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AKM Zahoorul Huq, Rangamati
Cultivation of vegetables and fruits has changed the life style of the people living in the remote Pharua, a small hamlet under Belaichhari upazila in Rangamati, and other places in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs).
In the past, the people, majority from ethnic communities living in the CHTs, would somehow used to survive by shifting (jhum) cultivation and planting teak for the forest department. They could not produce any kind of vegetable and fruit because of the restriction imposed by the forest department on their production. They spent their life sitting idle for most of the time in a year. Driven by hunger, some of them eked out their existence by stealing timbers from forest lands.
Many of them were implicated in cases on charges of pilferage of forest resources violating the directive of forest department. They tried to escape harassment and punishment by absconding.
But cultivation of ginger, turmeric, banana and different varieties of fruit following lifting of the ban on their production has opened a window of new opportunities for improving their standard of living. Vegetables and fruits they produce now find ways to different markets at the district and upazila headquarters as well as Kaptai. Sale proceeds of these products help them meet many demands of life.
Talking to this correspondent, some people of lagging behind Pharua said that construction of two roads to link Pharua with Belaichhari and Rajasthali upazila headquarters would greatly expand the markets of their vegetable and fruit as well as fetch fair prices.
They pointed out that water route from Pharua to upwards remain navigable for six months a year.
The villagers transport their products to the upazila headquarters and other places by water route during this period.
Pharua located at the heart of the Raingkhiong reserved forest and inhabited over 25,000 people can play a vital role in meeting the vegetable demand of the district if communication network is developed, said chairman of Rangamati hill district council chairman, Brisho Ketu Chakma.