Farmers on the march as drought pummels productivity
A guest post by NAGRAJ ADVE, first published in The Wire (India)
A few years ago, a group of us from Delhi, along with members of the Gujarat Agricultural Labour Union and the International Union of Foodworkers, went to eastern Gujarat to speak to farmers about how a changing climate could be affecting their livelihoods. We found that warmer winters, particularly higher night-time temperatures, had resulted in a reduced or complete absence of dew. This was adversely affecting the rabi crop.
“Winters have been getting less cold for about 7-8 years,” a group of farmers told us in Jer Umaria, Panchmahal district. “Our wheat production has halved. The dew does not fall anymore.”
Village after village in Panchmahal, being unable to afford wells and with poorly developed water markets in this predominantly Adivasi belt, most marginal farmers faced sharply reduced yields thanks to lesser dew. Many were forced to leave their land fallow.
Rising temperatures have also been impacting agriculture in faraway Sikkim, but differently. Across the Hindu Kush Himalaya, the average temperature has risen by 1.24º C in 1951‒2014, about twice as much as India’s average rise over the same period.
A demonstration by farmers on 2 October on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. Photo: PTI/ Arun Sharma
Together with a steep rainfall decline in the Northeast – 15% below normal over the last 20 years – and prolonged dry spells, this has left many mountain springs with lower discharge, if they haven’t dried up entirely.
As a result, “the productivity of crops has drastically declined,” Ghanashyam Sharma, Head, The Mountain Institute India, Gangtok, said. “In Pendam, East Sikkim district, many farmers now cannot cultivate wet rice due to water scarcity. Its impacts are unequal [–] Read the rest of this entry »