Pumpkin cultivation continues changing fortune of the poor char people in the Gaibandha agriculture region.
Officials of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) and NGOs said pumpkin cultivation in relay method with other crops on the silted-up riverbeds and char lands in all five districts of Rangpur region has been expanding for the last eleven years.
The case history of one Nafiza (not her real name) could be an exemplary story to portray the improving trends of rural women of the char areas of the region.
Nafiza was married off nine years back when she was a first-year student of HSC. Her husband Rafique Mia used to do a job at a private company at Dhaka. Just after two years of marriage, Rafique met with a fatal road accident that left him paralysed. The family of Rafique did all they could do to help him recover spending huge money, but he did not get well.
After his treatment, they became absolutely penniless. Even, they sold some pieces of land they owned for treatment purposes.
Nafiza, who used to live in char area in Gaibandha Sadar upazila, became helpless as she didn’t understand as to what to do.
One day an NGO worker visited her house and suggested her to do farming especially pumpkin cultivation on the sandbars in dried-up riverbeds and char areas.
Nafiza said she has cultivated pumpkin with other crops like banana, onion, garlic, vegetables, green chilli, potato and brinjal on char lands this time.
Senior Coordinator (Agriculture and Environment) of RDRS Bangladesh Agriculturist Mamunur Rashid said cultivation of pumpkin along with other winter crops in relay-method continues improving livelihoods of many char people.
He said some 25,000 char families have expanded pumpkin cultivation on char lands adopting intercropping methods in about 300 char villages of the agriculture region with the assistance of RDRS Bangladesh alone.
Manager (Agriculture) of the Practical Action Bangladesh (PAB) Agriculturist Nirmal Chandra Bepari said over 23,000 char families with the support of the DAE and PAB have expanded pumpkin cultivation on sandbars in 200 char villages since 2009.
They have spent Taka 15,000 on an average each for cultivating pumpkin on 200 sandbars each this season. They hope to sell the produces at Taka 40,000 to earn a net profit of Taka 25,000 by each of them after completing harvest by next month.
Kawnia Upazila Agriculture Officer Agriculturist Md Saiful Alam said many char villagers have become self-reliant by cultivating pumpkin along with sweet potato, banana and other crops on the sandbars.
Agriculturist Dr Md Dr Sarwarul Haque said farming cost of pumpkin is low and farmers reap more profit from its cultivation on the sandbars.