Dry spells and floods leave Kerala farmers clueless on future

Kerala, floods

From drought to floods, the livelihood of the Kerala farmer seems to have moved from the frying pan to the fire, with more than a lakh farmers in the state losing their crops to floodwaters this year.

According to estimates, the floods have caused crop losses worth ₹1,166.42 crore over 34,374 hectare of agricultural land in the state, directly affecting the livelihood of 1,35,118 farmers. Farmers of Palakkad and Alappuzha have incurred 62.8 per cent of the losses this year.

“My 6 acre farmland was under water for four days. I had cultivated paddy and vegetables on it. But everything is gone now. I can assess the total loss only after the water recedes completely. This is the second time I am facing such a loss, after the 2018 floods,” says Mani, a farmer from Koduvayur in Palakkad district.

He says, just a few months back, a severe scarcity of water had left farmers of the area in a lurch. “We suffered without water for almost 60 days. But look, now, there is water everywhere. But what is the use? It has only destroyed our crops,” says Mani, looking at his inundated farm.


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Selvan, another farmer from the region says farmers in the state now look at a bleak future in view of recurring flood situation in the state. “So flooded was our area that a few days back it was hard to distinguish an inundated paddy field from the nearby pond. Crop loss is something we face every year, but when natural calamities like this happen, it add to our miseries,” he says with a sigh.

Although Elavanchery in Palakkad district accounts for the highest vegetable production in the state, farmers in the region say, the changing climate has dampened the spirit of farmers, especially the younger generation.

“Even the youth in this area are coming forward to do farming. But climate change has induced fear in us. We did get compensation from the government for the last year’s deluge, but that wasn’t enough. The government needs to announce a definite compensation package for farmers to help them deal with losses due to extreme weather conditions. Then only we can fearlessly pursue farming in the coming years,” says Sivadasan, a farmer from the area.

While there are programmes and packages to cater to the needs of farmers, many say those are not being implemented properly. “Issues related to the farming sector have to be sorted out at the grass-roots level itself. The Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland of 2008, for instance, is a very good initiative. But, look at its implementation. The database of farmers itself wasn’t done properly,” says Muhammad Fuad, a new entrant to the field, from Alathur, Palakkad. “Now, farming has become something which you should pursue only if you have an alternative source of income. Many people say in jest that they will quit their job and take up farming, but they should know that farming isn’t that easy,” the 38-year-old says.

The heavy rains in the state have not only affected rice, vegetable and banana cultivation in the state, but have also hit fish cultivation.

“We are in the process of recovering from the huge loss. The government is going to help farmers by transferring money online. It is a big scheme that we are planning to launch,” VS Sunil Kumar, minister of Agriculture, Kerala told The Federal.

A farmer at his vegetable farm at Elavancherry in Palakkad district, that was submerged in floodwaters following heavy rains in the state

Crop loss occurred in over 1,47,018 hectare of agricultural land during the floods in August last year. When asked how the government would compensate the farmers for the 2019 deluge, Kumar said, “We are going to divide the agricultural land in Kerala into different agro-ecological zones. Not all agricultural land are the same. The water, the soil and the topography varies according to the place. We need to assess all these factors. After all, climate change is something that is not in our hands.”

Deluge after deluge, farm distress in Kerala has only been increasing with many farmers still dependent on the government’s mercy. And as Mani said, “We are farmers and bound to do farming for our entire lives. Profit or no profit, this is our dharma, we will keep doing it.”