Pumpkin farming has brought happiness to the life of many farmers in char areas of Teesta, Dharla and Brahmaputra basins. Many poor families, mostly landless and erosion victims who live in remote sandy-barren char lands, are now changing their fates, overcoming economic and social hazards.

Sources of Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) said that although this vegetable is mainly produced in the country’s southern region, the pumpkin production has gained popularity in the river basins and chars in some districts of the northern region, including Lalmonirhat, Panchagarh and Kurigram.

The DAE officials said that the pumpkin farming has changed the socio-economic conditions of many farmers of the region in the recent years. A large number of farmers have engaged themselves in the cultivation of high yield variety (HYV) of pumpkin considering its economic prospect.

Modern farming method has helped increase the production and farming of pumpkin (sweet gourd). Some NGOs have been extending assistance to the poor families of Kurigram, Aditmari upazilas of Lalmonirhat and some other areas. Many families are now leading a better life with the assistances of different NGOs.

Pumpkin is rich in vitamins and minerals but low in calories. It is also called the ‘cheapernutrient’ for the poor.

In Lalmonirhat, many landless farmers living on the bank of river Teesta brought a huge change in the economic condition. Alongside the river basins and chars, the people cultivate pumpkin on the premises of their houses finding its profitable.

A landless peasant said that all members of the family can cultivate pumpkin. When he remains outside his wife cares it. Its farming brings an additional income, he added.

Some others said that pumpkin farmers in Teesta and Dharla river char areas are very happy as they are getting good profit by selling their pumpkins this year. Vegetable traders from different districts, even Dhaka, are purchasing the vegetable from char farmers at fair prices.

The farmers in once barren lands of Char Rajpur, Char Chinatoli and Char Kholai Ghat on Teesta River basin in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila are now busy working at their pumpkin fields.

Earlier, the farmers failed to get expected yield from cultivation of other crops and vegetables but soil and climate in the areas have been found to be suitable for growing pumpkin.

A farmer said that he cultivated 1,500 pumpkin plants in the char land and got yield of 4,000 pumpkins. He said that this year the production was very satisfactory, now all depends on the price after selling it.

In 2006, industrialist Anwarul Islam started pumpkin cultivation on sandy land at Rajpur Char and achieved good profit. He recruited char peasants to work in his pumpkin field and provided them with necessary training on pumpkin cultivation on sandy land.

Following the initiative, a large number of peasants in Rajpur Char area on Teesta River basin started cultivating pumpkin on once abandoned land in 2007.

In Panchagarh, the pumpkin farming has changed the socio- economic condition of many farmers of the district this year, reports BSS.

According to the BSS report, a large number of farmers in the district involved themselves in HYV pumpkin cultivation considering its economic prospect. They cultivate pumpkins on lands and premises of their houses.

The DAE office sources said a total of 900 hectares of land was brought under pumpkins cultivation in five upazilas of the district. Many farmers have started cultivating pumpkins on commercial basis.

Halim Uddin, a farmer of Ramganj Bilashi under Debiganj upazila is one of the successful pumpkin growers. He cultivated HYV pumpkin on 30 decimals of land. He expects to earn over Taka 40,000 this season. Halim Uddin said HYV pumpkin seeds can be sowed at any time round the year.

Harvesting of the vegetable begins after only two months of the sowing seeds. It continues for the next three to four months. Each HYV sweet pumpkin creeper produces over 200 pumpkins.

A single family can meet its annual demand of pumpkin by sowing only two HYV pumpkin seeds at his courtyard and on an interval of six months, the farmer told BSS.

At the beginning of the season, pumpkin is sold at exorbitant prices. A single piece is sold at Taka 25 to 30. Gradually the prices came down with adequate supply. About 4,000 to Taka 5,000 is needed to cultivate HYV pumpkin on one bigha of land, Halim Uddin said.

Md, Samchul Huque, deputy director of DAE, told BSS that farmers in Panchagarh are showing interest in cultivating pumpkin in more lands.

Country Desk