Aiming to mitigate deforestation and improve livelihood opportunities in Cox's Bazar, three United Nations (UN) bodies have launched the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy Plus Livelihoods (SAFE Plus) project.
The signing ceremony of the project was held at the Planning Commission on Sunday, according to a press release.
SAFE Plus is a joint project of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
The project aims to address environmental degradation through distribution of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and stoves, reforestation, and improved access to food production through a livelihoods programme.
The LPG stoves and gas distribution will lessen the need for people to collect firewood, which is causing further damage to the environment.
The reforestation activities will rehabilitate unique forest reserves and protect natural resources. The livelihoods and self-reliance programme will 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.
"My ministry is delighted to be working with the UN to address environmental issues in Cox's Bazar, and we urge development partners to further support this initiative," said Shah Kamal, senior secretary of Disaster Management and Relief.
At the signing ceremony, Additional Secretary of Economic Relations Division and UN Wing Chief Sultana Afroz thanked the UN agencies for coming forward to support the Rohingyas 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," she added.
Additional Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Md Mizanur Rahman stressed that the SAFE Plus programme should continue as long as the Rohingyas are residing in Cox's Bazar.
"SAFE Plus capitalises 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 strengthening social cohesion."
Giorgi Gigauri, chief of Mission at IOM Bangladesh, said that in addition to cutting household expenditures, SAFE Plus promotes smokeless homes, making them healthier and safer.
The WFP Country Representative in Bangladesh Richard Ragan said, "Protecting our environment and improving livelihood opportunities is key to ensuring food security for people in Cox's Bazar.
"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," the WFP official added.
Throughout this year, SAFE Plus will reach households in the host community with livelihoods programme.
Technical support will be provided to farmers to increase production of high-demand vegetables and reforestation activities will continue.