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The North-west region in Bangladesh is located at the confluence of the two major rivers; namely the Tista and Brammaputra. This geographical location makes the area vulnerable to disasters, especially floods, river erosion & food insecurity. Frequent disasters make sustainable living much more difficult, by depriving people of land, employment and basic utilities.
Natural disasters and hardships are common phenomenon in this region, where riverbank erosion leads to permanent loss of land for cultivation and shelter. People often have to live where basic services i.e. safe water, sanitation, health & education are minimal, and are largely excluded from them. This leads to higher rates of poor health, malnourishment & hunger.
The complexities of the problem results in a high degree of social marginalisation, child labour and exploitation. Women & children are the most vulnerable as, in the absence of alternative livelihoods.
At Pumpkin Plus, we have devised a unique innovation to help these communities in need.
After each rainy season, large sand islands appear in the main rivers of NW Bangladesh. These 'lands' are common property resources but until now have not been used for any productive purpose. Our innovation involves the growing of pumpkins in small compost pits dug into the sand, and has been successfully demonstrated to be both possible and profitable.
Over a decade from 2005-2017, a total of 128,000 MT of pumpkins were produced by 22,000 farmers, of which 60% were women. Project monitoring of a representative sample of households' income has illustrated an average cost-benefit ratio of 1:5, showcasing the economic empowerment of these communities.
The pumpkins produced on the sandbars can be stored for over a year, greatly assisting poor households with income and food security. Sand bar cropping has transformed a barren landscape of 'mini deserts' into productive green fields. By digging small pits & lining these pits with compost, it has been demonstrated that these areas can be made productive and scalable for millions.