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Powering “greener” vegetable production in Bangladesh

10/03/2022 ,

FAO has installed solar-powered irrigation systems to address water scarcity in Cox’s Bazar, where the growing population is putting a strain on the natural resources.

©FAO/Saikat Mojumder

Standing amidst rows of curated cabbages, radiant radishes and thriving tomatoes, Mohammad Islam beams. The lush garden is a far cry from what this water scarce area could have unfolded. Three silver panels just metres away lift their faces to the sun like sunflowers. These innocuous metal panes, solar panels installed by FAO, are largely to thank for these vegetables.

This father-of-three hails from Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Known in the news for so many other reasons than vegetables, Cox’s Bazar has nonetheless historically been a veritable oasis. The fertile ground used to make growing almost anything here an option. That has changed. Over exploitation and excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides have degraded the soils. Decreasing fertility means decreasing vegetation, which means decreasing water. With the growing population, this cycle is only perpetuating and the challenges getting more severe.  

In Cox’s Bazar, FAO is improving irrigation practices and crop production by tapping into green technologies, including solar energy. Currently, 70 percent of fresh water on the planet is used for agricultural production. Solar-powered systems help reduce water loss by using buried pipe systems instead of open earth canals, which are vulnerable to evaporation and seepage.

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