Gopalganj, Bangladesh
City population: 91000
Duration: 2007 – 2015
Implementation status: Completed
Scale: Meso-scale: Regional, metropolitan and urban level
Project area: unknown
Type of area: Agricultural area or farmland
Last updated: June 2024

Bangladesh is a country prone to floods and waterlogging, which results in two-thirds of this nation's land being transformed into wetlands each year. As such, much land becomes unavailable and the restricted access to it causes food insecurity as well as severe environmental pressure on the flora, fauna and ecosystems. The impact is even more serious as agriculture is one of the most important contributors to Bangladesh's GDP (1). To respond to most of the climate challenges and food insecurities, in 2007 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the humanitarian agency Care International, alongside other partners (including the Bangladeshi government), launched floating gardening (artificial islands, that simply rise and fall with the swelling waters) pilot project in the peri-urban area of the Gopalganj and other close by districts (1,2). Floating gardens known locally as Baira are an old practice of crop cultivation in the wetlands of Bangladesh, the previous agricultural land, which got destroyed by the floods. The practice consists of piling together a number of dense layers of aquatic weeds like water hyacinth, duckweed, or paddy stubs and letting them decay. Afterwards, they're combined with silt and cow dung and inserted with plant/vegetable seeds left to flourish. On these beds, farmers cultivate fruits and vegetables like turmeric and ginger as well as okra, bitter gourd, snake gourd, spinach, and brinjal. In addition to veggies, rice seedlings can occasionally be raised. As a result, floating gardens are available to everyone, affordable, dependable, and completely in harmony with nature. (2,3) Furthermore, this aquatic farming practice has been shown to be highly effective in tackling the consequences of climatic variability and climate change like prolonged water-logging (3). The intervention has benefited approx. 2,000 families in the district of Gopalganj and it has opened the route for further projects that supported the practice of floating gardens (4).

Floating gardens
Source: (Ref 6)

Overview

Nature-based solution

  • Blue infrastructure
  • In-land wetlands, peatlands, swamps, and moors
  • Community gardens and allotments
  • Horticulture

Key challenges

  • Climate action for adaptation, resilience and mitigation (SDG 13)
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Green space, habitats and biodiversity (SDG 15)
  • Habitat and biodiversity conservation
  • Water management (SDG 6)
  • Flood protection
  • Cultural heritage and cultural diversity
  • Preservation of historic traditions
  • Sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12)
  • Sustainable consumption
  • Sustainable production

Focus

Coastal landscape management or protection, Knowledge creation and awareness raising

Project objectives

The goals of the project were defined below: 1. To strengthen climate change adaptation by invoking a local technique of hydroponics that is an eco-friendly farm practice thus helping in conserving indigenous knowledge and extending water stagnancy (2,3). 2. To respond effectively to climate change challenges such as flooding and waterlogging with innovative solutions that increase the quality of food production influencing therefore the health of local communities (2). 3. To reduce pollution from chemical fertilizers using platform residues as organic fertilizer (3). 4. To protect the ecosystem by controlling invasive species like water hyacinth and introducing it in the construction of these ingenious structures, because of their resistance to salt water, buoyancy and abundance. "These reduce the risks of mosquito breeding, and soil-borne diseases.” (1)

Implementation activities

In 2007, IUCN & the the humanitarian agency Care International introduced floating gardening in the Gopalganj district. Until 2009, they widely promoted this technology in around 100 villages as a means of improving the nutritional status of extreme poor families, particularly during the difficult monsoon season. These agencies are still promoting floating gardening in several other districts of Bangladesh. Before the project started the implementer initiated a Participatory Rural Appraisal to establish the baseline of the natural resources (1, 3). The practice is the following: "The farmers gather weeds like water hyacinth or paddy stalks, and place them on stagnant water, beating them into shape and making rafts. Creating garden beds out of the water hyacinth is a way of controlling it. "Another advantage of these gardens is that invasive species like water hyacinth actually become beneficial, in constructing these ingenious structures, because of their resistance to salt water, buoyancy and abundance, "(1). But studies showed that there can be a reduction in its usage by experimenting with different Floating Bed cum Trellis (FBT) technology, which basically is floating garden practices for cultivating cucurbits or different types of creeper vegetable crops. The project is using both the water hyacinth technique and the new one during the action but had a target of using fewer hyacinths (4). They plant seedlings on these organic beds and place them in flooded parts of the villages. Farmers grow vegetables like okra, bitter gourd, snake gourd, spinach and brinjal on these beds, and sometimes spices like turmeric and ginger. Besides vegetables, rice seedlings, bananas, guava, coconuts, and mangoes can sometimes be grown" (1,2). Both men and women work to make these organic floating beds, which last for around five to six months. A typical floating bed is about 20ft (6m) long, but it can be as long as 180ft (55m) and provides enough food for the farmer and their family, and a source of income when the surplus is sold (1). As a success of the initiative starting in 2013, the government of Bangladesh approved a $1.6m (£1.2m) project to promote floating farms for climate change adaptation (1). The project continued until 2015 (5,8).

Climate-focused activities

Climate change adaptation:

  • Restore wetlands and/or coastal ecosystems to dissipate the effects of flooding and/or storms
  • Increase the use of climate-resilient plant species (resistant to drought, fire, and pests)

Biodiversity conservation or restoration-focused activities

Biodiversity conservation:

  • Protect and enhance urban habitats
  • Reduce negative impacts and avoid the alteration/damage of ecosystem
  • Protect species
  • Control and clean invasive alien species
  • Means for conservation governance
  • Protect and apply traditional knowledge and conservation practices

Main beneficiaries

  • Citizens or community groups
  • Food producers and cultivators (i.e. farmers, gardeners)
  • Marginalized groups: Socio-economically disadvantaged populations (e.g. low-income households, unemployed)

Governance

Management set-up

  • Co-governance with government and non-government actors

Type of initiating organisation

  • Non-government organisation/civil society
  • Multilateral organisation

Participatory approaches/ community involvement

  • Consultation (e.g. workshop, surveys, community meetings, town halls)
  • Joint implementation (e.g. tree planting)
  • Co-management/Joint management
  • Citizen science

Details on the roles of the organisations involved in the project

The initiative was initiated by IUCN Bangladesh alongside the humanitarian agency Care International. Both organizations were initiators and implementers and funding was provided under the USAID-funded SHOUHARDO programme and the Bangladeshi government. (6)

Project implemented in response to ...

... an EU policy or strategy? No
... a national policy or strategy? Yes (The National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA, 2005) of Bangladesh identified the promotion of floating gardening as one of its 15 adaptation projects. The revised NAPA (2009) also recognised the potential of this traditional practice (2,3). Bangladesh's climate documents picked up floating farming—the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA, 2005, updated in 2009) and the second (2012) and third (2018) national communications submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sufficiently discussed this agro-practice. (6))
... a local policy or strategy? Unknown

Financing

Total cost

More than €4,000,000

Source(s) of funding

  • Public national budget
  • Multilateral funds/international funding

Type of funding

  • Direct funding

Non-financial contribution

Type of non-financial contribution
  • Provision of land
  • Provision of labour
  • Provision of expertise
Who provided the non-financial contribution?
  • Public authorities (e.g. land, utility services)
  • Citizens (e.g. volunteering)

Impacts and Monitoring

Environmental impacts

  • Climate change
  • Strengthened capacity to address climate hazards/natural disasters
  • Water management and blue areas
  • Improved water quality
  • Green space and habitat
  • Reduced biodiversity loss
  • Improved prevention or control of invasive alien species

Economic impacts

  • Increase in agricultural production (for profit or not)
  • Generation of income from NBS

Socio-cultural impacts

  • Social justice and cohesion
  • Increased visibility and opportunity for marginalised groups or indigenous peoples
  • Cultural heritage and sense of place
  • Protection of historic and cultural landscape / infrastructure

Type of reported impacts

Expected impacts, Achieved impacts

Presence of formal monitoring system

Yes

Presence of indicators used in reporting

Yes

Presence of monitoring/ evaluation reports

No evidence in public records

Availability of a web-based monitoring tool

No evidence in public records

References

Floating gardens
Source: (Ref 2)
Floating garden
https://gca.org/these-farmers-in-bangladesh-are-floating-their-crops-to-adapt-to-climate-change/
Growing vegetables
https://www.thedailystar.net/views/opinion/news/what-will-the-next-phase-floating-agriculture-look-2140951#lg=1&slide=0
Information about this nature-based solution was collected as part of the "NBS 2022" UNA Asian extension project funded by the Asia-Europe Foundation.