In pictures: Bangladeshi farmers adapt as climate crisis worsens

Rising sea levels and deadly floods are already putting tens of millions of lives in Bangladesh at risk, but they bring another problem that threatens the entire nation: Flooded lands and high salinity in streams and soil are killing water. crops.

Bangladesh ranks seventh among the countries most affected by extreme weather in the past two decades, according to the Global Climate Risk Index.

Farmers are desperately trying to adapt to these increasingly destructive and unpredictable conditions caused by global warming, from using floating seedlings to developing salt-resistant rice.

“Even 25 years ago, we could farm all year round … but then the water started to stay here for seven months. We had no idea how to survive, ”Altaf Mahmud said.

“Most of the farmers here are poor and the land is scarce. But if we can’t grow anything during the seven months, we would starve, ”added neighbor Mohammad Mostofa.

So they and other local farmers in Mugarjhor, a region 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Dhaka, revived a centuries-old technique of using seedlings that sit on water.

They stack layers of water hyacinth and bamboo tied by their roots to create a raft, 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters) high, in which to plant seeds, often using wood shavings and fiberglass. coconut as a fertilizer.

This forms a light and floating garden: in this way bitter gourds, spinach and okra can be grown, capable of rising and falling with the water level.

Floating farms have become community initiatives, and in some villages, women spend months preparing beds before boatmen carry them across flooded fields.

Increasingly frequent cyclones, rising sea levels, floods, erosion, drought and unreliable rains have already displaced millions, either to the city’s slums or abroad.

Those who stay have no choice but to find new ways of working.

Some farmers have stopped farming and have chosen to grow shrimp in brackish water or fatten crabs (catch wild crabs and feed them and then sell them), as well as raising ducks, which are priced high in Dhaka restaurants.

The Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) has created new varieties resistant to the salt of the staple crop.

“Normal rice does not grow in saline water. The salinity depletes the energy of the rice stalks, ”explained scientist Alamgir Hossain.

BRRI has now created a strain that can grow in water with triple the levels of saline that normal rice can support, he said.

This has offered “new hope” to farmers in coastal regions, where seawater is increasingly invading the land, he added.

But Saiful Islam, a climate expert at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said such efforts are a drop in the bucket.

“We need to spend billions to build and strengthen the embankments along our great coastline. We need to create mangrove forests along the coastal belt to function as natural barriers against cyclones, subsidence and rising sea levels. “

“We need to build new roads, preserve rainwater and create alternative livelihoods for millions of people. It is not enough to invent crops. Bangladesh alone cannot do it, ”Islam said.

He added that Western nations were “responsible for emitting the majority of greenhouse gases” and therefore needed to help.

Islam said Bangladesh received “just some” of the $ 100 billion proposed by developed nations for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

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