The harvesting season of paddy in the Chattogram Hill Tracts has arrived. Unlike in the last three or four years, bumper yield of jhum crops this year has brought smiles to the farmers of the region.
Jhum farmers are known for their special technique of cultivating paddy along with different vegetables on hill slopes.
The farmers often say, "Everything except kerosene and salt can be produced through jhum cultivation."
After months of toil in the fields, the farmers are now busy threshing the large yields of their cultivation. This scenario is almost completely the opposite of what was seen a year ago.
This year's favourable weather has ensured better harvest in the jhum fields in Rangamati and Bandarban.
Thanks to moderate rainfall and preferable wind-blow, the jhum farmers, both in the bigger hills like Chimbook and in the smaller hilly areas, this season have not only received a bumper yield of paddy but also a number of other crops.
This will help them make up for loss they suffered in the previous years.
Machangs rejoice the rich harvest
The Chimbook hill in Bandarban has worn a golden look. The entire area is now abuzz with pleasing scent of ripen paddy. Machangs have been set up in great numbers throughout jhum fields on the hills for threshing paddy.
Machang is a temporary platform set up on crop fields to protect and process the crops.
This correspondent spoke with Melkon Mro and Thong Prey Mro in a jhum field in Chimbook hill.
They said that due to moderate rainfall and low wind-flow, the yield is higher if compared to those in the previous years. They said, each of them had sowed 40 kgs of paddy on their fields this season.
A group of male and female farmers from the Mro community of the hill tracts were seen busy harvesting in another nearby jhum field.
They have also been successful in getting plentiful harvest this season. As they belong to a big family, they harvested on a field with an area of 10 acres.
The eldest among them, Langaro Mro said paddy flowers were damaged by harsh winds last year, resulting in a poor yield that season.
"But as the weather this year has been favourable, the yield has met expectations to the extent that it can fulfil the needs of the entire family round the year," he remarked on a happy note.
Other jhum fields in relatively lower areas like Hansama and Shamukjhiri along the main street of Rowangchhari upazila can be noticed too.
Samaching Marma and Umay Marma, two female farmers asserted that they have not found such high yield in the last three years.
"If there was low rainfall in one season, there was increased wind-flow in another season to thwart expectations of the farmers", the said.
Besides paddy, the yield of different vegetables is also good this year.
As the jhum fields of Samaching Marma, Umay Marma and their fellow farmers are close to the Bandarban Sadar upazila, they made extra profit by selling the vegetables to the nearby market.
Bandarban Agricultural Extension Department Deputy Director Dr AKM Nazmur Haque said that communication networks have not reached the hill tracts as of now. Thus, the demand of food here is chiefly fulfilled through jhum cultivation and this year, the cultivation has been carried out on 8,895 hectares of land in the district. Rainfall was low during the bloom period this year, resulting in enough yield to meet expectations.
900kg paddy from 10kg seeds
The hills of Rangamati are filled with the scent of ripen paddy. Jhum farmers are happy as they have also cultivated a number of other crops along with jhum which earned them a handful of profit.
During a visit to Sita hill of Kaptai upazila, families of jhum farmers were found engaged in cutting golden paddies on the fields.
Chengchi A Mong Marma, 40, confirmed that this year paddy harvest has been better when compared to the previous couple of years.
Sowing one kilogram of seeds, they are getting 90 to 95 kilograms of paddies up from 70 to 75 kilograms last year. Output has been better for other crops planted alongside paddy as well. Crops like ginger, turmeric, chilly, cotton, brinjal, okra, corn, pumpkin, spinach, tora have brought in extra cash for the farmers with much relief after continued losses over the last few years.
Aungching Thowai Marma, 38, revealed another fact highlighting the significance of this year's high crop yield. He said that he has not had to use any chemical fertiliser on his field and still the output has been better than that in the previous years.
According to Rangamati district agricultural division, high-yielding paddy varieties like BRI-48 and BRI-55 were planted this year in the jhum fields along with local varieties. The output has also been great, as a result of favourable weather.
Deputy Director the district agricultural extension department Paban Kumar Chakma said, "Adequate rainfall has ensured expected paddy output this year."
The Bandarban Cultural Institute for the Ethnic Minority arranges the "Nabanna Festival" every year during the harvest season. In this festival, different crops cultivated in jhum fields are exhibited.
Sessions for traditional songs are also arranged. The institute's director, Mong Nu Ching Marma said, "Eleven indigenous communities are living in the hills of Bandarban. During Nabanna festival, the norms and practices of one community are highlighted in a year while those of another is highlighted the next year and the process goes on like this."