Shondhamoni Chakma sits with a sugarcane juicer on Khamar Para area on Rangamati-Khagrachhari road every day from 8am to 6pm. The 61-year-old man sells fresh juice to passers-by.
He sells a glass for Tk15, half a litre for Tk35 and a litre for Tk70. The cost is really not much if you consider the energy it provides you.
Shondhamoni earns at least Tk1,500 a day. And with this earning he leads a comfortable life with with his wife and two sons. His house and farmland is in the hills.
He used to cultivate paddy on his land, but a scarcity of water hampered the harvest, and he could not make ends meet with the money he earned. But his life changed since he started farming sugarcane.
He sells less juice on rainy days, making only Tk1,000 to 1,200 per day on average. But the sale goes up in the scorching summer, Shondhamoni said.
The day our correspondent went to talk to him, he earned Tk3,200.
"One day while working on the land, Rangamati Sugarcane Research Centre's Senior Scientific Officer Dhaneshwar sir saw me and advised me to cultivate sugarcane. The research centre provided me with the seeds, fertiliser, pesticides and everything I would need to begin the cultivation," said Shondhamoni when asked how he began his sugarcane juice selling business.
"I could not earn much with the first harvest. I was disappointed. But Dhaneshwar sir encouraged me to continue. My costs dropped on the second try. Sir brought me a sugarcane juicer machine, and I set up a makeshift shop by the road and started selling sugarcane juice. I have had a good response since then. Customers in cars started to stop for a drink or a takeaway," he added.
Shondhamoni has not looked back since then.
With a smiling face, he continued, "Hundreds of cars pass along this road every day. Small vehicles especially stop here and the passengers get drinks. Some also get takeaways to drink on the way home. If I run out of juice, I just cut sugarcane from the field and make more juice. I always serve fresh juice. And this is how I spend my whole day."
A regular customer at Shondhamoni's shop, Ezaz Nabi travels from Rangamati to Naniachar every day. He gets a drink on his way to work and on his way back home. He even takes a litre for his family.
"Many stop at the shop when they see me drinking juice there. They also get a glass of juice and take some home. The juice from Shondhamoni's shop is very tasty and fresh," said Ezaz.
Shondhamoni aims to earn Tk2 lakh this year. He has to spend Tk65,000 for cultivating sugarcane on 60 decimals of land.
He said, "All the glasses of sugarcane juice get sold. I also make molasses. When I sell sugarcane, I earn half compared to the selling of sugarcane juice."
"There are many plots of uncultivated land by the roadside. So, the research centre is encouraging farmers to grow sugarcane on these plots," said Dhaneshwar Tanchangya, senior scientific officer of the Rangamati Sugarcane Research Centre.
He added, "Shondhamoni has been farming sugarcane since 2015. He was given seeds, fertilisers and pesticides for free. Later, the centre also gave him a sugarcane juicer machine and a jaggery machine. We have given support to four more farmers, but Shondhamoni has been the most successful. He is now an ideal sugarcane farmer in the area."
Dhaneshwar says that the Sugarcane Research Institute will help farmers those are interested in farming sugarcane.