Floating gardens as a way of continuing to cultivate despite climate change


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Bangladesh’s floating gardens, built to produce food during flood seasons, could offer a sustainable solution for areas of the world prone to flooding due to climate change, according to a new study.

The study, published recently in the Agriculture, Food and Environment Journal, suggests that floating gardens could not only help reduce food insecurity, but could also provide income to rural households in flood-prone areas of Bangladesh.

“We are focusing here on adaptive change for people who are victims of climate change, but who have not caused climate change,” said Craig Jenkins, study co-author and emeritus professor of sociology at the ‘Ohio State University. “There is no ambiguity about this: Bangladesh did not cause the carbon problem, and yet it is already feeling the effects of climate change.”

The Floating Gardens of Bangladesh originated hundreds of years ago. The gardens are made from native plants that float in rivers – traditionally water hyacinths – and function almost like rafts, rising and falling with the waters. Historically, they were used to continue growing food during the rainy season when rivers filled with water.

Farmers – or their families – stack plants about three feet deep, creating a version of raised gardens that float in water. Then they plant vegetables inside these rafts. As raft plants decompose, they release nutrients that help nourish vegetable plants. These vegetable plants typically include okra, squash, spinach, and eggplant. Sometimes they also include spices like turmeric and ginger.

Floating gardens are also used in parts of Myanmar, Cambodia and India. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has designated Bangladesh’s Floating Gardens as an Agricultural Heritage System of Global Importance.

But as climate change has affected the volume of water in these rivers – creating extreme floods and floods, as well as extreme dips and droughts – floating gardens have become a way for rural farmers to continue producing food. food during unpredictable weather conditions. Climate change increases extreme weather conditions and the severity of floods, as well as droughts.

The researchers wanted to understand whether Bangladesh’s floating gardens could be a sustainable agricultural practice as climate change continued to cause floods and droughts, and to see if the gardens provided better food security for individual households.

“They need to be able to grow specific crops that can survive with minimal soil,” said Jenkins, who is also a research scientist and former director of the Ohio State Center for International Security Studies. “And in Bangladesh, many small farmers who used to depend on rice crops are moving away from it due to the effects of climate change and better yields from alternative crops.

For this study, the researchers interviewed farming families who use floating gardens and found strong evidence that floating gardens provide stability, both in the amount of food available to feed rural people and in the income of a farming family, despite the instability created by a changing climate. .

They found that farmers typically use hybrid seeds, which must be redeemed every year, to grow a diverse range of vegetables in the floating gardens. Gardens are also susceptible to pests, so farmers end up spending money on both pesticides and fertilizers. But even with these expenses, they found, the benefits outweighed the costs.

In general, entire families work on the gardens, the researchers found: Women, children and the elderly prepare seedlings and collect water plants to build gardens. The men cultivate the gardens and protect them from looters. Some families also raise fish in the waters around their floating gardens.

A farmer told the research team that he made up to four times more money from gardens than traditional rice paddies.

Still, the system could use improvements, the researchers found. Farmers often take out high-interest loans to cover the investment costs of building the beds and storing them in plants. They say low-interest loans from responsible governments or non-governmental organizations could ease this burden.


Craig Jenkins,
[email protected]

Written by Laura Arenschield,
[email protected]

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