“Pumpkins Against Poverty” Project Helps Bangladeshi Farmers

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DHAKA — Climate change has not been a friend to those in Bangladesh trying to provide for their families. Each year, monsoons come and destroy major crops that farmers have worked so hard to prepare. The resulting flooded and infertile land force the Bangladeshis to either move from the riverbanks or struggle to find food for the upcoming season. In response, nongovernmental organization Practical Action stepped in with its project, “Pumpkins Against Poverty.”

This group uses technology to allow “poor communities to build on their skills and knowledge to produce sustainable and practical solutions.” The Pumpkins Against Poverty project is training over 50,000 Bangladeshis to use their “ruined” land and turn it into food and cash.

Their method? Pit cultivation of pumpkins.

As most Bangladeshis in this situation live near river banks, the most common land they use for cultivation is the sand-like earth left over from the floods. Pit cultivation, also called sandbar cropping, prepares the sandy land to grow crops like pumpkins, lettuce, watermelon and squash.

For the produce to emerge successfully, though, the farmers must complete a few necessary steps. First, they dig one-meter by one-meter holes all throughout the sandbar. Next, the farmers must collect compost for a jute sack at the bottom of the holes. The compost can be from last year’s crop or manure from livestock. Then, after a few days, farmers sprinkle seeds for the desired produce in the sack that contains the compost.

Over about five months, they tend to the holes with water and care until gourds of pumpkins or heads of lettuce emerge. With each pit producing up to 10 gourds of pumpkins, many Bangladesh farmers have an abundance of vegetables and even make money off of them at the market.

Practical Action’s Pumpkins Against Poverty has already been hugely successful in its first year of the two-year project.

Men and women alike are taking part in the sandbar cropping. Women especially have a growing sense of importance in their family because they can contribute to the income. Majeda Begum, a farmer who is reaping the benefits of Practical Action’s wisdom, said, “I harvested 500 pumpkins this year. I sold half of them and bought a sheep and paddy for the household…By God’s grace, my problems are solved now.”

According to Permaculture Research Institute, “In four of the northern districts of Bangladesh, sandbar cropping has helped many landless families to diversify their incomes and overcome seasonal food shortages, thereby helping them to adapt to the changing environment.”

With pit cultivation, farmers in Bangladesh no longer have to worry about monsoon flooding ruining their crops.

Sydney Missigman
Photo: Flickr

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Sydney Missigman

Sydney lives in Goodyear, AZ. Her academic interests include business, journalism and communications. Sydney traveled to Nicaragua in 2016 to help a local school build a garden and improve their facilities for their students. She loved seeing the children and eating the fried plantains!

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