Punjee people opting for alternative livelihood
Sixty-year-old Sujan Dofo, a resident of Balukona Punjee, indigenous village, in Moulvibazar's Kulaura upazila, used to be solely involved in cultivating betel leaves for a living.
However, due to different problematic reasons like land grabbing, fall in prices of betel leaves and its vulnerability to various plant diseases in recent years, he had to face continuous losses for long.
But, after being listed as one of the ultra-poor indigenous persons, he got a calf from the Department of Livestock Services (DLS) in December 2020, and started a new venture in the form of cattle rearing.
In the past few years, Sujan has gradually developed a deep affection for the cow and it proved to be a profitable investment.
The cow gave birth to two calves and he recently sold one of the young bullocks for Tk 50,000.
In addition, he has been selling milk throughout the year.
Now, Sujan has found a more profitable and sustainable source of income, compared to relying on betel leaves cultivation.
Not only Sujan, but many others living at different punjees in Sylhet region are now gradually opting for alternative professions.
While talking, Subimol Lindokiri, assistant public prosecutor (APP) at Moulvibazar Judge Court, said about 60 indigenous families, living at Berenga Punjee in Barlekha upazila, have been bearing the brunt since 3,000 betel leaf plants and 60 betel nut trees on several jhum fields were chopped down in May this year.
Such incidents have been occurring quite often in an attempt to occupy the land belonging to indigenous people, but nothing has been done so far to end the harassment, he added.
Dr Mithun Sarkar, livestock officer at Kulaura Department of Livestock Services (DLS), said in order to increase the financial capacity, savings and work skills of the indigenous families living in the plain lands the government has distributed a total of 74 calves in 2020-2021, 618 sheep in 2021-2022 and 77 bullocks in 2022-2023 among as many indigenous families.
Dr Ashim Kumar Das, project director of Tribal/Ethnic Community Development Project, DLS, MOFL, said, under the initiatives of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, DLS has taken a project titled "Integrated livestock development project aimed at improving the socio-economic and living standards of the backward minority groups living in the plain land," to be implemented in 210 upazilas under 29 districts across the country.
This project started in July 2019 and will continue till June 2024, he added.