Chittagong Hill Tracts: Still Suffering from Food Shortage
The free rice supply ended and very low income makes the purchase of food almost impossible.
Indigenous people in many remote villages in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) will have to suffer from lack of food grains for at least two more months until the next harvest if the government does not provide them with food. Many families in the CHT districts including Bandarban, Khagrachhari and Rangamati are now living on wild potato, arum and green leaves after rats invaded the areas last year and early this year and destroyed all their crops leading to this famine-like situation.
The government and donor agencies provided them with rice immediately after the rat invasion, but that was adequate for only a month or two, they said, adding that the next harvest is due in October . "It has become very hard for us to buy rice at Tk 30 [almost 0.30 Euro] per kg as we do not have any income here," said Thiam Khub, a Bowm from Ruma Thanchi village.
People in Darjeelingpara, a Bowm village at the foot of the Keokradong, are living on boiled pumpkin leaves and rice. The family of Karbari (the village chief) said none in the villages can afford boiled leaves and rice more than twice a day. They said initially they bought rice selling their cattle and poultry. But now most of them have nothing left to sell.
Following bamboo blossoming last year rats invaded many CHT areas and destroyed almost everything edible. This forced many indigenous people to leave their villages. Talking to the people from Ruma Thanchi, Sungsangpara, Anandapara, Wykangpara, it was learnt that rats ate all their rice, ginger, maize, turmeric, peppers, pumpkins, oil seeds and cotton.
The government provided each family with 15 kg rice while the UNDP and World Food Programme provided 30 kg rice per family in the affected areas, the locals said. But the aid exhausted within two months or just one month in the case of a bigger family, they said.
Mostly Bawm, Marma, Tripura and Murung communities live in these remote villages. These people generally grow everything they need and just have to buy kerosene and salt from the market.
Thiam Khub now works in the jum and weaves. He said he can weave a "thurang" in two days and sell it for Tk 100 [almost 1 Euro] at Ruma Bazar, about eight hours' walk from his village. But with this amount he can hardly buy 3 kgs of rice. "I am having a very hard time because if I weave thurang, I cannot work on jum," he said. "We have already sold most of the cattle in our village to buy rice. Many of us now have nothing to sell and are living on wild potatoes, arum or other wild roots," said Chandiram Tripura of Anandapara.
About the relation between rat infestation and bamboo blooming, wildlife expert Dr Reza Khan said rats lose their habitats when bamboo plants die after blooming. "So, the rats come out of the bamboo bushes and attack crops," he said.
As bamboo generally blooms in 20-40 years, he suggested cleaning the bamboo bushes accordingly so that bamboo cannot bloom.