Two months of drought, followed by extremely heavy rainfall; farmers in UP in despair
Drought like conditions in the months of July and August followed by very heavy rains in the second half September have left farmers in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh staring at disaster, as their standing crops of vegetables and pulses have rotted.
Sumit Yadav 29 Sep 2022 4:53 PM GMT
Unnao, Uttar Pradesh
Baua Sonkar looked at land he share- cropped on in Balu Kheda village in Unnao district. On that one-and-a-half bigha of land, 36-year-old Sonkar had sown cauliflowers and brinjal in the hope of earning some money. But, now he was staring huge losses in the face.
First, it was the drought-like conditions in the months of July and August that spelt disaster for his vegetables. Then, in the month of September, it was very heavy rainfall that completely dashed all his dreams of making some money out of the produce.
"I had planted cauliflower in one bigha of land, but the continuous rain for the past few days has damaged them. If it continues to rain like this for another couple of days, then all is lost," Sonkar lamented.
Sonkar is left not just with his damaged crops but with a loan he has to repay. "My wife, Kusum Devi took a loan of twenty thousand rupees from a self-help group. Looking at our crop of vegetables, we are worried that we will not be able to repay that loan immediately," he told Gaon Connection.
Fifteen kilometres away from Sonkar's village is Behta Nathai Singh village. Rameshwari Devi, a 62-year-old farmer is surveying her crop of moong dal (green gram). "If the weather gods were with us, I was hoping to get at least one quintal of dal from my 12 biswa land," Rameshwari Devi told Gaon Cnnection. "I will be lucky if I manage to get two or three kilos of dal," she sighed. One quintal equals 100 kilograms (kgs); 20 biswa makes one bigha of land.
In a strange change of events, Uttar Pradesh that was reeling under drought conditions till mid-September, with a rainfall departure of minus 46 per cent between June 1 and September 14 this year, has now been reeling under the impact of very heavy rainfall and even flood in some districts.
Farmers like Baua Sonkar and Rameshwari Devi, who were struggling with keeping their crops alive under drought conditions, are now losing their standing crops to heavy rainfall.
In the past one week, between September 22 and September 28, Uttar Pradesh has received extremely heavy rainfall of 193 per cent (see map: State-wise rainfall between September 22-28, 2022)! However, the state still has a deficient rainfall of minus 28 per cent.
Map: State-wise rainfall between September 22-28, 2022
Source: India Meteorological Department
Apart from cauliflower on one bigha of land, Sonkar had sown brinjal in half a bigha of land. "Because of the rains, the brinjals are infested with worms and I had to discard most of it. This, despite me spending Rs 1,600 -1,700 per week on pesticides," he said. He added that he had invested nearly Rs 13,000 on his brinjal crop. "I can no more stand up to the vagaries of Nature and have given up," the hapless farmer said.
The September rains have wreaked havoc in the fields of both vegetables and pulses that were almost harvest-ready. The crops are now rotting on the fields.
Farmers are counting their mounting losses and rising debt. Rameshwari Devi said she had spent almost Rs 5,000 on the sowing, irrigation and fertilisation of the crops. "The last time it rained so heavily in September was nearly twelve years ago," she said as she broke off and threw away another moong plant that was completely rotted.
Chote Lal Bharatiya of Ajrayal Kheda village in Sikandarpur block had similar woes. The 67-year-old farmer had sown moong dal in 16 biswa of land. "I spent five thousand rupees in ploughing the land, sowing the crop and fertilising it. First, there was no rainfall because of which the urad, moong and maize did not germinate properly, and those that did dried up in the heat. Then, the saplings that did survive the heat were inundated with the rainfall and they rotted," Bharatiya told Gaon Connection.
Om Prakash Sonkar of Lohcha village had hoped to earn at least Rs 50,000 from the cauliflowers he had planted on 12 biswa of land. "But the rains have washed away all my hopes of earning anything from the cauliflower. I will consider myself blessed if I at least recover the money I spent on the cauliflower," he told Gaon Connection.
Om Prakash Sonkar said cauliflower seeds were expensive at Rs 700 for 10 grams of seeds. Besides that, every eighth day the plants needed Rs 600 worth of pesticides. "I spent Rs 5,000 on the seeds alone," he said.
A big chunk of the cauliflower plants wilted and died in the sweltering heat in June and July, then in September, it rained so much that the very roots of the surviving cauliflowers rotted, OmPrakash explained.
"I have spent about fifteen thousand rupees on my cauliflower crop. I still owe money for the seeds I bought. If it stops raining and I manage to save some of the cauliflowers, I may be able to repay some of the money I owe. Otherwise, I have to look for a daily wage job and discharge my debts," he said.
Climate change was the biggest challenge to farmers, said Dhiraj Tiwari, agricultural scientist, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Dhora.
"The lack of rainfall in June and July forced farmers to use their own resources to irrigate their lands and sow the kharif crops, which increased their expenditure," Tiwari told Gaon Connection. But even after spending all that money, they did not get much returns, he pointed out.
"But the rains in September completely washed out the pulses and oilseeds they were cultivating and the standing crops just rotted in the rainfall, leaving the farmers with nothing in hand," Tiwari said.