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30.03.2021 | Blog

Fighting the Effects of Climate Change with Innovations

Extreme weather destroys harvests and therefore livelihood of small farmers in Bangladesh. The solution: Vegetables that float on water.

Portrait einer jungen Frau im Sari
In the Center for Girls and Women in Need of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Province, young women receive help who are to be married off against their will or experience domestic violence © Francesca Schraffl

When the water level of the Jamuna river in north western Bangladesh rises after heavy rain, the Begum family gets its feet wet. Literally. The water in their bamboo and straw hut reaches their ankles. They need to find dry quarters as soon as possible and do not have time to save the vegetables in their fields. Their situation is not unique in this densely-populated country.

Extreme Weather Events Destroy Livelihoods

Only a few metres above sea level and criss-crossed by a large amount of rivers, Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Hurricanes and torrential rain with flooding are increasing in frequency. They destroy homes, crops, water supply and sanitation, creating and exacerbating food shortages.

After heavy rainfalls, the Jamuna river in north western Bangladesh rises significantly. For the locals, this often means losing their crops and their homes.
After heavy rainfalls, the Jamuna river in north western Bangladesh rises significantly. For the locals, this often means losing their crops and their homes. © Welthungerhilfe

Food and nutrition security is under strain in the lower-lying rural regions in the northeast and on the river islands of the Jamuna, which are constantly changing their shape and position in the current. Here, Welthungerhilfe is supporting around 10,000 smallholder households in 50 villages. 

The Solution: Vegetables That Can Float and Move 

"We are like fish. Water is not new to us, but now it’s destroying our crops."

How can plants be protected from destruction by flooding? By making them float. Bamboo rods and water hyacinths are woven together to form a raft, and layers of mud and dirt then create fertile plots of land floating on the surface of the water. Spinach, okra, turmeric, potatoes and amaranth grow particularly well. Planting sacks are used as well. They require little surface area and allow plants such as paprika, eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins and leafy vegetables to be moved if necessary. The innovations in their village are giving Mrs. Begum hope. “Until now, we were never able to afford two meals per day, the house is too small and there was no drinking water. Now, I am confident that everything will turn out well!”

Smallholders like the Begum family are improving their situation in life with flexible gardens and specialised seed. © Welthungerhilfe
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Flooding cannot harm the floating gardens. © Welthungerhilfe
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Especially spinach, okra, turmeric, potatoes and amaranth grow well on the floating gardens. © Welthungerhilfe
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Planting sacks have the advantage of being portable in the event that the climate force migration. © Welthungerhilfe
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How Welthungerhilfe Supports People in Bangladesh


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