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Floating vegetable beds throw a lifeline to Chandpur farmers

OUR CORRESPONDENT | October 31, 2023 00:00:00

The photo shows vegetables cultivation on floating beds in Shahrasti upazila in Chandpur district — FE Photo

CHANDPUR, Oct 30: Ripening papaya, bitter gourd and okra loom over a mass of water hyacinth. Birds fly low over the surface of the water. Alok Biswas, 35, a farmer in the low-lying Shahrasti upazila of Chandpur district, stands knee-deep in water, tending to his plants.

Most of the farmland in the upazila is underwater for eight to ten months every year, making traditional farming impossible for farmers like Biswas. So they have turned to vegetable cultivation on floating beds.

The farmers collect water hyacinth and build rectangular rafts out of it, which they then plant with vegetable seedlings. The buoyancy of the floating gardens allows them to rise with the water levels.

Biswas says that it cost him Tk 20,000 to make 12 beds over 42 decimal land. He has sold vegetables worth about Tk 36,000 this season so far and anticipates that he will be able to earn about Tk 4 lakh in the coming weeks.

He sells vegetables such as leafy greens, spinach, beans, papayas, pumpkins, cucumbers, bottle gourds, brinjals and green chillies.

The eco-friendly practice is a traditional form of hydroponics that has turned some 240 hectares of marshy, low-lying lands and canals into vegetable-producing gardens in Shahrasti, Hajiganj, Faridganj and Sadar upazila of Chandpur.

According to the Chandpur Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), marginal farmers are growing mostly early winter vegetables on the floating beds. On top of boosting food security, the practice is also helping to make farmers financially solvent.

"We are using every inch of agricultural land to achieve food sufficiency," Chandpur DAE Deputy Director Shafayet Ahmad Siddiqui told The Financial Express.

He said that although agricultural land in the district is decreasing rapidly due to urbanisation, they are encouraging small farmers and providing them with training to grow various types of vegetables on floating beds.

Chandpur Sadar's Krishibid Mobarak Hossain said that farmers can derive financial benefit within a month from these beds by selling vegetables and their saplings in the autumn season. They can grow other vegetables and crops round the year.

Shahrasti Upazila Agri officer Krishibid Ayesha Akter told the FE that most areas in Chikutia village and adjacent areas in Shahrasti upazila remain underwater for eight months of the year. In the past, most farmers in these areas couldn't make good use of this vast inundated land for so long.

But now they can grow various kinds of vegetables and become self-reliant financially by selling saplings and vegetables in the weekly hats and bazaars.

In Hajiganj upazila, there are floating vegetable beds covering 25 hectares of land in different canals in Olipur, Dakshin Bolakhal, Shomespur and the adjacent areas.

In Faridganj upazila, there are also farmers who are growing vegetables on floating beds in low-lying areas in Dhanua, Subidpur, Shovan and Vatialpur areas, as the Dakatia river adjacent areas remain submerged for months every year.

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