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One of the most innovative technologies used to combat poverty, particularly in places where climatic conditions and rising sea levels impair local agriculture, are floating gardens. Areas such as Bangladesh, which are now below sea level in many places, do not have the land to grow crops; thus, floating gardens allow farmers to grow crops in the absence of arable land. Here is how floating gardens can tackle poverty.

Floating Gardens

Floating gardens were first used by the Aztecs in Tenochtitlan, and consisted of a raft woven from water hyacinth on top of which soil and manure were placed. From this structural orientation, farmers have been able to grow crops without the need for adequate farming land.

Today, farmers in many countries, such as Bangladesh, suffer from poor growing conditions due to flooding from monsoons and rising sea levels. It was reported in the New York Times that “the country’s climate scientists and politicians have come to agree that by 2050, rising sea levels will inundate some 17 percent of the land and displace about 18 million people.”

When water saturates soil and air — which plants need for nutrient uptake — growing and cell division are restricted; this process is referred to as waterlogging and is a major concern for farmers in Bangladesh.

Mitigating Obstacles

Farmer productivity is also weakened by lengthy dry periods. According to Practical Action, an organization that fights to mitigate these obstacles for farmers, “Growing conditions are already challenging as the clay soil becomes hard during the dry season (November to March) while prolonged rain during the monsoon (June to October) causes flooding.”

Floating gardens are a way for farmers to adapt to climate conditions and gain control over the production of crops for selling for both their productivity and for their own families. In this way, floating gardens can tackle poverty because they are economically beneficial to farmers who would otherwise have great difficulty doing their jobs.

Practical Action

Practical Action works on aqua-geoponics — special contraptions that combine floating gardens and fish farming — to help secure income for poor families in Bangladesh.

These contraptions increase efficiency and raise income levels for farmers. In addition to raising household incomes, floating gardens also save households money by reducing amounts spent on vegetables as households can now grow their own. According to the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC-Davis, one floating garden provides a family with pesticide-free vegetables for a year.

Food Security

Another benefit of floating gardens is food security. According to the Independent, thanks to the efforts of the Practical Action residents of rural villages in Bangladesh now get at least 1,800 calories per day. In this way, floating gardens have reduced hunger and by growing their own crops, households now have pesticide-free vegetables.

A flyer published by Penn State asserted that potential effects of long-term exposure to pesticides include birth defects, tumors and blood or nerve disorders; in mitigating these effects, there are also health benefits to growing a floating garden.

Floating Gardens Tackle Poverty

There are numerous ways in which floating gardens can tackle poverty, including increased income and efficiency for farmers, and improved health for consumers of the crops. According to the World Bank, agriculture has been a key step in fighting poverty in Bangladesh. Poverty dropped from 48.9 percent to 31.5 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Additionally, over 87 percent of rural people receive some income from agricultural activities. In this way, finding a dependable method of crop production will be key in fighting poverty in countries such as Bangladesh.

– Olivia Booth

Photo: Flickr

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In a country where 60% of the population are employed as farmers, it is a disheartening fact that Nigeria is not agriculturally self-sustainable. Not only does the country lack the level of food production needed to feed its growing population, but the shortfall is so great that Nigeria is the world’s largest importer of rice, spending $11 billion a year on food importation.

Despite some 100 million farmers, out of a population of 167 million, the majority practice subsistence farming. Less than half of Nigeria’s arable land is currently being used for food production, and some sources claim less than 10% is used optimally. Additionally, many of these farmers still aren’t employing modern methods and tools.

Without government intervention, this is unlikely to change soon. For one, the farming population is aging, despite 70% of Nigeria’s total population being under the age of 30. Youth are moving to the cities rather than remaining in rural areas, and this demographic shift takes a toll on farms as the potential workforce is depleted. Additionally, banks are reluctant to lend money to farmers, as returns on investments are slow. A system of government aid or microcredit may be necessary to allow farmers to update their equipment and buy fertilizer, and so increase their yields.

However, it is a lack of infrastructure in the country that might be the biggest contributor to the constant shortcomings in food production. Roads are often unsuitable for transportation, and water and electricity provision are inconsistent. The lack of suitable roads leads to a huge amount of waste as crops are unable to be transported in a timely manner. According to Nigeria’s Farms Minister, Akinwumi Adesina, 45% of the country’s tomato crop is lost every day, simply because farmers are unable to get them to the market.

The problems in agriculture stems partly from the discovery of oil in Nigeria in the 70s, and the subsequent shift away from farming. But more often it appears to be inefficient methods and insufficient workers. Crops often go unharvested, or yields simply aren’t high enough to provide a surplus.

Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, has targeted 2015 to eliminate the need to import rice. With Nigeria’s population quickly swelling, though, it will take more than a simple increase in yields to meet the demand. Infrastructure will need to be improved, and a modernization of the industry must take place.

With the country set to surpass the population of the United States before 2050, this revitalization will be crucial to its future success.

– David Wilson

Sources: The Economist
Photo: IFAD