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Introducing Salt Tolerant Crops in Bangladesh

Implementing innovation from Texel, a small island in the Netherlands, in Bangladesh. That’s what we do in our project the Salt Solution, in which we introduce salt tolerant crops.

Introducing Salt Tolerant Crops in Bangladesh

Two weeks ago I visited this project together with the Dutch Postcode Lottery, who finances this project.

Sustainable solution

Worldwide less and less land is available for agriculture. One of the reasons is salinization, the increase of the salt concentration in the soil. This can have different causes, like flooding by the sea or by saline water rising through the soil. As a result, crops no longer grow on the land. In Bangladesh salinization is a serious problem, especially in the coastal areas.

As a solution for soil salinization, efforts so far have been mainly aimed at reducing salt concentrations in the soil. But the means used for that are expensive and damage the soil. With the Salt Solution we turn this growing problem into a sustainable solution. We introduce crops that do grow on salt affected land and which are already eaten in Bangladesh. This way, degraded soil becomes productive once again. And that offers new opportunities for farmers.

Enthusiastic farmers

A popular Dutch saying goes ‘a farmer doesn’t eat what he doesn’t know’, a proverb which is used for a person who refuses to try something new. Learning something new is often difficult, and often you have to see the results before you believe in it.

That’s why in the project we work with role-model farmers. These are farmers who are open to new innovative ideas and who have a respected position in the community. They are the pioneers in the community who will work first with salt tolerant corps. And they will at their turn train other farmers. We visited them during the trip and Boudewijn Poelmann, CEO and co-founder of the Dutch Postcode Lottery, told me that he found the visit very interesting. “It’s exciting to meet these people, because they are what it is all about”, he said.

What strikes me the most during the trip was the enthusiasm of these farmers. They were so proud to show their land and eager to learn.

visiting farmers who are proud to show their land
Photo: visiting farmers who are proud to show their land

Working together key to realize change

What I also bring back from the trip is that a project can never be successful without working together. We wouldn’t be able to do this project without our local partner CODEC, a Bengal nonprofit organization who represents the coastal people. They know these people in the communities like no other. This is important because starting a project like this is all about trust. Trust by farmers in order to convince them that these new crops can be a solution. And it’s in these small personal moments that you know that you trust each other. Like that time we laughed about a misunderstanding that a farmer just became a dad, while in fact he was the grandfather.

Dutch innovation with Salt Farm Texel

Also our partnership with Salt Farm Texel is unique, because together we bring Dutch innovation, which is first tested at Texel, to Bangladesh. We’re now together exploring possibilities in other regions where the problem of salinization also exists, like in West-Africa.

We have to work together with the government of Bangladesh. Because if they can be convinced that salt-tolerant crops are  a solution, we can replicate the project to other regions, making a bigger change. And of course working with Postcode Lottery, because they make it financially possible.

Wim Hart and the Lottery visit a government agency where they test salt tolerant crops
Photo: Wim Hart and the Lottery visit a government agency where they test salt tolerant crops

Using innovation for sustainable solutions

I am happy that we had the opportunity to show the Postcode Lottery our project. Although the project is still in the starting phase, I really believe that this project can make a change. In the end it’s all about using innovation and knowledge for sustainable solutions for marginalized people, by working together.

Like Michiel Verboven, managing director of the Postcode Lottery said:

The Salt Solution project shows that technological innovation can give an enormous boost to development. Literally a tasty combination’.

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