Shamima Akhter has become the first officially recognised female agri-entrepreneur by cultivating dragon fruit successfully in Taraganj upazila of Rangpur district.
Talking to BSS, Shamima at her house in Rahimapur Khansaheb Para village of Kursha union in Taraganj upazila said her father Shamsul Quader Sarkar is a successful farmer.
“From an early age, I became interested in my father's agricultural work alongside my studies,” she said.
Her father has won various agricultural awards at the Rangpur district level including the best farmer of Taraganj upazila for cultivating agricultural crops and fish.
She got married to engineer Farid Uddin in 1995. After her marriage, she went on a trip to Vietnam.
“After going to Vietnam and eating dragon fruit there, I decided to cultivate dragon fruit at home. I came back and started collecting ideas from different people about dragon fruit cultivation,” she said. Shamima first took advice from her father in the early days of making a big dragon orchard.
"I started gardening in 2016 by planting about 600 dragon fruit saplings on 55 decimals of land given to me by my father. The saplings grow slowly but superbly as they were cared for properly," she said.
The female agri-entrepreneur says that each tree bears 50-60 dragon fruits a year. Each of the moderate and big sized dragon fruit weighs between 600 to 700 grams. "The big-sized dragon fruit sells at a rate between Taka 700 to 1000 per kg," she said, adding the fruit has a huge demand in local markets and aristocrat hotels and restaurants in the capital city. Shamima said, "Many people from different districts come to me to get ideas about dragon fruit cultivation. I inspire them to cultivate dragon fruit adopting the latest technologies and proper agronomic management," she said.
Many people are cultivating dragon fruit on their roofs of houses and courtyards in the area now.
She said, "There is no need to apply much fertiliser to the growing dragon plants. If fertilizer is given once or twice a year, it is no longer needed."
Insect infestation in dragon plants is less due to less leaves. If properly cared for, it will withstand a great deal of adverse conditions to give excellent production for a long time.
"If we can expand dragon fruit farming among farmers and cultivators across our country, the dependence on import of foreign fruits will be reduced to a great extent," she hoped.
As dragon plants belong to the cactus species, pests attacks and diseases are less. So why, this fruit can be easily cultivated. Within one year of planting saplings, the plants begin to bear fruits.
"Due to the attractive colour and size, nutritional value and lucrative market prices, dragon fruit is in great demand in local markets," Shamima said.
Talking to BSS, Deputy Director of Rangpur Horticulture Center at Burirhat Agriculturist Md Aftab Hossain said that the dragon orchard that Shamima Akhter has set up on 55 decimals of land in Taraganj upazila is the largest dragon orchard in Rangpur district.
"Shamima Akhter is the first officially recognised woman agricultural entrepreneur of Rangpur district. We are extending our assistance to her for cultivation of dragon fruit in her orchard in many ways," he said.
Taraganj Upazila Agriculture Officer Agriculturist Urmi Tabassum said, "We are providing the latest technologies and cooperating with Shamima for farming dragon fruit adopting scientific methods," she said.
Shamima is now earning a fair income from farming dragon fruit in her orchard and also encouraging many others to cultivate dragon fruit in Taraganj upazila and other areas in the northern region.