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Bangladesh: Is floating agriculture a solution to floods?

Farmers of the south-central districts of Bangladesh, namely Barishal, Gopalganj, Madaripur, and Pirojpur, have been practicing floating agriculture for decades, if not centuries. But over the last two decades, this indigenous, wetland-based agrosystem has turned into something of a "climate celebrity".

During monsoon months, floating beds are traditionally made with compactly intertwined water hyacinths and other plant materials. Once the bed surface gets rotten, farmers plant different crop seedlings and grow vegetables on these buoyant platforms.

Since the turn of this century, first NGOs and then different agencies of the government have been extensively promoting floating agriculture as a livelihood option for poor farmers, a means to achieve nutrition security, a measure to reduce flood risks and, of course, as a climate-smart agricultural practice.

The reason for this tremendous interest in floating agriculture is simple. Since the country has been experiencing prolonged floods and waterlogging because of changing climate, growing crops on floating beds can help people cope with this adverse situation and ensure food security. By raising winter crop seedlings on floating beds, farmers can transfer the seedlings to the soil as soon as flood water recedes, thus avoiding potential crop damage from cold weather. The simplicity of this organic way of agriculture is also an attraction.

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