ADAPTING LIFE IN SATKHIRA: Turning saline wastelands into fertile fields


Staff Reporter :

The community in Satkhira, a district in Bangladesh afflicted by high soil salinity due to the unauthorized withdrawal of water from trans-boundary rivers by India, initially abandoned traditional crop cultivation. They briefly shifted to shrimp farming, but as the soil’s salt content worsened and freshwater became scarce, this too became untenable. Faced with dwindling options, the community resorted to digging ponds to store fresh water for year-round use.
The situation in Satkhira, as well as in the broader areas of Khulna and Jashore, reflects a harsh transformation from multi-crop farmlands to areas capable of supporting only one crop per year, if any. Many farmers, unable to sustain even a single annual crop, migrated to Jashore or began creating reservoirs to collect sweet water.
In areas like Khutikata village in the Kashimari Union under Shyamnagar Upazila, farming had ceased for decades due to severe salinity. However, recent efforts involving the construction of rainwater ponds have revitalized agriculture, enabling the growth of corn, vegetables, and other crops.
Farmers have successfully cultivated a variety of crops including gourd, pumpkin, papaya, dherash, puishak, ucche, and cucumber. These successes are inspiring neighboring farmers and showing a promising future for agriculture in the area.
Nirmal Sarkar, a local farmer, reported significant improvements thanks to assistance from Syngenta, which has provided ponds, fertilizers, seeds, and other agricultural inputs. This support has not only allowed crops to flourish on saline lands but also significantly boosted farmers’ incomes, with earnings of Tk 30,000 to 50,000 per bigha.
Hedayet Ullah, Managing Director of Syngenta Bangladesh Limited, highlighted that the innovative agricultural practices introduced by Syngenta have enabled farmers to cultivate up to three different crops per year, despite the challenging conditions. This has markedly improved both the capacity and the quality of life for the farmers.
The efforts align with multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and serve as a model for combating climate change risks. The Go Grow project, backed by the Directorate of Agricultural Extension (DAE), BINA, DA’s SAC Scheme, and SRDI, has expanded from an initial group of 40 farmer families and continues to grow.
Training programmes cover various modern agricultural techniques including vermicompost production, solar-powered irrigation, and optimized use of seeds and pesticides.
Satkhira District Commissioner Mohammad Humayun Kabir emphasized the critical need to develop sustainable agricultural practices to ensure economic independence and resilience against natural calamities like storms, floods, drought, and salinity.
These efforts not only aim to restore agricultural productivity but also to secure a stable and prosperous future for the farmers of Satkhira.”