In 2008 Nanci and I traveled with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to Bangladesh and India. The purpose was to witness and film the development work that the CFGB supports and to produce a video from that footage to show back at home.
As you can imagine, the trip itself was both breathtaking and heartbreaking. Bangladesh, in particular, is a beautiful land with colourful, happy folk who live in a geographic area and climate not condusive to sustained development. The yearly floods and increasingly frequent, crippling storms and their consequent tidal surges keep millions of people in a perpetual state of rebuilding and “starting over.”
One of my favourite photos is this one. These mud-caked kids gleefully followed us as we visited a massive excavation site where around a thousand people were working to restore a 5 km water canal that had been silted-in by a single and devastating storm – Cyclone Sidr (click HERE for details of this storm that claimed the lives of between 5-10 thousand people in late 2007.)
The Bangladeshis have developed an ingenious way of coping with some of the environmental traumas they face annually. For a good part of the year, the land is totally covered with flood waters isolating communities to random highlands, disrupting inter-community life and restricting access to health services and schooling. For the other part of the year, as the waters recede there are irrigation issues to deal with and transportation problems as so many roads get washed out in the floods. The response is to dig canals for the dry seasons, which are used for transportation, irrigation and stocked with fish for food. The dirt excavated from the canal is piled immediately beside to form a highland walk-way above the floodwater level so that communities can remain connected. The high roadways are then planted with grasses and renewable, fast growing fruit and lumber trees that stabilize the ground but also can be harvested for food and building materials.
We visited an excavation site where a thousand workers (paid in food from a program supported by CFGB) were digging out the silt from a massive canal/irrigation/fishery/water diversion ditch. The canal itself is 32 feet across at the top, 8 feet across at the bottom and fifteen feet deep. The flooding from Cyclone Sidr silted-in many of the water ways which requires gargantuan efforts to remedy. These folks, using only mud cutting tools and baskets, had removed about 6 feet of silt from the bottom of 5 kms of irrigation ditch in only 15 days. The silt itself is left beside the ditch in a ten foot high mound that the women pound into a road after it has dried out some. The irrigation ditches here help divert water when there is too much and bring it in when there is not enough. Everything here is about managing the good and harmful potential of water.
It’s very hard to get a picture that captures the enormity of this work. Below is a completed canal/ high-road ready for planting and below that, a mature canal/highroad.
It’s all very inspiring! To view Faye Hall’s painting and read her notes click HERE
To become better familiarized with the tremendous work of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank click Here
In closing… a moment of Zen: