Climate Change threatens farmers livelihood in Assam

Climate Change threatens farmers livelihood in Assam

Climate Change Threatens Farmers Livelihood in Assam. Climate Change and its adverse impacts which includes a change in the rainfall pattern and rising temperature is affecting farmers in the state of Assam, located in India’s North East.

Climate Change and its adverse impacts which includes a change in the rainfall pattern and rising temperature is affecting farmers in the state of Assam, located in India’s North East.

The state which is largely agriculture based has a major portion of the state’s population engaged in this sector.

According to data from the state agriculture department, over 70 percent of the state's population relies on agriculture as farmers, or agricultural labourers, and a majority of them are suffering as a result of climate change.

Experts working on climate change in the state pointed out that over the years there has been a decreasing tendency on the annual rainfall in the state, and along with this the annual mean temperature in the state has increased significantly due to rise of both maximum and minimum temperature during the last 60 years.

“Monsoon rainfall is showing a major decreasing trend, and it has decreased by 94.1 mm/decade, 53.6 mm/decade and 156.2 mm/decade in the eastern, central and western parts of the state,” said Rajib Lochan Deka, a professor of the Assam agriculture university. Deka, who is researching on climate change said that winter rainfall over the state has also decreased by 7.3 mm/decade during 1981-2010.

Besides this, the warming trend in the state was particularly pronounced in the recent 30 years period and was 1.6 times higher than the all-India average.

Most of the agriculture in the state is rainfed as majority of the irrigation projects in the state are in disuse.

These changes have severely affected the farmers, and many farmers who were earlier well off are now staring at a bleak future ahead.

“Since the last 5 years the production from my field has sharply declined. Earlier I could earn enough to take of my family and was also able to make adequate savings, but now things are no more like that,” said Naresh Kalita, a 45 year old farmer from the Kohiha village in the Kamrup district in the state.

Kalita owes 2.5 acre of agricultural land, but now he is planning to sell a portion of his land, to pay off his debts.

“I am fully dependent on agriculture for my living, but the poor production from my field over the past half a decade or so has shattered me completely. Also I am in debt now, as I had to borrow on interest to survive,” said Kalita.

Kalita said that he plans to begin his life afresh, and so he needs to sell a portion of his land.

“I am taking this as a last chance to revive my farming activity. If it fails, I will then permanently give up farming, and look for some other work,” said Kalita.

Gagan Pegu, a 46 year old farmer from the Kamalabari village, located almost 600 kilometres away from Kalita’s house is facing a worse situation.

Pegu had bad production from his land consecutively for the past 5 years, and he had taken money thrice from money lenders by mortgaging his agriculture land.

“I was given a notice last year from the money lenders stating that if I don’t pay off my loan by March this year, they will take away all my land. I have no money to even make a part payment,” said Pegu.

On being asked what he plans to do now, Pegu said that he will become a daily wage labour. He however said with great emotions that he has asked his two sons to drop out of school as he is not in a position to pay for their education.

Farmers said though they have been advised to use tractors to till their “hard land” and use motor pumps to extract irrigation water, they are not doing so as it will escalate costs and put them in debt.

“We experienced this in the past. If we use diesel pump-sets we will need to pay for the oil from our pocket; use of tractors also increases costs. But if the yield is not up to the mark, we will need to borrow money for the diesel and tractor,” said Ghumai Narah, a 42-year-old farmer from Bongagaon village in the Dhemaji district in Assam.

Agriculture department officials admitted that the change in rainfall pattern has affected farmers to a great extent, as several areas in the state doesn’t have adequate irrigation facilities.

“The irrigation facilities are not adequate in the state, and this makes the farmers dependent on the rain,” said Mawsam Hazarika, a senior official of the Assam agriculture department.

“Many of the irrigation projects in the state have been non-functional for long as a result of the lack of funds, but efforts are now being made to make those functional,” said Nilomoni Sen Deka, Assam Irrigation and agriculture minister.

The state government however showed very little will to take up steps for a permanent solution to the problems of the farmers in the state.

On being asked what the state government is planning to do next, the state Irrigation and Agriculture minister said that since over fifty percent of the irrigation projects in the state are presently non-functional, it is not possible to revamp the irrigation scenario presently due to lack of adequate funds.

“I have asked the deputy commissioners of all the districts to look into the problems faced by the farmers, and we will explore ways to solve their problems,” said Deka.

By Amarjyoti Borah

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