River erosion project, Bangladesh
Over the last five years Practical Action's Disappearing Lands project has helped 20,000 households affected by flooding in Bangladesh. The final external evaluation report comments: “The project’s work on livelihood options was particularly noteworthy and the impact of these innovations is now reaching far beyond the designated project areas.”
So what were these award winning innovations that helped it gain the gold prize in the prestigious Ryutaro Hashimoto Award in promoting environmental management and sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific region?
One of these was to use the seemingly infertile soil left behind after floodwater recedes leaving sand and silt to cover the land. Working in the remote area of Gaibandha, in north east Bangladesh, we have introduced a new technique - sandbar cropping. By simply digging holes in these sandy residues and filling them with manure, compost and pumpkin seeds, crops have thrived. As well as giving a high yield and being packed full of health benefits, pumpkins can be stored for up to a year, meaning people have a crop both for their families and also to sell, when employment opportunities are low.
Saiful Islam, a 30-year-old labourer has seen his life transformed by this project. His family, who live on river embankments, had been displaced five times over the past ten years, with no way of sustaining a livelihood.
Once Saiful received training and seeds he began to cultivate 50 pumpkin ‘pits’. He later increased this to 433 pits, growing almost 4,000 pumpkins – worth more than £1,300. He used the money to lease land, invest in fish production and in beef fattening. Spurred on by such a simple technology, he was then trained to share his knowledge to support 200 landless farmers, who between them cultivated more than 32,000 pits.
Almost 1,300 families have now benefited from the project, producing between them more than 162,000 pumpkins. The cost of each pit – taking in labour seed and materials – is just 24 pence.
HOW IT WORKS
Through the sandbar and other innovative technologies, such as floating gardens and fish farming, the project has had a huge impact on the livelihoods of people in this area. Around 100,000 people have seen direct benefits and over 500,000 benefited indirectly – almost 70% of them women. Saiful says: “The opportunities and the technology is a blessing for us, it has opened our eyes to see a better life and a new hope to live.”
Although the Disappearing Lands project has now finished, Practical Action is planning to take this work further to other parts of the country, so that many other riverside dwellers will benefit from the changes developed by this work.
River Erosion Project
Donate online by secure server
or call us on Freephone 0800 389 16 24