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Dhaka Tribune

Teesta chars now real boon for pumpkin growers

Update : 29 May 2014, 07:51 PM

Once an barren stretch of countryside, the sandy shores of the Teesta River in northern districts have turned into real boon for the ultra-poor of the area.

Hundreds of extremely poor villagers in at least 15 upazilas across the districts are now earning their livelihoods by cultivating pumpkins on the derelict land of the river basin.

With support from the Department for International Development (DFID), the pumpkin growers are now able to generate healthy incomes from their land.

The poor inhabitants of the 68 unions in the upazilas of Rangpur, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat and Gaibandha districts are happy to grow pumpkins, which have changed their lots in life.

“The Teesta devoured my cultivable land and I could barely keep myself together even three years back, but now I am happy because I can grow pumpkins on my sandy land,” said Mohammad Ali of Dhamur area under Gangachara upazila in Rangpur district.

Like Mohammad Ali, about 3,200 families of the northern districts have been cultivating pumpkins in the Teesta basin for the past three years during the dry season. 

The DFID and Stimulating Household Improvements Resulting in Economic Empowerment jointly undertook a project to facilitate cultivation of pumpkins in 255 chars.

Practical Action Bangladesh, an NGO supported by the Department of Agricultural Extension, is giving technical assistance to the very poor in order for them to cultivate pumpkins.   

Nirmal Chandra Bepari, manager of Practical Action Bangladesh, said earlier, when the project was first launched, people ridiculed the beneficiaries working at the chars to cultivate pumpkins, but later their conceptions changed. 

A few days back, Sarah Cooke, DFID country representative in Bangladesh, visited the shoals along with some other high officials of the donor organisation and was highly pleased to see the activities out there.

Deputy Director of the Department of Agricultural Extension said it was really hard to grow pumpkins in chars where there were no nutrients in soil, but it became possible to do the task when new techniques were applied.

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