Some 6,000 subsistence farmers in southwest Bangladesh are incorporating a 200-year-old farming technique to address food security as flooding conditions in the climate-vulnerable country drastically hinder crop production.
Invasive hyacinth plants are woven together into rafts that are a part of “floating farms” in regions that are currently underwater for eight to ten months annually. The farms require less space than conventional farming and the crops do not require pesticides.
“These days, the land is under water for a longer time. This ancient technique has helped us to earn a living,” said 42-year-old Mohammad Mostafa, as he planted balls of seedlings on floating beds.
“My father and forefathers all used to do this. But the work is not that easy. So, at first, I tried to earn as a fruit vendor but ended up in debt,” said Mostafa, the sole breadwinner in his six-member family. “I tried my luck at floating farming five years ago and that made a great difference to my life.”
One hyacinth raft in a floating farm takes two months to construct and needs to be replaced every three to four months. A typical raft is 6 meters long and one meter wide. The length can be significantly larger.
Constructing them is very labor intensive. One 30-year-old Bangladeshi woman Kajol Begum who has two children said even though the work is hard and painful and causes her sleepless nights due to waist. pain “what else will I do when water is everywhere most of the time?”
Reuters’ extensive exquisitely photographed special report on Bangladesh’s floating farms says there are currently 157 hectacres of floating farms in Pirojpur and 120 in Nazirpur.
Low-lying Bangladesh is considered among the most climate-vulnerable countries, with the impact of rising waters compounded by storms, floods and erosion.
The climate impact is being compounded by natural factors, such as tectonic shifts that are causing the land beneath to sink, and upstream dams holding back silt that would replenish the eroding delta.
Between 2000 and 2019, Bangladesh was ranked seventh in a list of countries hit hardest by climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 produced by non-profit Germanwatch.
Between 2000 and 2019, extreme weather events cost Bangladesh $3.72 billion.
By 2050, Bangladesh could lose 17% of its land surface to rising sea level and erosion, resulting in a 30% reduction in food production. (2019 International Monetary Fund report.) According to the World Bank, by 2050, climate change impacts could result in 20 million internal climate migrants, representing 12% of the country’s population.