Brighter days glare on Rangabali sands | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 08, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:28 AM, March 08, 2021

Brighter days glare on Rangabali sands

Many impoverished locals changing their fate by cultivating early variety of watermelon there

There was a time when the vast sandy coastline along the Bay of Bengal was considered barren.

But over the past several years, the shores of Jahajamara -- a small village on the southernmost tip of Rangabali upazila in Maudubi union -- are increasingly found covered under a blanket of lush greenery, between the months of December and March to be specific. 

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About a dozen hard-working people like Zulekha Begum and her husband Ferdous Peyada, both in their forties, are behind the change. By growing early variety of watermelon along the beaches in the village, they finally found their source of financial stability.

The couple used to live from hand to mouth when they worked as day labourers at agricultural farms owned by others. But after they were given the opportunity to grow watermelon along the beaches of the village, their fate has taken a U-turn.

Owing to the advice of agriculture office in Rangabali upazila and loans provided by some non-governmental organisations (NGO) working in the area, Zulekha and Ferdous are now making a decent living.

Zulekha said she and her husband first started cultivating the early variety on two acres of land on the beach, after taking a Tk 50 thousand loan from an NGO and locals.

Without being able to afford hired hands, they made a shack near their crop field by the beach and tended their plants day and night. For irrigation water, they dug a well beside their crop field.  

This year, their cost of cultivation on two acres of land has been total Tk 1.5 lakh. They already started to harvest the watermelons, which are selling for Tk 250 to 300 each. They are hopeful that they would sell as much as Tk 5 lakh worth of the fruit this year, Zulekha added.  

While visiting the area, Faruk Hossain was seen watering watermelon plants in a neighbouring field.

Faruk said he has spent about Tk 2 lakh for cultivating the early variety on five acres of land this year. He already made Tk 84 thousand from the sale of 300 pieces of the fruit and he hoped that his total sales would reach about Tk 4 lakh this year.

Other farmers in the area said the fruit is selling very well as demands are high at markets around this time. However, they have been facing difficulty irrigating the crops due to a lack of rainfall.

According to Rangabali upazila agriculture office, 20 farmers cultivated the early variety watermelon on the beaches of Jahajamara and about 200 hectares of land is being used for the production of the variety in the upazila this year. 

Humayun Kabir, deputy assistant agriculture officer in the upazila, said the watermelon farmers in Jahajamara plant the early variety in December and harvest the fruits around March every year.

The growers of this variety make higher profits as it sells at higher prices when the seasonal varieties of watermelon are not available at markets, he added.   

Upazila Agriculture Officer Monirul Islam said their projected production of watermelon this year in the upazila, from 7.63 thousand hectares of land, is 3 lakh metric tonnes.

The earnings from its sale have been estimated at Tk 30 crore, he added. 

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