Broom grass, which grows naturally on the hills, are increasingly becoming a source of extra income for several thousand people in Rangamati.
Around 10 to 12 flowered stems of the grass are tied together in a bundle to make a soft broom, locally known as 'surondora' and 'phool jharu' in Bangla, which is generally used for sweeping floors of homes.
The grass grows in abundance on the hill slopes after harvesting of Jhum -- a method to cultivating an assortment of crops and produce -- is complete.
People of all ages including children from the lower-income bracket stay busy mowing the flowered broom grass for two to three months, usually from January to March. The collectors sell those to broom makers or traders and after a day's work, an adult usually takes home about Tk 400 to 500.
The broom makers or traders then sun-dry the grass in the area. After drying, the stems with flowers are sized up to 4 to 5-foot-long pieces for making the final product.
Wholesalers collect the brooms from local wholesale markets for Tk 15 to 20 a piece and ship those out to different parts of the country. They export some of the brooms too.
During a visit to Tinkoniya village in Rangamati's Bilaichari upazila, many were seen mowing broom grass from the hills while bundles of the grass flower were seen being dried nearby in the sun.
Grass collector Biswa Moni Tanchangy, a local, said, "We don't have to spend any money on this. It has been quite a good season for us."
Trader Mohon Lal Chakma, from Naniarchar upazila, said after the mowing and drying of the grass flowers is complete, they tie those up in bundles and transport those to markets on boats.
The brooms are sent out to different traders in Chattogram and Dhaka cities by truck, each containing Tk 15 to 20 thousand worth of goods, said Farid Alam, another grass broom trader.
Contacted, Muhammad Rafiquzzaman Shah, divisional forest officer in Rangamati South division, said broom grass grows naturally in three hill districts during the dry season.
In fiscal year 2019-20, the Rangamati forest department collected over Tk 8.63 lakh in fees from permits it issued for the extraction of broom grass from the hills.
Last year's collection of fees almost doubled from that in the year before, he also said.