Pumpkins Against Poverty

Monsoon update

It’s monsoon time in Bangladesh and the Brahmaputra, Testa and Jamuna rivers have burst their banks. Many villages are under water and thousands of hectares of crops have been damaged. Thousands of people are affected by flooding in Kurigram, Chilmari and Gaibandha, the sites of our pumpkin projects.

Early warning systems helped families to save their possessions and move to higher ground. Fortunately their pumpkins, stored safely off the ground, have survived the deluge and will provide vital food supplies in the coming months until the floods recede. In September, the sandbars will reappear and a new planting season can start, contributing to poverty alleviation and giving hope to people living in these challenging conditions.

The problem

In Bangladesh, 160 million people still live on less than £1 a day. Every year, monsoon rains cause the three major rivers of Bangladesh to swell, resulting in devastating floods that wash away homes, submerge land and destroy possessions. Families face months of hunger and malnutrition when they are forced to find a new place to live and a new means of earning a living without land to cultivate.

We have introduced a technique called sandbar cropping that allows pumpkins to be grown on sandy, barren soil left behind when flood waters recede, contributing to poverty alleviation.

What we’re doing to help

Objective: Transform the lives of 50,000 landless farmers by turning barren land into productive pumpkin fields.

Pumpkins Against Poverty

Location: Rangpur and Kurigram districts, Bangladesh
Number of beneficiaries: 50,000
Project date: April 2016 - March 2018
Partners: Department of Agricultural Extension of Government of Bangladesh, Uttara Development Programme Society
Principal funders: UKaid
Funding: £1,025,800

The Pumpkins Against Poverty project is training 50,000 Bangladeshis with no land of their own to grow up to 600 pumpkins a year. With the extra income they earn, they can send their children to school, buy livestock and create a more secure future.

By simply digging holes in sandy residues left by the flooding and filling them with manure, compost and pumpkin seeds, crops can thrive. As well as giving a high yield and being packed full of health benefits, pumpkins can be stored for up to a year, meaning people have a crop both for their familiies and also to sell.

We will be supporting farmers to gain tenure of temporary sand bars and create better markets for them to sell their pumpkins.

The Ministry of Agriculture in Bangladesh want to replicate this model throughout the country, helping alleviate poverty through tens of thousands more people overcoming hunger and increasing their income.

Look how far your money can go

“My family are healthy now. Before, they used to suffer with fever and diarrhoea. This year, I produced 600 pumpkins. I bought a cow from my income and sell milk at the market. I can now afford a tutor for my children.” – Anwar Ul Islam, 30, Rangpur


Magic FM presenter, Kate Thornton made a visit to the project

Securing Water for Food

Growing Opportunity Amidst Eroding Land

Read this story about Amena Begum, a 50-year-old entrepreneur who lives in a village called Taluk Shabaz in northeast Bangladesh. 


"I harvested 500 pumpkins this year. I sold half of them and bought a sheep and paddy for the household. I still have BDT 10,000 (£96) worth of pumpkins in my storage. I will start small entrepreneur by selling those in rainy season. By God’s grace, my problems are solved now. I am more courageous now."

Majeda Begum, Thanahat, Chilmari

"During flood, you came here and assisted us with rice, pulses, oil, salt and pumpkins. I will always remember your contribution. I never believed that pumpkins can be grown in sandy lands. We made the impossible a possible one. With your help, I worked hard and harvested 530 pumpkins. I bought a sewing machine by selling them. With the sewing machine I am making a regular income. I have also stored some pumpkins for rainy season. I am now saving money to mortgage some land."

Rekha Begum, Ramna, Chilmari

Updates from the project

Sand storms, hail and flash flooding caused significant damage to many of the pumpkin pits in 19 locations, damaging the young seedlings.  The sand was removed and seeds resown and covered with sacks for protection, which put the project back on track. The 2017 harvest in April yielded 6,576 tonnes of pumpkins from 210 hectares of sandbar.

To widen the choice of foods and expand their markets they are now experimenting with a range of high-value plants, such as watermelons, baby corn, parsley, sunflowers and marigolds. All have performed well and future use will be based on market demand.

Under nutrition is one of the causes of ill health in this region.  We are working with the communities to address this through nutrition training, homestead gardening and poultry rearing, esprecially for families with children, pregnant women, lactating mothers and the elderly.

From needing help to helping others
This community needed emergency relief from the project in August 2016 because of flooding. Only a year later those same communities donated 45,000 kilos of pumpkins from their bumper harvest to flood victims in Sylhet in the north east of Bangladesh. In addition pumpkins were exported to 17 districts in Bangladesh and seven overseas countries. 

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