Most gardens are rooted in soil, where seeds are planted in plots of earth firmly connected to the ground. However, the communities residing near Taunggyi's Inle Lake employ a distinct approach to cultivate their crops. Instead of confining themselves to land, they have created a network of floating gardens that float on the water's surface.
Approximately one-fourth of this vast freshwater lake, which is the second largest in the country, is covered by these artificial gardens. Farmers navigate between their garden plots using boats, harvesting crops from patches of "land" that rise and fall with the water's movement.
The primary crop produced in these unconventional gardens is tomatoes, constituting roughly 90 percent of the total yield. Depending on the season, farmers also gather beans, cucumbers, flowers, and gourds. Naturally, root vegetables struggle to thrive in such shallow conditions.
Establishing these miniature islands is a challenging undertaking. Farmers collect clusters of water hyacinth and seagrass and anchor them in place using large bamboo poles, which are firmly driven into the lake's muddy bottom. Subsequently, they pile additional layers of seagrass and silt on top of these mounds before sowing their seeds.
The practice of cultivating crops on the lake's surface rather than its periphery is believed to have originated in the 19th century and gained momentum in the 1960s. Although this unique farming method has bolstered the local economy, concerns have arisen over the potential damage to the lake's natural ecosystem caused by chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and runoff.