At least 10 government officials, who have no relation with agriculture, have been selected to travel abroad for training to learn coffee and almond farming for a project to be implemented in the Chattogram Hill Tracts.
The Tk49.98 crore project, now with the Planning Commission for approval, aims to facilitate the farming of the crops to eliminate poverty in the region.
According to the proposal, the officials will travel to Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia or other countries for 15 days, in two phases, at the cost of Tk50 lakh.
The selection of the officials for the training, instead of farmers, or at least officials related to the concerned field, has stirred controversy.
The proposal papers revealed that among the selected officials, six are from the Chattogram Hill Tracts Development Board, two from the Ministry of Chattogram Hill Tracts Affairs and one from the Planning Commission and the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division each.
Sources from the concerned departments said these officials have no relation to agriculture or farming. No official from the Department of Agricultural Extension has been selected for the training. All the selected officials are from Dhaka where they are involved in administrative work.
Sources said no programme has been included in the proposal for the selected officials' visit to the Chattogram Hill Tracts to share their knowledge from the training with the farmers, on their return.
"It is necessary to train the farmers on how to cultivate coffee or almonds, instead of officials. But we received the proposal from the Chattogram Hill Tracts Development Board with a recommendation to send the officials abroad for training. We delivered the proposal to the planning commission in the form we received it. But a change is still possible," said Sudatta Chakma, additional secretary (Development) in the Ministry of Chattogram Hill Tracts Affairs.
The project will help to cultivate 2,000 coffee and almond orchards in Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari. The size of each orchard will be 100 acres.
According to the proposal, a three-day training proposal will be organised for 8,000 farmers and 200 entrepreneurs. Each of the participants will receive Tk1,500 for the training.
Related officials said considering the weather and geography of the Chattogram Hill Tracts, there is a huge possibility for farming coffee and almond.