Are there natural resources in Bangladesh?

Agriculture: In Bangladesh the fields move onto the water

11/21/2020 - Farmers around the world are fighting against the consequences of climate change, but also with the consequences of decades of monocultures. As with agroforestry in Europe, there are old cultivation methods in Asia that are being rediscovered and further developed. In Bangladesh, it is the floating gardens that are enjoying growing popularity.

Water is ubiquitous in Bangladesh. Hundreds of rivers with countless tributaries run through the country. The river delta of Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna in the south of the country is the largest in the world. Hundreds of years ago, the indigenous people were growing vegetables on the water. The plants feel good on small balls that float on the water.

In the early 2000s, the idea was also carried to the north, where large parts of the country are under water for several months during the monsoons. NGOs have supported this trend, the local agricultural authorities have taken up and promoted it. The food situation is particularly tense in the lower-lying rural regions in the north-east and the river islands of the Jamuna, which are constantly changing their shape and position in the current. Welthungerhilfe has been active in the region since 2014.

Think and combine all the local conditions together

Philippe Dresrüsse heads the organization's programs in India and Bangladesh. He explains: “We use the 'Sustainable Integrated Farming System' approach, which is based on agro-ecological principles. We consider the production process as a unit that is embedded in the natural, social and cultural environment. We connect several sub-systems with one another and thus create a self-contained and functioning ecosystem. ”Pilot projects have been successfully implemented with farmers in Nepal, Bangladesh and India - but they differ depending on the region and the local conditions.

“In the Nutrition Smart Villages we combine agriculture, the conservation of natural resources, climate change and social aspects. This is how we can change the world, ”says Dresrüsse with conviction. Because the villages not only develop their own solutions, but also pass on their knowledge and serve as an example for imitators.

Floating gardens need less fertilizer and pesticides

Raw materials that are available on site are used for the floating gardens. Hyacinths are used to weave mats that float on the water, connected to rafts. Water hyacinths grow and proliferate extremely in the region, and in some cases have to be pushed back at great expense. They find useful uses in the floating gardens.

Bamboo sticks and water hyacinths are woven into a raft. Layers of mud and earth create fertile beds that float on the surface of the water. The nice thing about it: The preparation of the field and the raft is done jointly by men and women. That is also an important aspect.

The plants get their nutrients directly from the water, fertilizer is not needed at all or much less. Because there are fewer insects and pests on the water, there is also no need for pesticides. Only the ducks sometimes peck too much in the gardens. An unbeatable advantage is the good plant growth: the yields of the floating fields are ten times higher than on the same area on land. Spinach, okra, turmeric, potatoes and amaranth all thrive.

Floating gardens are now widespread, partly because the farmers are easy to get started with. Only a few resources are needed, the material is available. “In the heavy monsoon season, it is an important source of food for many families and more and more people are not only growing for their own needs, but also expanding production and selling seedlings or vegetables,” reports Dresrüsse.

Farewell to monoculture

In India and Bangladesh, too, there was a change towards monoculture in the 1960s, which today has many negative consequences. In Bangladesh, for example, rice is grown on a large part of the fields. Many pesticides are used in large quantities and in an uncontrolled manner, which in turn has an impact on ecosystems. The smallholders often only have two or three hectares of land. With monocultures, they are heavily dependent on fluctuating market prices, have to buy seeds and pesticides and sometimes have hardly anything to eat themselves. For Dresruss, floating fermentation is one of the many successful ways that agriculture can take.

But he also looks at the areas in southern Bangladesh with concern. There, the rising sea level pushes the fresh water of the rivers back into the country. Floating gardens near the coast have to be abandoned more and more often because the water is too salty. pf