Are hydroponics the future of farming in Bangladesh?

Farmers across the Khulna region have not been able to make good use of the land for the cultivation of crops and vegetables. This is due to the region being flood-prone and the salinity of the soil. “We can neither cultivate crops nor fishes,” says a 45-year-old farmer from Satkhira district in the southwestern part of the country. 

Bangladesh is known to have flat fertile land which is exceptionally good for cultivating crops and vegetables all year round, but with the rise in water levels, the southern regions of the delta are becoming less cultivation friendly. 

Dr. A F M Jamal Uddin, a professor of the Department of Horticulture at Sher-e-Bangla Agriculture University, has given much hope with the use of hydroponics for growing crops in places where using soil can be challenging. He mentions the challenges of pursuing this method as Bangladesh is yet very far off from using the method for commercial usage as the setup cost is very high. 

In order to make sure the process gives sufficient dividends with its crop yields; the crops need to be grown inside a greenhouse made out of specialized polythene which helps control the temperature inside. Rain and rough weather can be a huge challenge in this respect as they can damage the setup. More durable polythene can be used but that is only made in Israel, and bringing them here in Bangladesh is next to impossible with no diplomatic ties between the two. However, there are many high-value leafy crops that can easily be grown with this technique. 

As the drylands become scarce in the region, farmers are forced to use Dhaps, a local name for floating garden agriculture practice better known as hydroponics. This is a method used by farmers for generations. But the technique is far more superior now and can yield crops in a larger quantity than before. Due to salinity, this method of growing farm produce has become ever more necessary as high-value crops can be cultivated all year round without the use of soil.

The Bangladesh government has been trying to promote such farming methods to be more widely used especially in these regions where monsoon rains can easily cause floods. In 2013, the government sanctioned a project worth $1.6 million to promote floating agriculture, the project covered 12,000 families in eight districts across 50 locations. 

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