Farmers of the marshland in Nazirpur upazila of Pirojpur are busy in growing vegetable saplings on water bed, locally known as ‘Dhap’.
Since mid May they have started making seed beds on water to grow vegetable saplings and will continue till October.
The farmers of Mugarjhor, Dewlbari, Dobra, Paddadubi, Beel Dumuria, Manoharpur, Gaokhali, Sachiya, Meda, Jugiya, Pakuria, Mitharkul and some other areas in the upazila are now making floating seed beds and planting seeds of different types.
“Most of the farmers here are busy growing vegetable saplings,” said Mostofa Howlader, a farmer of Mugarjhor village.
Farmers of these marsh lands cannot grow paddy in their land because water predominantly covers the land and rises to over seven feet most of the year.
“Wholesale buyers from different areas come here to buy saplings and supply those to different parts of the country,” said Mizan Bepary, another farmer.
A dhap is made with water hyacinth and other organic materials and is usually 100-180 feet long, over two feet thick and four feet wide.
After getting orders from the farmers, dhap technicians start making the seed bed on the water. Using locally discovered technique, water hyacinths are gathered to make a dhap. Three men need around four days to complete a dhap. They are paid on daily basis or sometimes contractual.
After completing a dhap they carry it to the marsh land and set it there. One piece of dhap is sold for over Tk 7,500.
The discovery of dhap has created job opportunities for the ill fated marsh land people.
“I don’t know what we would do if dhap was not be discovered,” said Alamgir Mollic, another farmer of Mugarjhor village.
After setting them in the marshland, different types of vegetable seeds including bottle gourd, bean, bitter gourd, papaw, brinjal, beet, pumpkin, tomato, pepper are planted on the dhap. Mainly these saplings are winter vegetables.
In this case, women play an important role. They make small balls with different water plants and set a vegetable seed inside each of them. These balls are known as doulla.
As soon as the saplings come out from doulla, they are transferred to the dhap.
“From my childhood, I am making doulla,” said Mansura Begum, 40, of Boithakata village.
She makes doulla for others and gets money which is also a great support to her man, she added.
“We can grow around 2,000 vegetable saplings at a time,” said Abdur Rahim, another dhap cultivator adding that a dhap can be used for 4-5 times.
Some farmers also use dhap for growing vegetable on it and it can also be used as compost fertilizer.
At present, different non government organisations (NGO) are working to make dhap cultivation popular among the farmers.
“Climate change posing as a risk for us as water level is rising day by day. In this case agriculture sector is at serious dilemma. So, we are inspiring people to practice floating cultivation, where the facility is available,” said Sirajul Islam, coordinator of Integrated Child Centered Climate Change Adaptation (ICCCCA) project of UDDIPAN.
Dighbijoy Hazra, Nazirpur upazila agriculture officer, said that dhap cultivation is possible at every marsh land. But, in this case water hyacinths should be available.
He also said that extreme saline water in not suitable for dhap cultivation.
The exact time of the beginning of dhap cultivation could not be known. But, Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in Pirojpur sources said that around 150 to 200 years back farmers discovered the technique.
Although this system started in Nazirpur upazila first, now it has spread to adjacent Nesarabad upazila in Pirojpur and some other parts of Barisal district including Banaripara upazila.
For the development of the farmers involved in this cultivation process, youths of Mugarjhor have set up a club named Mugarjhor Krishi Unnayon Club in 2008.
“In our club, we train farmers about modern cultivation system,” said Md Samsul Areafin, one of the members of the club who completed diploma on agriculture.
In addition, government and non government organisations arrange program for the farmers in the club, he said.