Water Farming for Climate-Resilient Agriculture and Disaster Preparedness in India and Bangladesh
Water Farming for Climate-Resilient Agriculture and Disaster Preparedness in India and Bangladesh
Providing climate-resilient livelihood opportunities for farmers in India and Bangladesh by growing crops on floodplains

Challenges

The flooding of the floodplains of India and coastal Bangladesh are an almost yearly occurrence: 35 percent of the land is submerged with 25 percent of the cultivable land remaining inundated in flood waters for about seven to eight months. The flooding threatens the livelihoods and food security of communities; farmers and their families struggle with poverty, impoverishment and social disparity; agrarian communities are forced to migrate; young farmers are unemployed; and there is a limited number of agricultural business opportunities. 

 

In 2019, floods in Assam, India are reported to have caused thousands of deaths, owing to numerous landslides, devastations and road blockages affecting up to 5.8 million people in 21 districtsof whom 78 percent are marginal communities in rural settings. In the same year, floods affected 2,100 villages and destroyed standing crops across an area of up to 212,123 ha. As an aftermath, livelihoods of almost one million people were at stake, and more than 1,700 villages faced an acute food crisis.  

 

Since 2017, 87 percent of land holdings iSatkhira district of Bangladesh were abandoned due to salinity ingress, and 94 percent of male farmers of 2045 years migrated as labourers in the Middle East. Impacts are multiplied in the scarcity of adaptive farming alternatives, disaster-resilient technology and real-time contingency planning. According to official estimates in 2018, nearly 220,000 hectares of farmlands in low-lying coastal areas have been rendered unproductive due to salinity ingression.  

Towards a Solution

The South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE)1 implemented the project, Water Farming for Climate Resilient Agriculture and Disaster Preparedness in India and Bangladesh, with the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), in order to address food security and climate preparedness for flood-stricken communities in India and Bangladesh. The direct beneficiaries are indigenous and often marginalized farmers and fishers, 90 percent of whom live below the poverty line and are excluded from mainstream economic activities. The project trains vulnerable people in establishing float farms and aquaculture as a flood-resilient practice and business opportunity. Float farms also provide alternative livelihoods for migrants displaced from floods or the COVID-19 pandemic and increase food security during lockdowns.  

 

The initiative contributes to the achievement of at least eight Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): It promotes agricultural productivity and climate-adaptive food production systems (SDG 2, targets 2.3 and 2.4); equal rights to economic, social and natural resources (SDG 1, targets 1.4 and 1.5); women’s participation (SDG 5, target 5.5); and international cooperation and capacity-building in water-and sanitation-related areas (SDG 6; targets 6.5, 6.6, 6.a). It sustains income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population and reduces inequalities of outcome (SDG 10; targets 10.1, 10.2, 10.3). It also enhances the resilience of human settlements (SDG 11), ensures sustainable production patterns (SDG 12), and strengthens resilience to climate-related hazards (SDG 13; target 13.1). 

 

SAFE used targeting methods to identify the direct beneficiaries who are the most vulnerable to floods such as a sociometric survey for needs assessment and livelihood vulnerability, as well as resource mapping and disaster zoning using geospatial tools and techniques. Beneficiaries were trained by agricultural and fisheries experts in India and Bangladesh to build their capacities in hydroponic float farming and aquafarming. The training materials were developed through a South-South exchange of traditional float farming methods and informed by a participatory planning phase that involved all beneficiaries. Subsequently, the float farms were built with the active participation of the trained float farmers and inaugurated by communities. Farmers were encouraged to create new agricultural business opportunities and were provided with support in collective crop cycle planning, aquafarming with livestock and hatchery management as well as information on credit linkages, financing mechanisms and insurance coverage. Master trainers were identified and trained to mainstream float-farming techniques in the communities and support the maintenance and expansion of aquafarms. 

The project achieved the following outcomes over 15 months:  

 

  • 785 hydroponic trays were placed in 18 different locations covering nearly 8.75 hectares of float farms and 72 hectares of fish farms;  
  • 620 project beneficiaries successfully grew 37 metric tonnes of horticultural crops, seedlings and cut-flowers, and farmed 128 metric tonnes of table fish throughout the project span;  
  • 68 Joint Liability Groups with seven to ten members were established, of which 25 are now credit-linked as registered cooperatives;  
  • 60 capacity-building workshops were conducted to train 1,500 farmers in adaptive resilient agriculture and 120 master trainers.  

 

Most importantly, flood farming allowed beneficiaries to secure their livelihoods: each float farm produced around 130170 kg of vegetables and 150200 kg fish for a total value of EUR 500 every three months. At the household level, float farming secured food and raised farmers’ earnings by 6570 percent 

 

The sustainability of the project is based on a business plan that ensures collective financing, access to markets, and training of local master trainers who support the maintenance and expansion of float farming and aquaculture enterprises. Additionally, float farms are equipped with solar micro-irrigation systems to ensure environmental sustainability.  

 

This intervention has tremendous potential for scale-up on the Asian coast as well as in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and floodplains in which inundation has been a serious concern. Locations with water abundance (such as inundated or water-logged areas) or water crisis, communities unaware of water resources management, and agrarian marginal communities can adopt the technology for sustainable growth after they have been sensitized for the issue. Since this is a closed-system farming practice, it is also ideal for carbon-neutral organic farming, an adaptive method that advances the goals of the Agenda 2030. Local administrations throughout the course of the project have extended their support, and the Japan Social Development Fund stated its interest in extending it to other parts of South Asia. The successful methodology has already been transferred from India to Bangladesh with the support of GIZ and can be replicated in other countries – including as COVID-19 emergency measure to provide food security in flood-stricken communities affected by lockdowns.   

Contact Information

Name: Dr Dipayan Dey Title: Project Leader Organization: South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE)

Countries involved

Bangladesh, India

Supported by

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Implementing Entities

The South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE)

Project Status

Ongoing

Project Period

2018 - 2020

URL of the practice

www.safeinch.org

Primary SDG

02 - Zero Hunger

Secondary SDGs

01 - No Poverty, 05 - Gender Equality, 06 - Clean Water and Sanitation, 10 - Reduced Inequalities, 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities, 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production, 13 - Climate Action

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