RANGPUR, Mar 30 (BSS): Pumpkin cultivation on char lands has improved agro-economy in char areas of Rangpur agriculture region bringing fortune to over 42,000 have-not group of landless char families in last ten years.
Repeated bumper pumpkin production with lucrative price has changed livelihoods of char people including women of some 300 char villages in the region though they led miserable lives due to abject poverty even a decade ago.
Officials of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) and different NGOs said cultivation of pumpkin began on sandbars in the silted-up beds of different rivers in all five districts of the region since 2009.
With assistance of DAE, Practical Action Bangladesh (PAB), RDRS Bangladesh and other NGOs promoted sandbar pumpkin cultivation on silted-up riverbeds to change fortune of thousands of extremely poor char families.
Taking to the news agency, Senior Coordinator (Agriculture and Environment) of RDRS Bangladesh Mamunur Rashid said they extended assistance to over 20,000 poor char families with DAE support for expanding pumpkin cultivation on char lands since 2009.
"The beneficiary char families are sowing pumpkin seed on silted-up beds of the Brahmaputra, Teesta, Dharla, Karotoa and other rivers to harvest the crop from March to May reaping huge profits every year," Rashid added.
Farmers Amena Begum, Mofizul Haque, Fazlul Haque and Ajlema Begum of village of Dakshin Balapara Kutirpar char village under Aditmari upazila in Lalmonirhat narrated their success stories in pumpkin farming on char lands to change their fortune.
"Every farmer generally spends Tk 1,500 for cultivating pumpkin on 120 sandbars and sell 500 pieces of pumpkin at Tk 18,000 on an average to earn a net profit of Taka 16,500 each every season," said farmer Amena Begum.
Thanking RDRS Bangladesh and DAE, farmer Amena Begum of the village said, "I cultivated pumpkin on 100 sandbars spending Taka 1,500 and sold the produce at Taka 18,500 to earn a net profit of Taka 17,000 last season."
Manager (Agriculture) of Practical Action Bangladesh (PAB) Nirmal Chandra Bepari said they assisted 22,000 char households under various projects with DAE assistance for pumpkin cultivation on sandbars in 200 villages of the region since 2009.
"The beneficiary char families produced 0.12 million tonnes of pumpkin worth Tk 1.30 billion with Tk 10 per kg price at the farmers' level till completion of the projects last year," Bepari said.
"Even after completion of our projects for promoting sandbar pumpkin cultivation in riverine char areas, beneficiary char families are continuing the profitable venture in the region," he added.
Talking to the news agency, beneficiaries Abdur Razzaque, Morsheda Begum, Mahbub Alam and Kochhim Uddin of village Paschim Mohipur in Gangachara upazila in Rangpur discussed their success stories of winning poverty by pumpkin cultivation.
They are cultivating pumpkin on 200 sandbars on an average each on the Teesta riverbed and earn net profit of Tk 20,000 each after completing harvest by May every year.
Farman Ali of village Char Khuniagachh in Lalmonirhat, Abdul Aziz of village Char Dakshin Khoribari in Nilphamari, Nur Islam of village Korpura in Kurigram, Manju Rani, Kajoli and Rekha of village Gidari in Gaibandha narrated similar success stories of pumpkin cultivation to change their fortune.
They thanked the PAB and DAE for providing support for pumpkin cultivation on sandbars in the region and creating marketing chain to sell their products.
Talking to the news agency on Saturday, horticulture specialist of the DAE Khondker Md Mesbahul Islam said thousands of char families changed their fortune through farming pumpkin on sandbars in last ten years.
"Some 30,000 char families have cultivated pumpkin on sandbars in over 2,250 hectares of char lands in all five districts of the region where harvesting of the cash crop continues in full swing now this season," he said.
Islam thanked NGOs for extending assistance, creating marketing chain and providing seed and fertilisers with DAE collaboration to char people for expanding pumpkin cultivation on sandbars to improve their livelihoods in char areas.
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