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Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Floating Garden Agricultural Practices

Summary

Detailed Information

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Detailed Information

Global importance

In some parts of Bangladesh, most affected by flood and where water remains for a prolonged period of time, farmers have developed a method to use their submerged lands for crop production. Floating agriculture has traditional roots in practices dating back to the country’s forbearers. It is a useful method considering the economic, environmental and as well as social aspects.

Allowing the satisfaction of their living needs, floating gardens have also permitted to give an access to lands to the poorest communities. Last but not least, promoting their integration it has also improved the gender balance in these communities. This system is an example of the adaptation to hard climatic conditions but also to climate change.

Food and livelihood security

Primarily, floating gardens are essential for the self-consumption food needs of the communities. In summer, vegetables such as okra, ribbed gourd, Indian spinach, brinjal, cucumber, red amaranths, stem amaranths, wax gourd etc. are cultivated on floating beds. Moreover, the productivity of floating vegetable cultivation is estimated ten times higher than on a similar sized land-based cultivation. Local communities also use wet lands to grow rice, practice fishery.

This cultivation practice helps to supplement people’s income, which contributes towards the alleviation of poverty, and provides greater food security by increasing the landholding capacity of poor as well as landless people by allowing them to grow vegetables and crops with lower input costs, due to the minimal infrastructure required. People who are practicing floating-bed cultivation are enjoying a better life economically, than those in other flood-affected areas who have not yet adopted this practice

Biodiversity and ecosystem functions

A high biodiversity of cultivated plants is grown on the floating garden. Mainly okra, ribbed gourd, Indian spinach, brinjal, cucumber, red amaranths, stem amaranths, wax gourd, bitter gourd, kang kong, melon, etc. are cultivated on the floating beds. In addition to these, during the winter, other lands are used to cultivate rice and other vegetables.

Because prime nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus are abundant in the floating beds, there is almost no need of fertilizer input. Additionally, because the water prevents vermination, almost no pesticides are applied being a eco-friendly system to the environment. Besides, using water hyacinth which is an invasive plant, it helps preserving the aquatic life of the region.

Knowledge systems and adapted technologies

This system employs the floating beds, Dhap, on the surface of water as the foundation of growing plants and crops without soil. Bamboo is laid on a dense layer of water hyacinth. The first layer acts as the base of the floating bed and maintains the stability, buoyancy and thickness of the bed. Above layers are used as compost. After 8-10 days of last stacking, farmers sow / transplant seeds/seedlings already germinated.

Two or three crop rotation cycles on floating gardens during one monsoon season are common on average in this region. At each cycle, mixed intercropping is the most prevailing system of crop production.

In the following winter, the floating beds are discomposed and the residue is used to enrich the soil for winter vegetable cultivation.

Culture, value systems and social organizations

Bangladesh agriculture is strongly linked to the communities’ culture. ‘Nabanna’ is a Bengali harvest celebration among Hindu rice growers, usually celebrated with food, dancing and music. It typically honors the Goddess Lakshmi, who symbolizes wealth and fertility and take place between November and December.

Moreover, local communities’ life strongly relies on the seasons and the agricultural labor. This also includes the traditional dishes including regional varieties of rice.

Remarkable landscape, land and water resources management features

The landscape with colourful diversified floating gardens has a unique aesthetic view. Dealing with nature and human needs, floating garden are integrated and sustainable in the Bengali landscape. In summer, flowers of water hyacinth bloom on the water. Contrast between light purple of flowers and deep green of leaves creates beautiful scenery.

Looking at the water and land management, floating systems are one of the most developed ones to the flooding areas.