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As the waters recede July 1st, 2018 by

Peasant farmers can be quick to seize an opportunity, and when the benefit is clearly high, farmers may skip the experimental stage and go straight to a new practice on a massive scale.

In the lower Gangetic Delta in southwest Bangladesh, people live just centimeters above sea level. Getting rid of excess water can make all the different between harvest and hunger.

In the 1960s, earthen embankments were built around certain large areas of land.

The newly dry land inside these dykes is called a polder. Successful farming in the polder depends on having large draining canals, snaking through the muddy land, to carry water to the river.

In 2000, the 10 km-long Amodkhali Canal silted up. So during the winter rainy season the water had nowhere to go. A vast area in the middle of Polder 2 became a seasonal lake. Villagers hung on, growing rice in the dry season. Many migrated for wage labour in the winter.

Then in May 2017, Blue Gold (a program implemented by the government of Bangladesh) began to re-excavate the Amodkhali Canal.  By July they had dug out 8.4 km. It was a big job. At 2.5 meters deep and 6 meters wide, thousands of cubic meters of mud had to be moved. Some was done by machinery and some by hand. Groups of women were organised into Labour Contracting Societies (LCS) to earn money doing the work.

Local people near the canal saw the work. Even those living far away heard about it, and when the rains came in July 2017, farmers could see with their own eyes that the rainwater was draining away.

Like a river, a drainage canal has a sort of watershed, called a catchment area. This canal drains a roughly tear-drop shaped area some four by six kilometres: a big place. The thousands of farmers in the area didn’t have to be begged or cajoled into planting rice: they just did it.

My colleagues and I met local farmer Nozrul Islam near the banks of the canal. He said that he was so happy with the canal. He has two hectares of land and when the water drained off, nobody told him to plant rice. He simply went to Khulna, a neighbouring district, and bought rice seed for all of his land. He hadn’t planted winter rice for over 16 years.

Nozrul’s experience was replicated all over the area. In the village of Koikhali, a group of women told us that they also planted winter (amon) rice last year.

There was no experimentation, no hesitation. People simply re-introduced a winter rice crop into their cropping system, which they had not grown for almost a generation. The total catchment area is 4326 ha. That first year they planted 2106 hectares of winter rice, and harvested 12,000 tons or rice. Much of this rice was sold on the national market.

Related blog

Robbing land from the sea

Related video

Floating vegetable gardens


The Amodkhali Canal was re-excavated by the Blue Gold Program in Bangladesh, supported by the Blue Gold Program, with funding from the Embassy of the Netherlands. I am indebted to Joynal Abedin, Shahadat Hossain, Md. Harun-ar-Rashid, Guy Jones, A. Salahuddin and many others for teaching me about polders on a recent trip to Bangladesh.

Feeding the ancient Andean state June 17th, 2018 by

Early states from Mesopotamia to Mesoamerica still inspire awe with their fine art and architecture. Yet the artists and soldiers who built the states needed to be fed; whatever their other accomplishments, early states were always based on agriculture. In a recent book, James Scott reminds us that early states usually collected their taxes as grain, staple crops grown on a large scale, such as maize, rice, and wheat, which are easy to store. Scott observes that there were no ancient states based on potatoes or other tuber crops. Yet he admits that the Inka were a partial exception. The Inka did have maize, but they depended largely on the potato which is bulky and perishable, making it difficult to collect and store.

This set me thinking. Inspired by Professor Scott’s excellent book, I’d like to explain how tuber crops, and the potato in particular, sustained the Inka state and provided taxes.

First, the Inka state (called Tawantinsuyu) was not an early state, but had co-opted the myths and king lists of a much earlier one, Tiwanaku, which managed an empire that straddled the Andes from the Pacific Coast to the warm valleys of the Amazon Basin. Tiwanaku began as a village (about 1580 BC), but was a state by 133 AD and an empire by 724, lasting until 1187 when it collapsed in a civil war and broke up into smaller chieftainships (señoríos) that were independent until they were later conquered by the Inka.

The capital city of Tiwanaku was built near Lake Titicaca, on the high plains of Bolivia, not far from the border of modern-day Peru. It once housed 100,000 residents and was centered on large stone buildings made of sandstone and andesite, a hard rock quarried in Peru and ferried across Lake Titicaca on ships woven from the reeds that grew in the shallow waters. Tiwanaku was created long before the first Inka, Pachacuti, organized Tawantinsuyu in Cusco starting in 1438. So the Inka’s Tawantinsuyu was a late state, patterned on the much earlier and long-lasting Empire of Tiwanaku.

But in the pre-Colombian Andes, states could collect taxes in potatoes because of an ingenious method of making them light-weight and non-perishable. The Inka and the people of Tiwanaku both knew how to freeze dry potatoes during the winter nights of the high Andes. This preserved potato is called chuño: there are two types, a grey one and a white one, called tunta, which is soaked in water during processing. Both types are as hard and dry as wood. With the water removed, the potato loses weight and can be stored for years. Potatoes were portable once they were transformed into chuño. The Inka taxed their subjects in chuño, as well as maize. Both of these foods were kept in royal storehouses. Chuño was simply soaked in water and boiled to make them edible.

The Inka Empire was large and complex, eventually spanning most of the Andes, from Ecuador to northern Argentina. Like Old World states, the Inka collected taxies in grain: maize in this case. But unlike other classic civilizations, the Inka and an earlier state, Tiwanaku were also largely sustained by a perishable tuber crop, thanks to ingenious recipes for preserving the potato as chuño.

The modern cities of Peru and Bolivia have kept few vestiges of the ancient states that preceded them. But you can still buy chuño in Andean markets and even at upscale supermarkets. The ancient states are gone. Their art works are now curiosities in museums, yet the crops the Inka grew and their imaginative methods of preserving and serving food are still very much alive.

Earlier blog stories

The bad old days

The tyrant of the Andes

Further reading

Finucane, Brian Clifton 2009 “Maize and Sociopolitical Complexity in the Ayacucho Valley, Peru.” Current Anthropology 50(4):533-545.

Haas, Jonathan & Winifred Creamer 2006 “Crucible of Andean Civilization: The Peruvian Coast from 3000 to 1800 BC.” Current Anthropology 47(5):745-775.

Horkheimer, Hans [1973] 2004 Alimentación y Obtención de Alimentos en el Perú Prehispánico. Lima: Instituto Nacional de Cultura. Segunda edición.

Montaño Durán, Patricia 2016 El Imperio de Tiwanaku. Tercera Edición. Cochabamba: Grupo Editorial Kipus. 249 pp.

Scott, James C. 2017 Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Big chicken, little chicken April 22nd, 2018 by

vea la versión en español a continuación

In her 2017 book Big Chicken, Maryn McKenna tells the story of antibiotic abuse in agriculture. In the 1940s the US military used antibiotics to treat soldiers suffering from infectious disease, one of the first large-scale uses of these drugs. Penicillin had been placed in the public domain, and the world was in an optimistic mood at having a widely available treatment for common infections. Soon after the war, in 1948, British-American scientist Thomas Jukes, working at Lederle Laboratories in New Jersey, showed that chickens gained more weight when their food included antibiotics, even on a poor diet. This was a crucial discovery for industrializing chicken rearing. Until then, poultry in the USA were mostly reared in small batches, allowed to range freely in fields, where they scratched a natural diet of plants and bugs, sometimes supplemented with fish meal. Chickens are by nature highly omnivorous. Discovering that antibiotics helped to fatten chickens meant that the birds could be fed cheap, low-grade maize and soybean.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved antibiotics as a growth regulator in the USA in 1951. By the 1950s, a successful chicken farmer in Georgia, Jesse Dixon Jewell, began to expand his operation by selling chicks and feed to other farmers, and buying their finished birds. The feed was laced with antibiotics, partly to boost growth but also to control bacterial diseases. Industry would soon follow this twin example of farming out the birds to contract growers, and including the antibiotics in their prepared rations.

By 2001, Americans were taking 3 million pounds (1.4 million kilos) of antibiotics, while US livestock was being dosed with 24.6 million pounds (11.2 million kilos).

For many years there were few if any concerns about this unprecedented use of a human drug to boost food production, and cheap meat was certainly popular. But this relaxed attitude began to change when research showed that much of the antibiotics ended up in the meat and eggs that consumers ate. This widespread use meant that once valuable drugs began to be compromised as bacteria that caused disease in humans became resistant to the antibiotics.

Under pressure from pharmaceutical companies, the US government was slow to restrict antibiotics as animal growth promotors. Finally, the large poultry companies began to self-regulate. By about 2009 they realized that they could produce birds without antibiotics, simply by using vaccines and improving farm hygiene. By 2014 some of the largest producers in the US, like Foster Farms and Perdue Farms, had stopped feeding antibiotics to chickens. Various grocery stores and fast food chains soon banned chicken raised on antibiotics.

In September 2016 the UN moved to curb non-prophylactic antibiotic use in animals, which was linked to an estimated 700,000 human deaths worldwide, per year. In North America and Western Europe antibiotic abuse was by then largely solved, thanks to improved industry standards, government regulations and public awareness. But McKenna cautions that livestock antibiotic abuse remains a worrying problem in much of South America, South Asia and China.

As soon as I finished reading Big Chicken, Ana and I visited La Cancha, the vast, open air market that still functions in Cochabamba, where we bought a little grey hen and a big red one.

Feeding the hens was a chance to learn what smallholder farmers have always known: that chickens are as omnivorous as people. Chickens prefer meat to vegetables. Ours preferred the smaller, denser grains like sorghum to corn.

Chickens especially like sow bugs, the little roly-poly crustaceans that live in leaf litter worldwide. Our hens learned to knock the seeds off of amaranth plants and then eat the seeds from the ground. Chickens also like table scraps, including meat, but especially eggs.

The longer we keep these birds, now named Oxford and Cambridge, the bigger their eggs get. They both lay an egg every day; clearly the hunter-gatherer diet agrees with them.

The problem, as McKenna explains, is that factory farming made chicken as cheap as bread in the USA and Europe. People living in low income countries now want their chance at cheap meat. Chicken is cheap in Bolivia and easily affordable. In the open air market it sells for just 10 Bs. ($1.40) per kilo and fried chicken restaurants have sprung up all over the city.

Rearing chickens has become a new industry in Bolivia. Farmers can make a barn with cheap lumber and plastic sheeting, buy the day-old chicks and purchase the feed by the bag or the ton. No doubt many of the poultry producers in Bolivia are careful and conscientious. But many growers raise their birds on feed blended with antibiotics, labelled as a growth promotor, and there is little public awareness of the risk of antibiotics in animal feed. While there are compelling reasons to reduce the cost of food in low income countries, the global South also needs to consider the risks of animal antibiotics.

Further reading

Maryn 2017 Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of how Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats. Washington DC: National Geographic. 400 pp.

Related videos

Taking care of local chickens

Feeding improved chickens

Working together for healthy chicks

Keeping milk free from antibiotics

Herbal treatment for diarrhoea


por Jeff Bentley, 22 de abril del 2018

En su libro Big Chicken de 2017, Maryn McKenna cuenta la historia del abuso de antibióticos en la agricultura. En la década de 1940, el ejército de los Estados Unidos usó los antibióticos para tratar a los soldados que se padecían de enfermedades infecciosas, uno de los primeros usos a gran escala de estas drogas. La penicilina se había colocado en el dominio público, y el mundo estaba optimista de tener un tratamiento ampliamente disponible para infecciones comunes. Poco después de la guerra, en 1948, el científico británico-americano Thomas Jukes, que trabajaba en Lederle Laboratories en Nueva Jersey, demostró que los pollos ganaban más peso cuando sus alimentos incluían antibióticos, incluso con una dieta pobre. Este fue un descubrimiento crucial para la industrialización de la crianza de pollos. Hasta entonces, las aves de corral en los Estados Unidos se criaban principalmente en pequeños lotes; se les permitía ir libremente a los campos, donde arañaban una dieta natural de plantas e insectos, a veces complementada con harina de pescado. Los pollos son por naturaleza altamente omnívoros. Descubrir que los antibióticos ayudaban a engordar pollos significaba que las aves podrían ser alimentadas con maíz y soya baratos.

La FDA (Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos) aprobó los antibióticos como un regulador de crecimiento en los Estados Unidos en 1951. En la década de 1950, un exitoso granjero de pollos en Georgia, Jesse Dixon Jewell, comenzó a expandir su operación vendiendo pollos y alimento concentrado a otros granjeros, y comprando sus aves terminadas. El concentrado se mezclaba con antibióticos, en parte para estimular el crecimiento, pero también para controlar las enfermedades bacterianas. La industria pronto seguiría este doble ejemplo de criar las aves por contrato e incluir los antibióticos en sus raciones preparadas.

En 2001, los estadounidenses tomaron 1,4 millones de kilos de antibióticos, mientras que el ganado estadounidense se dosificó con 11,2 millones de kilos.

Durante muchos años hubo poca o ninguna preocupación sobre este uso sin precedentes de una droga humana para impulsar la producción de alimentos, y sin duda la carne barata fue popular. Pero esta actitud relajada comenzó a cambiar cuando la investigación mostró que gran parte de los antibióticos quedaban en la carne y los huevos que consumían los consumidores. Este uso generalizado significó que las bacterias que causan enfermedades humanas se volvieron resistentes a los antibióticos por su uso excesivo en los animales.

Bajo la presión de las compañías farmacéuticas, el gobierno estadounidense hizo poco para restringir los antibióticos como promotores del crecimiento animal. Finalmente, las grandes compañías avícolas comenzaron a autorregularse. Alrededor de 2009 se dieron cuenta de que podían producir aves sin antibióticos, simplemente usando vacunas y mejorando la higiene de la granja. Para 2014, algunos de los productores más grandes de Norteamérica, como Foster Farms y Perdue Farms, habían dejado de alimentar con antibióticos a los pollos. Varios supermercados y cadenas de comida rápida pronto prohibieron el pollo criado con antibióticos.

En septiembre de 2016, la ONU actuó para frenar el uso de antibióticos no profilácticos en animales, lo que se relacionó con unas estimadas 700,000 muertes humanas en todo el mundo, por año. En América del Norte y Europa occidental, el abuso de antibióticos se resolvió en gran medida, gracias a la mejora de los estándares de la industria, las regulaciones gubernamentales y la conciencia pública. Pero McKenna advierte que el abuso de antibióticos en los animales sigue siendo un problema preocupante en gran parte de Sudamérica, el sur de Asia y China.

Tan pronto como terminé de leer Big Chicken, Ana y yo visitamos La Cancha, el vasto mercado al aire libre que todavía funciona en Cochabamba, donde compramos una gallinita gris y una roja grande.

Alimentar a las gallinas fue una oportunidad de aprender lo que los pequeños agricultores siempre han sabido: que los pollos son tan omnívoros como las personas. Los pollos prefieren la carne a las verduras. Prefieren los granos más pequeños y densos como el sorgo al maíz.

A las gallinas les encantan los llamados chanchitos, los pequeños crustáceos redondos que viven en la hojarasca en todo el mundo. Nuestras gallinas aprendieron a sacudir las semillas de las plantas de amaranto y luego a comer las semillas del suelo. A los pollos también les gustan los restos de comida, incluida la carne, pero especialmente los huevos.

Mientras más tiempo tengamos estas aves, ahora llamadas Oxford y Cambridge, más grandes son sus huevos. Cada una pone un huevo todos los días; claramente la dieta de los cazadores-recolectores les hace bien.

El problema, como explica McKenna, es que las granjas industriales hacían que el pollo fuera tan barato como el pan en los Estados Unidos y Europa. La gente en los países de bajos ingresos ahora quiere la carne barata; les toca. El pollo es barato en Bolivia y es fácilmente asequible. En la Cancha se vende por solo 10 Bs. ($ 1.40) por kilo y restaurantes de pollo frito han surgido por toda la ciudad.

La cría de pollos se ha convertido en una nueva industria en Bolivia. Los agricultores pueden hacer un granero con madera barata y hojas de plástico, comprar los pollitos de un día y comprar el alimento por bolsa o por tonelada. Sin duda, muchos de los productores avícolas en Bolivia son cuidadosos y concienzudos. Sin embargo, muchos crían a sus aves con alimentos mezclados con antibióticos, vendidos como promotores del crecimiento, y hay poca conciencia pública sobre el riesgo de los antibióticos en la alimentación animal. Si bien existen razones convincentes para reducir el costo de los alimentos en los países de bajos ingresos, el Sur Global también debe considerar los riesgos de los antibióticos en los animales.

Lectura adicional

Maryn 2017 Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of how Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats. Washington DC: National Geographic. 400 pp.

Videos relevantes

El cuidado de las gallinas criollas

Feeding improved chickens

Working together for healthy chicks

Keeping milk free from antibiotics

Herbal treatment for diarrhoea

The Common Stream April 8th, 2018 by

A few months ago, Eric Boa (who writes this blog with Paul and I) sent me an extraordinary little book, The Common Stream, by Rowland Parker. It’s a singularly remarkable history of Foxton, a village in Cambridgeshire, England.

It may be the most complete history of any village anywhere, which is surprising given how ordinary the village appears today. Yet Parker, who lived there for most of his adult life, used Foxton to represent changes occurring to agricultural communities over the centuries across much of England, and to some extent elsewhere.

Parker picks up his story in ancient times, when a certain Roman living in his comfortable villa near what is now Foxton, forced the native Britons to move their huts onto straight streets. This theme of rich, powerful men knowing what was best for the peasants would continue for some time.

By the fifth century the Romans had left, and the Saxons began their slow, leisurely invasion. Over two or three generations, they rowed up the rivers, stopping where they wished, and settling on the best land, where they farmed and kept what they harvested. But it was too good to last. By the 900s land was being appropriated by lords and religious orders. By 1086, 90% of Foxton’s 200 inhabitants had almost no personal possessions. Most of the land belonged to a nun, the Abbess of Chatteris, whose word was the law. The common people had no money, but lots of work. They were old by the time they were 40. The diet was coarse bread, gruel, cheese, vegetables, pease (peas and other legumes), besides boiled mutton, and boiled bacon with the occasional chicken, egg or rabbit. And lots of ale.

By 1250 two-thirds of the peasants were still virtually enslaved, but some had been freed and self-government began to emerge. The villagers elected their own officials, such as constables and “ale tasters”, a popular position that obliged the office holder to visit the homes of people who made ale and take a sip (or more) to see that the brew met the standards for proper beer.

The Black Death killed half of the people of Foxton around 1348. By 1485, perhaps in response to the enduring loss of population, or a growing sense of social injustice, the lords of the manor and the abbeys began to set their slaves (bondsmen) free. But it was only a partial freedom. Peasant farmers had to pay a large entry fee to the manor to occupy land and a house. Still, the change meant that common people had a little money to spend and by the 1500s there was a weekly market in Foxton, selling meat and butter.

Relative prosperity improved through the 1550s, when villagers rebuilt Foxton, crafting fifty houses that were so well made that by the 1970s twenty of them were still standing, including one that Rowland Parker lived in.

But rural poverty was an enduring problem. Sometimes the poor were whipped, to stir them into productive action, but that did no good. Paupers could be paid a few coins from the “poor rate,” a local tax levied on farmers. Destitute women were also employed to collect stones (for road repair) by hand from the frozen ground in the winter, by the cartload.

In one strange episode in the 1860s “coprolites” were discovered just under the topsoil in the fields surrounding Foxton. These were nuggets of phosphorous that could be sold as fertilizer. Landowners hired gangs of men “as strong as horses” to peel the earth back like a carpet, remove the coprolites, and put the soil back. It was a short-lived boon to agricultural wage workers.

By the 1880s most villages in England had a railroad station. People left farming, if not the villages, commuting to industrial wage work. This was followed by an agricultural revolution led by machinery and fertilizer. In the 1880s twenty men would harvest a wheat field with scythes, walking together in a line. By the 1970s one worker in a combine harvester would bring in the grain. Parker notes ruefully that from 1885 to 1970 crop yields quadrupled as the workforce declined dramatically. One man replaced ten. “There is now more farming done in Foxton than there ever was before and hardly any people are doing it.” Poverty was finally eliminated after the Second World War by the introduction of universal social welfare. Parker observed that people were better fed, better dressed and that all the children were going to school. Modern farming has eased drudgery and improved harvests. Life is better now than it was in the Middle Ages

Rowland Parker was Eric Boa’s French teacher at The Grammar School for Boys in nearby Cambridge. It was only some years after leaving school that Eric learned that the austere Mr. Parker had spent many of his weekends interviewing elderly villagers and translating local manuscripts from Latin and Old English.

In 2014, Tim Martin reviewed The Common Stream for The Telegraph, in a series on the A to Z of forgotten books. Martin called Parker’s book a “miniature classic of social history.” Indeed it is, and it is well worth reading.

Further reading

Parker, Rowland 1976 The Common Stream. Frogmore, St. Albans, UK: Paladin.

Related blog

Mending fences, making friends

Robbing land from the sea March 25th, 2018 by

The low-lying Netherlands is famous for its polders, the land behind the dikes, reclaimed from the sea. Beginning about 1000 AD, people made dikes, or earthen dams, to protect communities from flooding. At first the water was simply drained through canals, but with time the land in the polders subsided, and by the 1400s water was being pumped out with windmills. Thanks to hard work, investment and some clever engineering, people still live in and farm the polders.

Much of Bangladesh is also right at sea level and densely populated. So why doesn’t Bangladesh have polders too? I wondered out-loud during a recent visit last October.

“But we do! Bangladesh has many polders,” my colleague Salahuddin retorted. He explained that there was a string of some 123 polders over much of southern Bangladesh, an area where several large rivers cut the delta into finger-like strips of lowland.

The polders were built between the 1960s and the 1980s, first by the provincial government of East Pakistan, and later by the Government of Bangladesh, after independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Each polder is ringed by a low earthen embankment (basically a dike), sometimes just two meters high and made by hand. The roughly oval-shaped polders are dozens of kilometers in circumference.

The Bangladeshi polders are drained by an ingenious network of canals, radiating like veins from the center of the polder to the edge, where the flow of water is controlled by a sluice gate in the embankment.The sluice gate is a concrete structure with metal doors that can be raised by a hand-crank to let the water out during the rainy season, and lowered during the dry season to keep out the saltwater.

Originally the wetlands of the delta region had been sparsely populated by fisher-farmers who grew low yielding rice varieties that tolerated brackish water. The polders soon became attractive places to live and settlers trickled in. The people who were born in the polders tended to stay there and so populations increased.

Some of the polders have benefited from some sort of project, and have been reasonably well managed. By 2018 the better polders are like gardens, with comfortable farm houses surrounded by shimmering green rice fields.

The polders have had their share of troubles. Sometimes one of the rivers changes course, depositing a bank of silt next to the sluice gate, so the water inside the polder cannot drain out.  Other problems are man-made. Loggers float timber down the canals, and when the logs reach the sluice gates, the workers take the easy route to the river. Instead of hoisting the logs around the sluice gate, the loggers force the timber through the delicate metal gates, twisting and denting them so they no longer open and close. Wealthy, powerful people sometimes block the drainage canals to raise fish in them. Or they string nets over the canal to catch fish. But this slows down the flow of water, allowing silt to settle and eventually block the canal. The canals are as wide as a highway, and can be just as difficult to maintain. So once the drainage canal stops working, villagers are unable to open them up again without help from outsiders.

The polders are essentially a government mega-project, which sounds at first like a recipe for disaster. But as one drives along the top of a polder embankment, the muddy river on one side and the tidy green fields and villages on the other, it is hard to ignore the fact that the government got something right.

Ironically, country that is flooded during the rainy season may be completely dry a few months later. Various initiatives are now promoting dry-season irrigation for high value crops besides rice, and the farmers in the polders are avidly buying motorized pumps. In many places the rich, black earth inside the polders is now producing two or three crops a year of rice, mung beans, mustard, watermelon and vegetables.

Such changes in the farming system are creating more wealth for the farmers in those polders that are well run. But it will take collaboration, for local government to protect the canals and embankments, for the private sector to provide farm supplies and buy the produce and especially for innovative farmers, to continue re-inventing the agriculture of this marvelous, human-made environment.

Further reading

In characteristic modesty it was some time before my friend Salahuddin told me that he had written his masters’ thesis on the polders of Bangladesh.

Salahuddin, Ahmad 1995 Operation and Maintenance of Small Scale Flood Control Projects: Case of Bangladesh Water Development Board. Master’s Thesis: Institute ofSocial Studies, The Hague.

See also Paul’s blog from last week on coastal Bangladesh: Floating vegetable gardens.


I am indebted to Md. Harun-ar-Rashid, Guy Jones and many others for enlightening me about polders on a recent trip to Bangladesh, supported by the Blue Gold Program, with funding from the Embassy of the Netherlands. Thanks to Harun-ar-Rashid, Ahmad Salauddin, Paul Van Mele and Eric Boa for reading and remarking on previous versions.

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