Some 25,000 char families, mostly victims of river erosion and landless, changed their fortune through farming pumpkin on sandbars in Rangpur agriculture region in last nine years.
Earlier, these have-nots group landless families had to live in miseries on the char areas, riverside flood control embankments and highlands due to abject poverty for many years since becoming victims of river erosion.
However, they are leading comfortable life now through mostly pumpkin cultivation with assistance of different government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in five riverine districts of the region.
Horticulture Specialist of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) at its regional office Khandker Md Mesbahul Islam said char people are showing interest in pumpkin farming after getting repeated bumper production and better profits in recent years.
“Some 25,000 char families cultivated pumpkin on sandbars in over 2,000 hectares of char lands in Rangpur, Gaibandha, Nilphamari, Kurigram and Lalmonirhat districts under Rangpur agriculture region last season,” he said.
“They produced over 50,000 tonnes of pumpkin (sweet gourd) worth over Taka 500 crore last season in the region,” he said, adding that char people might bring over 2,500 hectares of char lands under cultivation of the cash crop this season.
Some NGOs are extending assistance, creating marketing facilities and providing seed, fertilisers and inputs to char people to assist them cutting poverty and improve livelihoods through adapting to adverse situation in char areas.
Mamunur Rashid, senior coordinator (Agriculture and Environment) of RDRS Bangladesh, said the organisation already extended assistance to over 3,500 poor families living in remote char areas for expanding pumpkin cultivation on sandy lands.
“The beneficiary families are sowing pumpkin seed to harvest the crop from May next to get huge profits in Gangachara and Kawnia upazilas of Rangpur, Sadar and Nageswari upazilas of Kurigram, Sadar and Aditmari upazilas of Lalmonirhat,” he said.
Talking to BSS, erosion victim Chand Hossain of Dhushmara Char in Kawnia upazila in Rangpur said he sowed 3,000 pumpkin plants on char lands last year and earned Taka 80,000 as net profit after selling his produce.
Mohammad Mostafiz and Aklima Begum of village Char Najirdaho in the same upazila said they cultivated pumpkin on two acres and 75 decimals of char lands respectively to earn better profits last year.
Landless char dwellers Jewell Hossain, Golzar Mian, Sohagi Begum and many others of nearby char village Kawniar Char narrated their success stories of attaining self-reliance by pumpkin cultivation after winning over poverty.
Char people Bimal Chandra, Shuja Mian, and Anichha Begum of Char Minarpara village in Gangachara upazila of Rangpur said each of them earned net profit of Taka 40,000 to 60,000 last year through cultivating and selling pumpkin.
Landless Razzaque, Quasem and Morsheda Khatun of Paschim Mohipur village in Gangachara upazila also narrated success stories of attaining self-reliance through pumpkin cultivation to lead affluent life with their family members.
Deputy Director of the DAE at its regional office Md Moniruzzaman said pumpkin cultivation on sandy char lands has become popular helping char people to achieve self-reliance, improve livelihoods and ensure food security.