The Policy Times Dhaka Bureau (17 May) :
Bangladesh’s southwest coastal region is frequently hit with cyclones, tidal surges, and floods. These naturally occurring events increase soil salinity and cause waterlogging of agricultural lands, limiting production and negatively impacting farmer’s livelihoods in the region. USAID’s Nobo Jatra project, implemented by World Vision, is working to change this by training and helping farmers to grow watermelons using climate-smart techniques, sustainable production methods, and access markets.
Nobo Jatra identified the high market potential for watermelon, which was traditionally only grown once a year by a few farmers. However, the hybrid variety of watermelon can be grown all year round and planted following rice harvests. This is ideal for farmers as land does not remain fallow or empty after one crop. Nobo Jatra recognized the benefits and created a hybrid watermelon value chain working with 900 farmers in Bajua, Banishanta and Kailashganj Unions in Dacope sub district. A partnership approach was followed whereby mPower, a social enterprise, provided SMS/voice messages to farmers with information on weather forecasts such as rain, natural disasters, cyclones, as well as watermelon production related messages. AR Malik Seeds (Pvt.) Ltd., a private sector actor, worked with Nobo Jatra’s trained mobile seed vendors and lead farmers to sell improved and late varieties of watermelon seeds to the farmers at a wholesale price. The farmers used climate smart techniques such as bio-pesticides and sex pheromone traps to cultivate watermelons on 342 hectares of land. This resulted in average yields of 27 MT/hectare.
Chanchal Roy, an NJP-supported lead farmer, has earned $887 by selling off-season watermelons that are cultivated all year round. “A year ago, I didn’t even know about off season watermelon. Now I grow watermelon all year round and have increased my income. My dream is to expand watermelon cultivation so that my family can have a better life”, he said.