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Dry spells leave Kohima, Phek farmers distraught

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By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Jul 25, 2021 10:47 pm
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Rain-fed rice field at Khulazu Basa in Phek district. (EM Images)

Reyivolu Rhakho
Kohima, July 25 (EMN):
Prolonged dry spells in Nagaland have left farmers distraught as rice-sowing season nears end; yet they are left with no option but to wait for the unpredictable rainfall to get their work done.

About 70% of the state population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood. While jhum cultivation is practiced in all the districts, Phek and Kohima districts chiefly practice terrace (wet) rice cultivation, which is dependent mainly on rainfall. Normally, rice transplanting is completed by the first week of July. However, this year, it has lagged behind due to erratic rainfall.

Eastern Mirror reached out to some of the farmers from the two districts to gauge the extent of how scanty rainfall has affected them.

Chief co-ordinator of Phek Farmers’ Club, Thuputhiyi Venuh, shared that he could not carry on with paddy field work—the primary farming among Chakhesang Nagas.

‘Only 40% (of farmers) were able to finish rice transplantation in Phek, which means 60% is still waiting on rainfall to start their work. It is not possible to work without rain’, he said.

Adding to their woes, the completed paddy fields have begun to dry up, as there was no continuous rainfall. Rice seedlings grown in seedbeds were also damaged or had died and could no longer be used for transplanting.

‘Re-sowing of rice seeds will be late as it takes 40 to 45 days,’ he added.

Rice transplanting in colder areas needs to be finished by July otherwise, it would not produce crops. In warmer places, it can wait till August first week, he informed.

The club’s chief further said that farmers were advised to plant any crops they could according to season, instead of waiting for supplies from the government. Farmers therefore have to opt for early rabi crops such as potato, yam, green peas as alternatives.

He urged the department concerned to assess the situation on priority basis, adding that there was no review or field visit from the department so far.

Thepusa Nakro, sub-divisional agriculture officer in Chozuba estimated that an average of 35% farmers were affected in Chozuba sub-division. There were also a few cases of drying up of completed paddy fields.

Some of the most affected villages from the sub-division were Thipuzu, Khulazu Bawe, Khulazu Basa, Runguzu Nagwu and Runguzu Nasa.

The other villages were able to pick up in July second week with some amount of rainfall setting in, Nakro said.

The officer added that they were inspecting the fields and sending weekly reports to the department. Farmers were being advised to go for alternative seeds such as maize and soybean, and other winter crops in case they cannot cultivate paddy.

‘We are asking them to make alternative arrangements but so far the department has not given any supplies yet’, he added. On the request of farmers, he went down to Dimapur to procure some seeds from suppliers but could not get much as seeds for winter were yet to arrive.

More than 90% farmers yet to complete work

At Sendenyu village under Tseminyu sub-division, out of 100% not even 10% of the farmers were able to complete their paddy fields this year, informed Apollos Kent.

Kent, who is a native of Sendenyu, revealed that none of the households in the village have completed their terrace rice fields. Some families could manage to complete a platform or two among the full terrace fields, having the advantage of nearby streams. Similarly, Kent managed to transplant two platforms in his field.

‘Although it rains at night, scorching sun during the day would dry up all the paddy fields that were completed. Even vegetables were not able to survive in the rainless situation, except yam. The major problem is if the rice seedling in the nursery bed is overgrown, it will not be of any use,’ he said.

In addition to their dreaded situation, people in the village were getting less rice from the government in the last two months. Therefore, farmers were in “panic situation” right now, he said while adding that they depend on paddy fields for survival.

‘We do not really have any alternative solution in mind as to how to make up for the loss. We have been trusting and depending on paddy field for our survival since time immemorial’, Kent said. He expressed hope that department could do something to help the farmers.

‘No inspection from dept. yet’

Another farmer from Zhadima village under Kohima district, Pezachülie Philip, also informed that less rainfall had affected his village this year. In some fields where transplanting was complete, it dried up because of no rain.

“By now, sowing season has passed and even if we do, it will be late to transplant them. We also run short of seeds to sow again. We are thinking what to do next”, he said.

Philip narrated that he was able to complete one paddy field site, which can harvest two tins. But, on the bigger site that harvest about 140 tins, he is waiting for rainfall to work.

“If we don’t do rice cultivation, there is less option to turn to. Even if we do, we need seeds, which is not readily available in the village. Although, we get some seeds from the department it was less”, he said. He added that there was no assessment from the department’s end.

Village Council Chairman, Jakhama, Zhopo Richa also told this newspaper that the village usually do not experience deficient rainfall. The villagers used to manage their paddy fields even with less amount of rainfall earlier. However, rainfall is much lesser this year.

People were unable to cultivate all their paddy fields, he informed, adding that over 60% of farmers have completed the work.

In the upper part of the village (colder areas) where paddy fields are dependent on nearby streams and rivers, rice transplantation was completed. However, in lower areas, farmers are facing difficulties, he said.

He also informed that the department has not inspected their area so far nor any help was received.

Like the others, primary farming in the entire Southern Angami region is terrace rice cultivation but fortunately, for Jakhama, there is an alternative besides rice cultivation like growing vegetables, he added.

Earlier, office of the Agriculture Production Commissioner, Nagaland had informed that terraced rice cultivation (upland) and wet terraced rice cultivation had been affected due to deficient monsoon rains in all the districts causing delay in land preparation and sowing. If the same trend continues till July, farmers may fail to undertake cultivation activities.

The rice production of the state, which was 5.51 lakh MT for the year 2020-21, is now anticipated to reduce to 1.66 Lakh MT during the current year, a reduction of 70 %, if the present dry spell continues.

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By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Jul 25, 2021 10:47:16 pm