Home / Sylhet / Haor village in Moulvibazar now a hub for ridge gourd farming

Haor village in Moulvibazar now a hub for ridge gourd farming

The vast low-lying depressions in the northeastern part of Bangladesh, called haors in Bangla, remain inundated for almost half the year centring the monsoons.

Fakhruddin, a 49-year-old farmer, has never found it feasible to cultivate paddy on his land there, for which he has opted for cultivating ridge gourd for the past 20 years.

Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Fakhruddin and his son are now enjoying much success from the inherited business.

This is because over the years, Fakhruddin has noticed a significant rise in demand for ridge gourd, prompting him to expand cultivation at a similar pace.

“Ridge gourd cultivation in the area was initially limited, but it has steadily increased,” he said while attributing the success to his innovative farming techniques.

This season, Fakhruddin cultivated the vegetable on 40 decimals of land in Mohammadnagor village under Barlekha upazila of Moulvibazar, for which he invested Tk 32,000 over the past three months.

However, he has already earned Tk 41,000 from sales so far and expects to earn at least another Tk 1 lakh over the entire season if the weather remains favourable.

Fakhruddin highlighted the overall benefits of commercial ridge gourd farming to his community, noting that occasional losses are offset by good yields and fair prices.

Taking his words to heart, farmers across the region are now prospering from ridge gourd cultivation.

Modorish Mia, another farmer of the same village, said he was previously unemployed and struggled to provide for his family of five.

“Eventually, I started working on ridge gourd farming on my two bighas of land. Now, I harvest an average of 50 maunds (one maund equals around 37 kilogrammes) from each bigha,” he added.

Modorish said that seeing his success, many of his neighbours became interested in farming ridge gourd.

This was the case for Bodrul Islam, who was allured by the low cost involved with cultivating the vegetable.

“I learned how to farm ridge gourd from Fakhruddin and am now earning as much as Tk 45,000 per season,” he said.

According to Monowar Hossain, the agriculture officer of Barlekha upazila, about 4,000 kilogrammes of ridge gourd are sold at the local markets each day.

As such, ridge gourd cultivation in Mohammadnagar village has been gradually increasing over the years, with the total acreage standing at 195 bighas in FY21, 220 bighas in FY22, 275 bighas in FY23 and 400 bighas at present.

The trend is similar across the broader region, with ridge gourd having been cultivated on 885 bighas in FY21, 892 bighas in FY22, 1,200 bighas in FY23 and 1,335 bighas at present.

The vegetable was cultivated on a total of 3,750 bighas of land across Moulvibazar last year.

Billal Ahmed, a farmer of Mohammadnagar village, said everyone in the village now grows ridge gourd on a commercial basis as it takes less time and investment while offering better returns compared to other crops.

The vegetable is currently selling for around Tk 40 per kilogramme at wholesale while it was Tk 100 during the first week of Ramadan earlier this year.

Ahmed said he once had to take loans from various non-governmental organisations and moneylenders at high interest in order to sustain his livelihood.

However, things started turning around about five years back, when Ahmed began ridge gourd cultivation with his wife.

They have not looked back since then and now even enjoy profits, which was helping them pay off their debts.

Ahmed informed that he has earned about Tk 1.5 lakh from selling the vegetable this season.

“I paid my loans off using this vegetable. But other than myself, most farmers in our area have become self-reliant thanks to ridge gourd farming,” he said.

Samad Mia, a local wholesale trader, said there is huge demand for ridge gourd grown in their village.

“The business has been around for years. My father used to buy and sell ridge gourd from this area. Now, I am involved in this business as well,” he added.

Samad informed that other than local wholesalers, some from Sylhet, Sunamganj, Habiganj and other districts also come to collect the vegetable.

Senior agriculture officials in Moulvibazar now recognise the success of ridge gourd cultivation and provide various trainings to ensure proper production and marketing.

Barlekha upazila Agriculture Officer Hossain said the ridge gourd produced in Mohammadnagar village of Barlekha upazila is being supplied to various areas to meet the demand of the district.

“This year, there was no problem in the cultivation of ridge gourd while diseases did not attack either. Production is much higher than last year as 800 tonnes have been cultivated this time. Now, almost every family is involved in this job,” he added.

Hossain informed that the village earns about Tk 4 crore by selling the vegetable each season.