However, the farmers are not getting their desired output and price
Char farmers in the Brahmaputra and the Teesta River basin area in Gaibandha district are smiling because there has been a bumper output of pumpkin this year. The char farmers are stocking 50% of the harvested pumpkins to sell them during the off-season between October and December to earn windfall profit.
According to the district office of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), a total of 4,500 bigha of sandy land in char villages of the district were brought under pumpkin cultivation this year, and at least 5,400 farmers were engaged in farming the vegetable. Bumper yield of pumpkin and its high profit encouraged many others to follow them.
Sources said the farmers of chars and the Brahmaputra and the Teesta basin areas of Shaghata, Fulchhari, Sadar, and Sundarganj upazilas generally farmed various types of crops and vegetables like chillies, onions, garlic, brinjals, balsam apples, cucumbers, bottle gourds, earlier.
However, the farmers did not get their desired output and price, they said.
A decade ago, Practical Action Bangladesh (PAB), a UK based international non-government organization, came forward, motivated the farmers and provided them with need-based training on farming sweet pumpkins on the char lands in the sandbar cropping method.
In this method, the farmers’ dug holes on the char lands and kept the normal soil of the mainland mixed with cow dung in the hole, removing the sand from it.
Then the farmers sowed the 3 or 4 seeds of pumpkin in the hole.
In the course of time, the seedlings grew well and after maturing, the plants bore a number of sweet pumpkins. In this way, the growers earned more profit.
Later, an office of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) was set up in Gaibandha district town.
The BARI officials also motivated the farmers to cultivate the sweet pumpkins on the char lands to get the desired output and fair price. The farmers also responded positively and cultivated the crop profusely.
DAE also inspired the growers to farm the variety on their char lands to attain the cherished goal.
The DAE officials also provided the interested farmers with training and quality seeds to cultivate the variety on their char land successfully.
After taking training and seed from the DAE, a large number of farmers farmed the variety on their char lands last year.
Some farmers have started harvesting the variety and are selling it in the local market.
One kilogram of pumpkin is being sold at Tk 20-30 on an average depending on its size and quality.
Md Rafiqul Islam, a pumpkin grower of Dhutichora area under Gidari union of Sadar upazila, said the production cost of pumpkin on a bigha of land is between Tk 9,000 and Tk 10,000.
However, it is possible to earn Tk 25,000-30,000 to sell the variety, he also said.
“The sweet pumpkin is more profitable than the other vegetables as we have to invest little in sweet pumpkin farming,” he added.
In reply to a query, he said the field level sub assistant agriculture officers (SAAOs) of the DAE are always giving them advice on how to make the farming a grand success.
Many farmers of other char areas of the district are coming to see the land of sweet pumpkin and exchange views with him about its successful cultivation, he added.
Other farmers Apu Miah and Foyez Uddin of the area said the sweet pumpkin produced on their land brought smiles on the faces of the growers as they are getting high prices by selling the variety.
DAE agriculturist Masudur Rahman said over 4,500 hectares of char land of the upazilas had been brought under sweet pumpkin farming during the current season.
As the farming of the variety is more profitable than other vegetables, they will be trying their level best to expand its cultivation in the next season, he also said.
All SAAOs working in the char areas were instructed to motivate the farmers so that they could cultivate the variety on the unused char lands to meet the demand for the vegetable, he added.