Breakthrough science and innovation


Vertical gardens combat rising sea levels and flooding in Bangladesh

South Asia

Householders find it difficult to grow vegetables in homestead gardens in southwest Bangladesh because soils are often waterlogged and saline. Southwest Bangladesh is one of the areas likely to become even wetter with climate change, and low-lying areas will suffer most from rises in sea level that will make coastal areas more saline. The ability of householders to adapt and continue to grow vegetables under these conditions matters – vegetables are an essential food. Selling surplus vegetables also brings in extra income, which is particularly important for women.

in Bangladesh, vertical agriculture helps farmers avoid waterlogged fields and salt water intrusion. One tower can produce more than 100 Kg of vegetables 3 or 4 times a year. (Vegetables: tomato, aubergine, spinach, chili, gourd).
[If climate change adaptation] “fails here it will certainly fail in many other countries. However, if it succeeds here it gives hope for the world’s future.” Dr Craig Meisner, South Asia Country Director, WorldFish

Under the CCAFS program, scientists at the WorldFish Centre investigated ways of overcoming the problem of waterlogged and saline soils with communities in Kulna. They found that vegetable beds needed to be raised off the ground to improve drainage. WorldFish scientists and the NGO Practical Action worked with householders to test growing vegetables in sacks, in large bamboo frames, in pots or towers, and on platforms above aquaculture ponds. Householders filled the containers with good soil, compost and manure, and planted vegetables. Seeing and doing helped villagers to understand why growing vegetables ‘vertically’ works and to learn how to make the various types of containers.

“We need to suspend our agriculture, lift it up off the ground, we can grow vegetables in trees, along roofs and poles, we can hang pots from our houses.” Shibani Chakraborty, CCAFS project officer

In the first year, villagers received seeds and materials to construct containers. The materials for a vegetable tower cost about 300 taka (USD 3.85). The climate is so favourable that, in a single tower, villagers can grow about 100 kg vegetables, such as aubergine, spinach and tomatoes, worth 3000 taka (USD 38.49) 3 or 4 times a year.

Vertical horticulture allows households and women in Bangladesh to grow vegetables despite salinity, waterlogging and flooding

Vertical horticulture allows households and women in Bangladesh to grow vegetables despite salinity, waterlogging and flooding. S.M. Nurun Nabi (WorldFish)

So far, WorldFish and partners have trained 200 villagers to grow vegetables in vertical containers. Seeing the results, other villagers are copying their neighbours and making their own containers. Over the next 2 years, WorldFish will train 5000 more people. Growing vegetables above ground is an innovative, simple, low-cost, practical way of adapting to increasingly wet and salty conditions in Bangladesh.