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A pumpkin farmer displays a big size pumpkin grown on the sandbar he uses for farming in Rangpur

Bumper pumpkin yield brings smile to char people

Extensive pumpkin cultivation on raised sandbars in the silted-up bodies of different rivers in five districts of greater Rangpur has brought fortune to 14,357 river erosion victim extremely poor families in recent years, BSS reports. Earlier, these have-nots group landless families had to live in miseries on the riverside flood control embankments due to abject poverty for years together since becoming victims of river erosions. But, successful cultivation of pumpkin on the sandy-barren char lands and silted-up riverbeds has changed their fortune allowing them to lead better life now with assistance of Practical Action Bangladesh (PAB), a UK-based internationally reputed NGO.

The PAB has been assisting the extremely poor families in promoting sandbar cropping, mainly pumpkin cultivation, in the barren char lands under its Pathways from Poverty (PFP) project since 2009.  The Department for International Development (DFID) of the UKaid under Stimulating Household Improvements Resulting in Economic Empowerment (SHIREE) project and Government of Bangladesh (GoB) under Economic Empowerment of the Poorest (EEP) project have been financing implementation of the PFP project.

Manager (Agriculture) of PAB Normal Chandra Bepari said 14,357 project beneficiary households have so far achieved success in pumpkin cultivation on sandbars in 200 villages under 80 unions of 18 upazilas in these five districts.  Under the project, 7,595 families cultivated pumpkin on 2,842 acres of sandy barren char lands at 181 spots and produced 31,846 tonnes of the crop to earn Taka 24.09 crore during three years period from 2009 to 2012 in the first phase. Besides, 5,262 households cultivated pumpkin on 1,912 acres of sandy barren char lands at 153 spots and produced 17.790 tonnes of the crop to earn Taka 15.22 crore during two years period from 212 to 2014 in the second phase.

Besides, 1,500 beneficiary households have cultivated pumpkin on sandbars in 345 acres of land in Rangpur, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha and Nilphamari districts this season as implementation of the project will end by December next, he said.  Talking to BSS, Mahbub Alam, 55, Kochhim Uddin, 50, Abdur Razzaque, 60, Kobiza Begum, 40, and Morsheda Begum, 45, of village Paschim Mohipur under Gangachara upazila in Rangpur narrated their success stories in pumpkin cultivation. They said each of them has cultivated pumpkin on 200 sandbars raised on the silted-up beds of the river Teesta in village Paschim Mohipur with assistance of PAB under the PFP project this season.

They have spent Taka 13,000 on an average each for cultivating pumpkin on 200 sandbars to sell the produce at Taka 30,000 to earn net profit of Taka 17,000 by each of them after completing harvest by next month, they said.  Similar, beneficiaries Abdul Aziz of village Dakshin Khoribari under Dimla upazila in Nilphamari, Farman Ali of village Khuniagachh under Sadar upazila in Lalmonirhat, Nur Islam of village Korpura under Ulipur upazila in Kurigram, Manju Rani of village Gidari under Sadar upazila in Gaibandha narrated their stories of winning over abject poverty through pumpkin cultivation on raised sandbars.

They thanked the PAB authorities for providing assistance and negotiating the process for handing over possession of the transitional sandy-barren char lands to them with the land owners and local government authorities for pumpkin cultivation.  However, they feared that cultivation of pumpkin might be hampered after expiry of the project as the land owners are showing almost no interests now in handing over their transitional sandy-barren char lands temporarily for the purpose.  Talking to BSS, Manager (Operations) of PAB at its Regional Office here Abdul Manna Molla said the project beneficiary extremely poor families have achieved success through pumpkin cultivation on the raised sandbars to lead better life.
He stressed for working out an effective process for ensuring access of the river eroded extremely poor families to transitional char lands so that they could continue the venture even after expiry of the project to make the achievement sustainable.

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