More than one million hectares of land in the coastal zone of Bangladesh are contained within polders—low-lying tracts of land that are enclosed by embankments. Constructed during the 1960s and 1970s, the polders were designed to control flooding and increase agricultural production. Today farmers within the polders, 80% of whom live below the national poverty line, face numerous limitations to productivity including flooding, drought, and variable salinity levels—conditions that will be exacerbated by climate change and rising sea level.
The Ganges project on ‘Productive, profitable, and resilient agriculture and aquaculture systems’ (G2) is working to develop and introduce more productive, diversified, and resilient agriculture/aquaculture production systems in the brackish-water coastal zones of the Ganges delta in Bangladesh and India. To achieve these objectives, the project is conducting on-farm experiments and demonstrations in low, medium and high salinty locations in three polders in the coastal zone of Bangladesh, and in high salinity locations in West Bengal, India. These on-farm trials build off of the initial efforts and lessons learned from a mini-polder trial conducted under CPWF’s Innovation Fund. Rural household and homestead farming system surveys in both Bangladesh and West Bengal have shed light on the challenges to improving production in the polder zones.
Project findings indicate that the water resources of the coastal zone have largely been misconceived and under-utilized. There is tremendous scope for increasing the productivity, profitability and resilience of agricultural and aquacultural production systems in the Ganges coastal zone, through adoption of improved germplasm and management, cropping system intensification and diversification. However, achieving this will require improved water management, and in particular drainage management. Changing current water management practices requires a change in mindsets to treat each polder as an integrated water management unit, with a single entity responsible for coordination. It will also require significant investment in polder infrastructure, within the polders as well as around the perimeters, zonation and synchronisation of production systems, and investment in capacity building for community water management and production systems.
The project is undertaking a series of workshops and meetings at local and national levels in order to communicate its findings and discuss opportunities for actualizing its recommendations with relevant stakeholders, including farmers, local water management organizations, national policy makers and donors.
This project will conclude in December 2014.
WorldFish, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute, Central Soil Salinity Research Institute—Regional Research Station, Central Institute for Brackish-Water Aquaculture, BRAC, Patuakhali Science and Technology University, SocioConsult Ltd., Jahangir Alam
Elizabeth (Liz) Humphreys (firstname.lastname@example.org)