Guest essay by Eric Worrall
For centuries Bangladeshis have been planting vegetables on floating beds of hyacinths, to secure food supplies against flooding. According to a new study we could all learn from their experience.
Floating gardens as a way to keep farming despite climate change
Bangladesh’s floating gardens, built to grow food during flood seasons, could offer a sustainable solution for parts of the world prone to flooding because of climate change, a new study has found.
The study, published recently in the Journal of Agriculture, Food and Environment, suggests that floating gardens might not only help reduce food insecurity, but could also provide income for rural households in flood-prone parts of Bangladesh.
“We are focused here on adaptive change for people who are victims of climate change, but who did not cause climate change,” said Craig Jenkins, a co-author of the study and academy professor emeritus of sociology at 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.”
Bangladesh’s floating gardens began hundreds of years ago. The gardens are made from native plants that float in the rivers – traditionally, water hyacinths – and operate almost like rafts, rising and falling with the waters. Historically, they were used to continue growing food during rainy seasons when rivers filled with water.
The abstract of the study;
Floating gardening in coastal Bangladesh: Evidence of sustainable farming for food security under climate change
L. M. Pyka, A. Al-Maruf, M. Shamsuzzoha, J. C. Jenkins, B. Braun
Around a quarter part of Bangladesh is flooded for several months a year, affecting agriculture in particular -this has far-reaching consequences for the lives of the rural population. Especially during the monsoon season, many people in water-rich areas suffer from food shortages and nutrient deficiencies, mainly due to crop failures and lower incomes. Through the use of floating gardens, smallholder farmers can use flooded areas that would otherwise be unmanageable for months. Due to the growing population pressure and the potential impact of climate change in Bangladesh, available agricultural land may decrease, making such innovative cultivation methods more important. Coastal people of Bangladesh have practiced this farming method to grow vegetables and seedlings on floating beds and thereby secure food production and farmers’ income with adverse climatic shocks. The main purpose of this study is to investigate the overall methods of floating gardening, and how it contributes to food security at the households’ level. The findings of the study are based on nine qualitative interviews with the local farmers and key informant interviews (KII). The study shows floating gardening is a sustainable farming method and income strategy for rural households in coastal flood-prone regions of Bangladesh. Floating gardens contribute to food security by nutrient intake growing vegetables. Areas that cannot be cultivated are made usable, and the achievable income ensures the security and variety of food in the season of the floating gardens.
The BBC has an excellent article with pictures describing this remarkable innovation.
The study mentions the “potential” impact of climate change, rather than certainty. Given this practice is centuries old, it can hardly be claimed that anthropogenic climate change was the reason farmers started creating floating gardens.
Will many other people need to copy this innovation? I doubt climate flooding, even if it occurs, will be a big deal in advanced countries – advanced countries have the engineering capability to build better flood management systems. NSW, Australia, which experienced severe flooding a few weeks ago, is responding by raising dam walls by up to 17m, to improve flood control. If 17m is not enough, the walls will be raised again.
If global population grows so much there is a shortage of arable land, its possible some of the wilder ideas for floating cities might happen, but we are a long way from running out of arable land. There are vast deserts and ice fields which could be brought into service with a little engineering, if it made economic sense to do so.
Of course, if we figure out how to build affordable nuclear fusion plants, farming undersea might make more sense than floating farms. Undersea provides good access to dissolved CO2 and fusion fuel, complete isolation from land based agricultural pests and parasites, total protection from the weather, and an ocean full of water to act as a heat sink, to dispose of waste heat from the grow lights and the fusion reactor.
via Watts Up With That?
March 31, 2021 at 08:19PM