Farmers lost not only standing crops, but seed stores and other vital agricultural inputs. Bangladesh’s agricultural researchers, extension specialists, and USAlD-supported agricultural development consultants were busy designing both immediate and long-term plans to aid farmers.
The specialists sought to initiate activities that would quickly provide farmers with vegetables tolerant to the prevailing waterlogged conditions. Ideally, vegetables chosen would be fast growing, nutritious, and require limited inputs. Horticulture specialists from the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC) recommended kangkong, a fast growing, hardy, and nutritious green leafy vegetable.
AVRDC supplied 10 kg of kangkong seed to BARI. The seed was divided into 900 packets and distributed, along with information on cultivation techniques, through the Department of Agricultural Extension to farmers in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar. Kangkong seems to an excellent vegetable for rehabilitation activities. It is high yielding, can be grown year-round, and is a rugged, disease-tolerant plant that is easy to propagate.
Now, less than a year after the cyclone, kangkong has sprouted everywhere. According to BARI and DAE staff, farmers were quick to sow the seeds in plots varying in size from 1 x 5 m to 5 x 25 m. Thirty to 40 days after sowing, a first crop was ready for harvest. Thriving in the monsoon rains, bunches of kangkong were harvested every 15 days thereafter.
The spread of kangkong to neighboring fields has been “exceeding all expectations” according to BARI scientists. Specialists found that, in addition to the original 900 farmers, many neighboring farmers have planted kangkong. Kangkong has taken root beyond garden areas. In fact, any available space seems to be supporting lush stands of the vegetable. The demand for a fast-growing vegetable plus the fact that kangkong can be conveniently multiplied by cuttings, facilitates farmer-to-farmer dissemination of the plant. Moreover, the fact that farmers like to eat kangkong ensured its adoption to kitchen gardens. Kangkong provides vitamins A and C as well as iron and calcium, nutritional requirements that are chronically deficient in Bangladeshi diets. Cattle and poultry also benefit from the emerald green vegetable which is used as a feed supplement for livestock.
While kangkong can easily be grown throughout the year, it is particularly abundant when other vegetables are scarce, during the monsoon months of June through September.
Kangkong has helped meet the demand for a nutritional food source, and supply much needed supplemental income to the rural poor. Researchers are now eyeing kangkong as an integral crop in everyday farming activities.
Asian Research and Development Center
P.O. Box 205
Taipei 10099 TAIWAN
Telex: 73560 AVRDC