Floating garden prevents famine

Bangladesh is ravaged every year by floods that inundate much of the low-lying country and cause famine. Finally there is now a solution.

The floating garden in action

A natural disaster as a country
The South Asian country of Bangladesh, like the Netherlands, is located in a river delta. The rivers that flow into the delta, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, are rain rivers, causing heavy flooding during monsoons. Almost half of the country is regularly under water. Bangladesh is also very densely populated, 160 million people in an area 2.5 times the size of the Netherlands, which makes the problem even worse.

Water hyacinth almost the world's most feared weeds
Bangladesh has a subtropical climate, which makes agriculture possible all year round. That is, if the land is not under water. Admittedly there are special rice varieties that grow with the water and can reach a length of up to two meters, but they do not yield very much, because the plant has to invest a lot of energy in the stem. In such an environment, water hyacinth does very well. This water weed is one of the top ten most feared weeds in the world. The water hyacinth floats through air blowing. The aquatic plant forms dense mats that choke rivers and waterways and is ubiquitous in Bangladesh.

This is how the floating garden is built. A bamboo construction will be placed on top of a layer of water hyacinths, on which a second layer of water hyacinths will be placed with soil and cow dung on top.

Double mat of water hyacinths forms floating garden
Agronomists have now developed a special floating garden that enables the rural population of Bangladesh to survive the monsoons. This garden can be built with local materials. The bottom layer consists of water hyacinths, followed by a bamboo skeleton over which the second layer of water hyacinths is placed. On top of this layer there will be a layer of top soil on which subtropical and tropical vegetables such as okra and kangkong can be grown. See diagram.

At the end of the monsoon, the floating garden can serve as fertilizer for the vegetable garden that has dried up on the land. The following year a new floating garden is to be built.

With one eight by one meter floating garden, a family can produce hundreds of kilos of vegetables per year. The difference between life and death. Even in an apparently totally hopeless situation like the one in Bangladesh, it is possible with a little inventiveness to build a better life.

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