Technology and new farming methods are being used to grow pumpkins in Bangladesh as communities adapt to a changing climate.

The Haor Basin, in north east Bangladesh, experiences annual flooding with agricultural land under water for around six to seven months every year.

Islamic Relief has been supporting people as they look for ways to get the most from their land. Our experts in Bangladesh set up a farmers’ field laboratory – a piece of land where farmers could test new techniques, and, informed by their existing knowledge and skill, make small changes to farming methods in the hope of increasing yield.

Bikash Ranjan Chakrobarty in the pumpkin fields.

Bikash Ranjan Chakrobarty in the pumpkin fields.

Islamic Relief also uses the laboratory to pass on evidence and information on new agricultural practices to develop the farmers’ expertise and farmers use it as a platform to share their findings with others.

Bikash Ranjan Chakrobarty is a rice farmer in the Haor Basin who has been able to improve his finances through taking advantage of the scheme.

“Life is not so easy in the Haor area,” he said. “The population is vulnerable to seasonal flooding all year. In most areas, there is only one rice harvest every year, which affects food availability and price.”

He tried to diversify his crops, choosing pumpkins which grow in wet conditions, but struggled to produce a good harvest. He was able to start working with Islamic Relief, first adopting techniques suggested by the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute.

“At the end of the rainy season in mid-November, as the water level in the rivers recedes, I prepare the land for pumpkins using the BARI cropping technique. I prepare 20 beds about one metre in diameter and one metre in depth. They are spaced around two metres apart. Seven days later I plant the seeds in the pit, and then cover them with straw mulch to preserve the moisture. I soak them two to three times a week with water for around a month, when I add compost.

pumpkin3“I spray bio-pesticide – Mahogany and Neem seeds – instead of chemical pesticide, and this allows for more productivity. The estimated retail price per pumpkin is 150 taka [around GBP £1.20, or USD $1.90], but if I sell in the lean season, the value doubles or triples. It makes for a profitable enterprise.”

Bikash is now considered an expert locally and is able to advise other farmers.

“I feel happy when people come to me to learn the process of cultivation. I enjoy knowing I can improve others’ wellbeing.”

Islamic Relief is helping people in Bangladesh adapt to a changing climate in many ways, including through an eco-friendly abattoir, the sharing of climate change research, and the installation of solar panels.