it has been done for climate adaptation in marginalised areas.
"The initiative is not only sustainable, others can also emulate it and efficiently and appropriately negate the adverse impacts of climate change," he added.
"Now communities have clean drinking water, and they can water their dragon fruit, mango and lychee orchards and cultivate their land for food and income," said Arunendu Tripura, Public Relations Officer for Rangamati Hill District Council.
The council has also established a climate resilience committee and supported local communities in conducting climate vulnerability assessments, which have fed into the creation of local resilience plans.
"Also, half of our members are women. I asked them why they chose to install this water facility, and they said as soon as they were able decide a solution, they chose to end the misery they face in fetching water, to curb their suffering. This gave me great satisfaction," said Tripura.
Jona Chakma, a resident of the remote Choumohani Village of Jurachharhi Upazila, talks about her suffering before the initiative: "I would walk an hour to fetch water from Bonjogi Chhorha [stream]. That water would be used for drinking, cooking, washing and showering needs."
"During summer, we needed more water. But the stream would shrink. I spent the whole day just to collect drinking water, bathing was a luxury. I cannot even express the suffering I went through," she added.
An earthquake in 2017 hiked the woes by restricting the flow of the stream.
It became harder to collect water. The villages of Choumohani, Badalpara, Lokkhi Member Para, NK Para and Chairman Para, all roughly 12 kilometres from Juraichari Sadar, were hit the hardest.
The deep tube-well run by solar power was established in Badalpara and has a 5000-litre water storage facility. The water is piped to the other villages.
Badalpara village's Jharna Chakma explains the impact: "Our life has become easier. The time we spent to get water, we can now spend that in taking care of our children or income-generating activities like weaving cloth."
UNDP Assistant Resident Representative Prasenjit Chakma points out that a women-led committee handle the management of the pump. "The local people, both men and women are part of this committee. The women lead the process. They have developed a fund with which they can do the maintenance and repairs of the facility."
The GCA awards recognise locally led efforts to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change across four categories: financial governance, inclusive leadership, capacity and knowledge, and local innovation.
The other three countries to receive the award among 170 countries are India, Nepal and Kenya.
Each winner will receive €15,000 in funds to further the work they are doing in the spirit of the locally-led adaptation principles. They will also have access to a global network of changemakers.