Recognition as ingenious thinking tackles climate-related hunger

An incredible project, born out of a moment of inspiration, has won a UN award for innovation after transforming food production in the face of flooding and land loss in Bangladesh.

The work, known as sandbar cropping, transforms huge sandbanks from barren land into swathes of highly productive farmland via a combination of training and access to tools, seeds and compost.

The idea was developed in 2005 as Practical Action project manager Nazmul Choudhury attempted to address the devastation caused by land loss due to river erosion.

More than a decade later, Practical Action was announced as the winner of the UNIDO Award for Innovative Ideas and Technologies in Agribusiness in the climate change category.

After proving successful in trials, a huge UK-Government backed fundraising campaign was launched in 2015 to fund work to show how sandbar cropping could address malnutrition and poverty amongst thousands of families living on the front line of climate change.

This phase of the project was so successful that people taking part in the scheme were able to donate food to other neighbouring communities devastated by floods in 2017.
Following years of work with the authorities in Bangladesh, the work is now being scaled up further so millions more people can avoid a future blighted by hunger. 

Chief executive of Practical Action, Paul Smith-Lomas said: “This is a perfect example of the way Practical Action works. We take an ingenious idea and combine it with other solutions to the problems the most vulnerable people face every day.

“We then trial, learn and take the work to an even bigger scale. Once we have evidence it is effective, we then advocate to Governments and international bodies, encouraging them to implement these solutions on a much bigger scale so millions more people can benefit.”

The work is part of Practical Action’s broader target of enabling smallholder farmers around the world to adapt and cope with climate change.

Practical Action director in Bangladesh, Hasin Jahan said: “Like all the best ideas, this is simple, effective and quick to show results.

“It is incredible that after Nazmul came up with this inspired idea, Practical Action had the foresight and ability to bring it to fruition and scale it up so that the current agricultural policy in Bangladesh now includes sandbar cropping, bringing benefits to thousands more people.”

Nazmul said: “Although it is great to see this work being recognised by international institutions like the UN, I get most satisfaction from talking to people who have benefitted from this work.
“One man told me: ‘My family are healthy now. Before, they used to suffer with fever and diarrhoea. This year, I produced 600 pumpkins. I bought a cow from my income and sell milk at the market. I can now afford a tutor for my children.’

Nazmul added: "The floods may return, but communities know in a few months the sandbars will be back and they can farm again.”


How it works:

Every year, families in Bangladesh – one of the most crowded countries on Earth – lose land and their homes as flood waters wash them away, forcing them to move away, or leaving them reliant on income from relatives working in cities.

• As flood waters recede huge sandbanks emerge in the middle of the rivers.
• The sand banks were previously considered barren and unusable.
• Farmers dig holes in the ground, place compost inside them and plant a seed.
• Initially, most farmers grew pumpkins as they can be stored for a long time when kept dry.
• Now other marketable crops are grown, including gourds, tomatoes, watermelon, baby corn and flowers so farmers can increase their income, educate their children and invest in cattle.
• The impact of the work is reinforced by further training with new mums, parents and the elderly, home gardening and poultry rearing, to further improve nutrition.



For all media enquiries, please contact Andy Heath or Abbie Wells, Practical Action Press & Media Officers.

UK office: + 44 (0) 1926 634 552
Mobile: +44 (0) 7880 671 315

UK office: + 44 (0) 1926 634 552
Mobile: +44 (0) 7714 205342

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