Why Should Farmers Bear The Burden Of The Climate Mess We Created?

WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

We, the so-called “human beings”, are exactly how Hobbes described people in ‘The State of Nature’; solitary, poor, nasty, and brutish because we know nothing, but how to achieve our personal gains, either by hook or crook! We have already created a lot of disorder on this beautiful planet, and are on the verge of causing its breakdown! From the lithosphere to the ozone layer and even to space, we have managed to showcase and extend our destruction. But, you know what the worst part is? Those who contribute the least to climate change suffer the most! Some of those innocent victims are farmers.

A piece of land located in a village called Salhetola (Distt. Kanker, Chhattisgarh). Image by Pragya Uike

Can you see this empty tract of land? This land is located in a village called Salhetola (Distt. Kanker, Chhattisgarh). A Kharif Crop, rice was sown and harvested here. The above picture was clicked on November 3rd, 2019. By now, it should be witnessing farmers working on packaging and transporting activities, but this is not so. Do you know why? Because of the untimely rains as a result of climate change!

My interaction with a farmer, Todar Mal Sahu was a revelation for me. He told me a lot of things. They are bearing extra costs and efforts just to dry the harvested crops, which were destroyed by untimely rains. If you are wondering why they do not store their crops somewhere, then let me make it clear, that for a distance as close as 4-5 kms, (where the cold storage is located), they have to pay a hefty amount of Rs. 2000. Many of us buy a t-shirt for this amount, but for many of them, it is like their monthly budget! So, instead of taking it to cold storage, they choose to rely on their fate, which entirely depends upon the climate.

He also told me that since they are small farmers, and not like big corporations, they want to earn their income by fair means. Hence, they don’t want to use insecticides or pesticides, but their circumstances force them to do so! They try to use it as minimally as possible, in the pre-harvesting phase. But the problem goes out of hand if it rains untimely after harvest; their crops then become prone to various insects and pests which flourish in the rain; like ‘Maho’, ‘Tana Chhed’ (तना छेद) as they are locally called. The most dangerous Maho is the brown one, i.e. “Bhura Maho”.

This becomes more problematic when the majority of farmers use seeds provided by the government; these are often found to be of sub-standard quality as compared to the seeds sold by private enterprises. Hence, they already lag behind in terms of quality, and these pests cause further deterioration. Bt Crops are also not affordable to a majority of them.

When I asked about his views on a loan waiver scheme, supplemented by an increase in Minimum Support Price to Rs. 2500, he said that a majority of farmers are happy, and feel relieved. But the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Shri Bhupesh Baghel said that it was a one-time thing. Their happiness seems short-lived, and unless a concrete solution is chalked out, it is highly likely they will fall into the vicious cycle again.

The plight of lease farmers is worse, as they have to give a fixed amount of produce to the owners. If the produce is sufficient, they keep the surplus. If the produce is exactly equal to terms of the lease, they are left with nothing. If the produce fails even to reach the mark, they become indebted. But what affects productivity the most? Dear friends, it is none other than climate change! Either by way of untimely rains or by fluctuating temperature or decreasing water levels etc.

Apart from debt I asked him, what about the other major problems. He spontaneously said – ‘Paani ki Samasya’ (Water problems). The schemes by the government, like Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana etc. have failed to meet the demands of farmers. Rich farmers manage to get irrigation facilities, but what about the majority, i.e. poor farmers?

The cost of borewell drilling is Rs. 60-70 per feet. In addition to the pipe, which is then fitted, costs go up to Rs. 250-300 per feet. And you know what makes it worse? ! In some places, it may take 400-500 ft. or even more, to reach the water level. Thanks to us; we have depleted the water levels severely. Now, just take a minute to calculate the cost! The quantum would reach in lakhs!

Chaff destroyed by untimely rains.

Now, take a look at this chaff, destroyed by untimely rains, because it could not be stored. This would’ve been food for cattle! We deprived them of their food as well! That, in turn, affects the income of farmers.

Not only that, but this untimely rain also affects women. In most places in India, especially this region, the process of sowing and harvesting is done exclusively by women. Approximately 20 women are employed by the contractor to sow land of 2 acres.

The contractor is paid RS. 4000 per acre, and he, in turn, distributes the wages to the women. For harvesting, each woman is paid Rs. 120 on a daily basis, directly. Now, just think, if the final proceedings of one round of their crop are getting delayed by untimely rains, how can they even think of sowing another round of crops? Women are affected badly by this! It is a direct attack on their empowerment! All thanks to us!

We also need to stop making them the scapegoats of our blame game. Even today, when there are various other evident reasons, like vehicular emissions, firecrackers, etc. we are solely blaming farmers for Delhi’s air pollution. They are always the object of politics but are never the subject of politics! They feed everyone but are themselves hungry; their voices never reach the ears of policymakers. How long will this continue to happen?

This was just an example; an example of just one or two aspects of climate change; there are thousands more! Just think about the gravity of the situation. We should feel ashamed that our burden is being shifted to innocent people – the producers, manufacturers, transporters, market men, cattle, women, their children, their old parents etc. And if you are still selfish, then keep in mind, that it is adversely affecting you too! None of us will be spared by the wrath of climate change; it is better, in fact, high time, we develop compassion towards our environment.

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