Bangladesh Placeholder

Pumpkin Plus Approach: Utilizing Barren Lands Against Extreme Poverty

About the Implementing organization

Name: Practical Action

Country: Bangladesh

Year of establishment: 1995

Type of organization: Legally recognized non-profit status


Despite significant global achievements in poverty reduction, extreme poverty still remains as a major challenge in Bangladesh affecting 25 million people. Many of these live in the isolated chars (riverine islands) and flood protection embankments, lacking access to land, finance, value addition etc the action is innovative because it utilizes operational access to barren sandbars rising from river beds to provide a springboard for cash cropping which in turn leads to economic diversification and later to commercial ventures through pro-poor business models allowing the extreme poor to graduate out of poverty. This is three step graduation model:
1. Access to Land- Operational access to riverine transitional lands for farming crops like pumpkin through negotiation between the poor, local government etc.
2. Economic Opportunities- This follows a pumpkin plus approach with Income generation from multiple sources encouraged with pumpkin production a major, proven opportunity, leading to asset build up, improved access to credit and savings including emergence of new entrepreneurial ventures.
3. Commercial Integration for Scale –this includes group based production and marketing at scale and linkage with commercial buyers such as exporting companies, agro input companies including access to bank guarantee and large scale financing. Many of our beneficiaries are at this stage -exporting pumpkins and accessing commercial finance.

Nature Element

Forests / Wildlife

Type of Action

Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use / Access and benefit sharing / Pollution prevention, clean up / Awareness and education

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Food security / Water security / Health / Climate action

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

The greatest achievements of the project is providing access to barren public lands for landless people to grow food to generate income and improve food security. Previously temporary barren sandbars in river beds have not been used for any productive purpose. Providing access to sandbars for cultivation does not disrupt the seasonal cycle of annual flooding, but simply puts naturally occurring river spits or islands to good use. The technology is low risk yet shows an impressive financial return, maximizing use of river water efficiently (before dry out) and barren land just after the monsoon for productive purpose. Our innovation brings back farmers to cultivating land growing food, which they have been forced to abandon because of river erosion and climate change. The innovation has revolutionary impacts in Bangladesh, adversely affected by climate change with potential for barren land and water management to ensure food security

Sustainable Development Impacts

As per our experience within 2 years it is possible to take the first steps towards graduating out of poverty with over 60% beneficiaries continuing beyond the project. As per DFID, our project was one of the most cost effective interventions with the highest income return on investment, producing over 50,000 mt of pumpkins. Our approach is the most economical, effective and efficient because it utilizes the surrounding environment to provide access to transitional land (sandbars) for food production showing a cost benefit ratio average of 1:5 within five-six months.This is so far the best result in agricultural production system -which is also environmentally sustainable because it brings barren land under cultivation, producing food using organic farming approach. Our intervention allows the extremely poor to gradually build their assets & link into key markets & government institutions to improve their access to resources, reducing vulnerability to environmental shocks.


In Bangladesh, over 40 out of 64 districts are situated on river banks and prone to river erosion with over 200,000 displaced communities living on flood protection embankments, apart from people in sandy char islands. The technology can also greatly help similar geographical locations in other parts of the world. Currently outreach is 21,000 beneficiaries producing pumpkins worth 7 million GBP with over 9000 more farmers adopting sandbar pumpkins on their own. Under the USAID SWF funding we are piloting a business model under which all farmers are a part of savings & credit system. They have leveraged over $128521 funds with 100% repayment rate & net profit of US$ 305 per farmer per season. Successful partnership has been developed with Department of Agriculture Extension and one of the largest NGOs in the north west plus a national bank and pumpkin exporters for horizontal / vertical scaling up. There is also diversification such as in flowers, ornamental pumpkins, squash etc


The approach is already being replicated by several NGOs such as CARE, Concern International etc. Department of Agriculture Extension has also shown interest. We foresee replication through government agencies such as DAE, national and international NGOs etc. We will also promote the approach through Agriculture Information Service supported Union based Knowledge Bazars and the Agricultural Call Centre with which Practical Action has partnership. We are also approaching agro-businesses that are already familiar with our work in the region including ACI Foods Ltd., Debgiri Seed Company India, the German Pumpkin Seed Company and BRAC Seed Ltd for the marketing of pumpkin and pumpkin related products. Internationally, we have developed good linkages with FAO, USAID, SIDA, Universities in Germany, UK who are interested in further research, adaptation and replication in other countries.

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