Journey Through Bangladesh
Banking with Pumpkins
About 749 marginal farmers at the Teesta and Dharla river basins from 19 different char villages (Bongram, Kurul, Kalmati, Kalmati Pakarmatha & Khuniyagachh under the Lalmonirhat sadar upazila, Bahadurpara, Gobordhon & South Balapara of the Aditmari upazila, Kashiram, Nohali, Jamirbari, South Char Votmari & Votmari of Kaligonj upazila & Khordo Bichhondoi, Paschim Bichhondoi, Paruliya, Sindurna. South Sindurna & Dowani char areas under the Hatibandha upazila in the Lalmonirhat district) stock their harvested pumpkins in pumpkin banks, which are locally referred to as 'Basher Chang' (a scaffold made using bamboo). The farmers then sell these pumpkins after five or six months when they have the need for money.
S. Dilip Roy
Huge abandoned char lands at the Teesta and Dharla rivers basins were cultivated for pumpkin this year and a good number of char farmers became the beneficiaries of pumpkin cultivation. Many char farmers cultivated pumpkin on the abandoned char lands from personal interest and expenses, but a good number of marginal char farmers cultivated pumpkins with help from a development based organization called – Practical Action Bangladesh.
Char people and official NGO sources said that the 749 marginal farmers cultivated pumpkins on 176 acres of abandoned char land on the Teesta and Dharla river basins this year. Some of the farmers did so out of personal interest and expenses whereas most of the others cultivated pumpkins with the help of a development based organization called Practical Action Bangladesh. The marginal farmers harvested about 224,700 pumpkins weighing in at 1,797,600 Kilograms. On average, each marginal farmer harvested 300 pumpkins weighing about 2,400 kilograms this year.
Mohir Uddin age 45 – a marginal farmer from the char village of Khuniyagachh said, “I cultivated pumpkins on 25 decimal of abandoned char lands in the village with help from the NGO. I harvested 300 pumpkins from the land this season. I have already sold 50% of my produce (150 pumpkins). I stocked the remaining pumpkins in a basher chang (bamboo made scaffold) to sell later,”
Mojuma Begum, age 43 – another marginal farmer from the same village said that she spent Tk 3,800 to cultivate 295 pumpkins from one bigha char land this season. She sold 180 pumpkins and stocked the remaining 115 in the basher chang to sell in the future when she will have no other work. She also stated that Practical Action Bangladesh provided her with the necessary supplements such as - seeds, fertilizer, insecticides along with irrigation management.
Shamsul Islam, age 50 – a marginal farmer from the char village of Paruliya located in the Hatibandha upazila said, “Practical Action Bangladesh provided me with equipment to cultivate pumpkins in the abandoned char lands. I cultivated 305 pieces of pumpkin from one bigha of char land this year, from which I sold 125 pumpkins and stocked the remaining 180 pumpkins in the basher chang the organization has built for me in my house.”
Arshedul Islam, another marginal farmer in the same char village said that one kilogram of pumpkins are sold anywhere between Tk. 15 to 17 after four months. He also said that most people sell their stored pumpkin stock in the market during the cold winter months of November and December when there is no other work around.
Senior Monitoring Revaluation Officer of Practical Action Bangladesh SM Mutakabbirul Haque said, “The 749 marginal farmers have already stocked 89,880 pumpkins weighing in at about 719,040 Kilograms in 749 pumpkin banks. Each of the marginal farmers were supported by the organization, which provided them with Tk 4,000 and each farmer gets a bamboo scaffold built (which costs anywhere between Tk 2,200 to 2,300) in their houses to stock their produced pumpkins for the future.”
He also said that Practical Action Bangladesh has been implementing the development project through a local NGO called – 'Own Village Advancement' (OVA) to develop the living of the char people in the areas of the Teesta and Dharla river basins in the district of Lalmonirhat and has been doing so for the past four years. The organization will continue to help by ensuring security for the living of the char people.
Agriculturist of Aditmari upzila's agriculture office - M. Jaman Shahin said, “Pumpkin cultivation in the different char areas of the Teesta and Dharla rivers basins has changed the lifestyles of the char people. The char people have gotten a bumper output this year along with a fair price. Many char farmers have begun depositing their produced pumpkins in the bamboo pumpkin banks built in their homes for their future. They will later sell these pumpkins in the months of November and December, when they are out of work.