At Vattavada, the famed cool-season vegetable cultivating village, Pappiyamma seems visibly perturbed. Like most of her ilk here, this small-scale farmer has lost almost all the yield from the previous two harvesting seasons.
The yield of the prime season in August, which coincides with Onam, is usually the one that compensates for any losses in the second and third harvesting seasons that fall around November and January respectively.
But in 2018, the August floods washed away the first season yield. The state-of-affairs did have an influence on the November yield too, which was only moderate.
Frost takes a toll
Then, calamity struck again in January with the frost burying all hopes of a good third-season yield. The crops damaged included beans, cabbage, and garlic. The claimants of the green pea crop have been the pests that the change in climate brought in.
The farmers are in a fix now with the first season farming (in the next crop rotation) fast approaching in some months time. The second and third seasons, even otherwise, have many challenges with water scarcity restricting sowing to only those areas where there are irrigation facilities.
Farming thus becomes a costlier task, for which the villagers depend on the moneylenders from Tamil Nadu who usually seek the yield in return at a price determined by them. The situation drives some farmers to even take up jobs as daily wage labourers.
Moneylenders make hay
But this year, with larger areas left uncultivable all through last year, farming for the upcoming season could be a tougher task. This could mean sterner influence of the moneylenders on the farmers. “But we are left with no other option,” says Murugan, whose bean crop has been lost to the frost.
Whatever is left of the crops this year are also of no use now, say the farmers. Pappiyamma’s dried-up butter beans have no demand in the market. A large number of farms with beans cultivation have, therefore, been cleared and burnt.
The farmers sensed no compensation would come their way and hence deemed it fit to clear the farms. Some farms with beetroot crops have been abandoned, as the tubers have sub-growth that are unfit for the market.
Agriculture Department officials, however, feel the crop loss due to the frost was not as much as during the floods.
According to them, the farmers feel the pinch more because the loss mostly happened in the areas where farming is done during the other two seasons.
The department is planning immediate steps to counter lack of irrigation facilities, the sources there say. Though there are five streams in the forest that could be used for irrigation, the drought-like situation was mostly due to the stand of the Forest Department against construction of check dams, they say.
Vattavada, thus, is in a sombre mood with uncertainty looming large over the fate of its sought-after organically produced vegetable yield.
Source – https://www.thehindu.com