Keeping Farming Afloat With Floating Gardens

Adopting Bangladesh’s floating gardens could reduce food insecurity in parts of the world prone to flooding because of climate change.

AsianScientist (Jun. 30, 2021) – According to a new study, Bangladesh’s floating gardens could be adopted as a sustainable agricultural practice by parts of the world prone to flooding. The findings are described in the Journal of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

A centuries-old practice in Bangladesh, floating gardens are made from native plants that rise and fall with the river’s waters similar to rafts. Given that two-thirds of the country is wetland, such gardens were historically used to continue growing food during the rainy season, with the practice also observed in parts of Myanmar, Cambodia and India.

To build a floating garden, farmers and their families assemble layers of the raft-like plants, with the seeds of crops like okra, spinach or eggplant placed inside. As the raft-like plants slowly decompose, they release nutrients that then feed the seeds, allowing them to flourish.

Over the years, climate change has increasingly affected the volume of water in Bangladesh’s rivers—resulting in extreme highs and floods as well as extreme lows and droughts. Given the seeming resilience of the country’s floating gardens, a team of researchers from Bangladesh, Germany and the US sought to confirm the benefits of the agricultural practice in the face of climate change.

Accordingly, the researchers interviewed farming families who use floating gardens, finding strong evidence that such gardens provide food security and a stable income despite the changing climate.

Compared to traditional rice paddies, farmers who adopted floating gardens could earn up to four times as much money—with entire families working on the gardens. While women, children and the elderly prepare seedlings and collect the raft-like aquatic plants, men cultivate the gardens and protect them from raiders.

Given these benefits, the researchers concluded that Bangladesh’s floating gardens aren’t just part of the country’s rich cultural heritage. If adopted by other parts of the world prone to flooding, the gardens could provide much-needed resources to underserved populations vulnerable to the worst impacts of climate change.

“We are focused here on adaptive change for people who are victims of climate change, but who did not cause climate change,” said co-author Professor Craig Jenkins from the Ohio State University. “There’s no ambiguity about it: Bangladesh didn’t cause the carbon problem, and yet it is already experiencing the effects of climate change.”

The article can be found at: Pyka et al. (2020) Floating Gardening in Coastal Bangladesh: Evidence of Sustainable Farming for Food Security Under Climate Change.


Source: Ohio State University; Photo: ICIMOD/Flickr.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist