Although illiterate Bangladeshi villagers don’t know the climate change lingo, many have shown an awareness of the situation, using local knowledge to innovate and adapt to the natural changes.
Constant fighting with poverty and floods are a common reality of grassroots Bangladesh. Along with development challenges, preparing for and adapting to climate changes has been added to the burden of the rural poor.
The people of Vobodaho and Kashoppur in the Jessore district of southwest Bangladesh are continuously striving to deal with changes to their surroundings. Since 1960, the region’s nature has been affected by aggressive man-made changes, which have led to high salinity levels and arsenic pollution in waterways, and water logging of much of the land.
“Even my forefathers can’t remember flooding on this scale. That’s why we set up home here. If I’d known growing up that there was such a risk of flooding I would never have built a house here.”
- Samsur Rahman Shaq
But unusual flooding patterns are now adding tremendous suffering in three parts of the district. Because of water logging, most of the crop land in this rural area is now underwater. Farmers can not cultivate as they normally would.
Samsur Rahman Shaq, one affected farmer, is going forward with incessant efforts. He and his family welcome new farming systems. Dap chas (floating gardens), duck rearing, fishing, and other alternative farming methods are now popular in his area.
Rahman Shaq has become an expert on making floating gardens, and his wife on duck rearing. Rahman Shaq explains his experiences: “In this Chatga village, catastrophic flooding has been happening since 2000. Before, we never faced such serious flood. The first time flood came here, we enjoyed huge catches of fish in flooded water. We never thought the water would be logged here permanently. As the water did not return back, huge water hyacinth started sprouting up in this Kopotakho River.”
Hyacinth covered the whole water surface. Boats could not run and the water became fully useless – even for fishing.
One day the villagers from neighboring Gupalgong showed Rahman Shaq and the others in Chatga how to cultivate on the floating hyacinth dap (bed).
“At first we did not believe it was possible. First year we were surprised to see excellent harvesting – particularly different type of vegetables without any pesticide and fertilizer on the floating garden. And the vegetables grown on the dap were tastier than normal vegetables.