Floating gardens are made of native aquatic plants like water hyacinths. Farmers arrange the plants together in a river, forming floating raised beds about three feet deep. This farming approach is traditionally used to produce food in the wetlands, especially during the rainy season. Okra, spinach, eggplant, turmeric, and ginger are the common crops grown over the hyacinth beds.
The concept of floating gardens existed hundreds of years ago. This practice has been observed not just in Bangladesh where it is considered a tradition, but also in other countries like Myanmar, Cambodia, and India.
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) labeled Bangladesh’s floating gardens as a globally important agricultural heritage system (GIAHS).
A study by the Journal of Agriculture, Food and Environment (JAFE) shows that floating gardens could be a solution to mitigate food insecurity and boost the income of rural families, especially those residing in flood-prone areas.
With the impacts of climate change, including the fluctuating water level in rivers, the gardens have been a sustainable alternative for small-holder rice farmers to continue their production amid extreme weather conditions.
The study found that floating gardens are linked to the stability of income and food among families who use this farming method. Growers mostly use hybrid seeds for a wider selection of crops in their floating gardens. However, this type of garden is more prone to pests, having farmers pay for pesticides and fertilizers. Even so, the benefits still weigh heavier than the costs.
Researchers also said that the garden promotes the active participation of community members in agriculture. Women, children, and elders usually take part in seedling preparation and collection of aquatic plants that they use to create gardens. Men, on the other hand, raise and protect the gardens from threats.
As per a Bangladesh farmer, he earns four times the money he usually generates from growing rice in paddies.
With the benefits that this garden carries, this may be a concept that other countries could also adopt.