Floods in fields; droughts at home

Agriculture Bailhongal Capstone State Taluk

Soybean farmers face loss as Malaprabha floods; fields still drowned months after the floods

Surbhi Shah

Many houses were also destroyed because of the heavy rainfall

As the grey clouds loomed over the sowed fields of Bailhongal on the onset of the monsoon last year, farmers dreamed of full and profitable crops. Little did they know that the river they worship was going to flood over their lands, drowning it for months at a stretch along with their invested money.

Three months later, on a hot February day and Ramalinga was coming back home with his pair of bulls after hours of working on his fields. He had recently sowed sugarcane on his eight acres of land where earlier he had grown three acres of soybean and rest dal.

 “After the floods, out of the three acres, half of the soybean crops were destroyed,” Ramalinga said. He had invested Rs 10,000 per acre with the hope of profiting Rs 50,000 per acre. He had expected the total produce to be 24 quintals, but half of it was destroyed because of the floods and heavy rainfall.

Soybean is one of the most widely grown crops in Bailhongal after cotton. Due to the Malaprabha floods, the farm lands were drowned and flooded and most of the crops were destroyed. Even after months, some of the farm lands are still under water. The area where the water has receded is muddy and soft because of excess water.

“This is the first time in a decade that soybean crops have been destroyed.”

Babu Malvana, a farmer from Bevinkoppa village.

Walking down the Marathi galli towards his house, Babu said that due to the floods, he is suffering a loss of Rs 25,000 which he had invested for sowing. Around 70 per cent to 80 per cent of his produce was ruined because of heavy rainfall.

The Bevinkoppa village has different gallis or lanes—Muslim, Hindu, Marathi and Dalit. Though separated by caste, there was no attitude barrier amongst them. Most of the people had land where they sowed jowar, soybean, cotton, etc. Some of the people worked as labourers in other’s fields.

Soybean season ranges from September to January and the peak season is in October and November. It is sowed twice in the season. Many fields, including the soybean, were drowned or flooded in the villages like Bevinkoppa, Amtur, Naya Nagar, etc., that are situated at the banks of the Malaprabha River. Since it was the peak season, the losses are higher.

“Soybean along with cotton has been affected the most after floods. Soybean production has gone down by around 70 per cent this year.”

S.N. Gowda, Senior marketing supervisor at the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) market.

Although the government has surveyed the flood-hit areas and compensated most of the farmers, either the compensation amount does not match the losses incurred or some of them have not received the compensation yet.

“Government has given a compensation of Rs 4,000 per acre for the loss but I had invested around Rs 10,000. It is not even half the production cost,” Ramalinga said, flipping through his passbook to verify the amount.

“We have released funds to the affected farmers according to the survey done. Only the ones with no proper aadhar card or documents are on hold,” said a member of the Amtur Gram panchayat under which the neighbouring villages of Bevinkoppa and Devlapur are also included.

Basavraj from Bevinkoppa said that he did not get any compensation from the government. He had sowed 20 acres of soybean with an investment of Rs 70,000. Because of the heavy rainfall and floods, half of his produce was ruined with loss of Rs 1 lakh approximately. He has no alternate job.

The 2019-20 budget estimate of Bailhongal shows the allocation of Rs 10 lakh as flood work grant.

“We have paid kharif compensation to around 46,000 farmers. Depending on the extent of loss, maximum amount dispensed is Rs 33,000 and the minimum is based on the acres of land affected.”

D. H. Hugal, tehsildar, Bailhongal taluk.  

Kharif crops, also known as monsoon crops, are cultivated during the monsoon season, which mostly lasts from June to November and may differ by a month’s time, depending on the area.

For the year 2019-20, the government had approved the increase of Minimum Support price (MSP) for all kharif crops. MSP for soybean was increased by Rs 311 per quintal and for cotton it was increased by Rs 100-Rs 105 per quintal. This move will help in increasing the farmers’ income.

Basavraj has now planted Bengal gram along with jowar. He needs approximately five labourers daily to work on his fields. “Nowadays, there is a problem with finding the labourers.  As they get ration from the government, they are not ready to work on the field like earlier.” Women get Rs 150 per day and men get Rs 200 per day as daily wages.

Khateeja working in the field

Ramalinga also added that as the labourers get the monthly ration, they do not come regularly to work in the field. “Also, no one wants to marry their daughter to a farmer or labourer now. So who will want to work on other people’s farms,” added Ramalinga, chuckling.

Khateeja was ankle deep in water on the field when she said that she has been working as a labourer since 1983. Now she earns Rs 200 per day after working for six hours in the scorching heat.

“Most of us do not have our own land in this village so we go to the nearby villages to work on other’s farms. We depend on daily wages for our earning,” said Laxma ma, a labourer from Hunnur village. After the floods, the people in this village got one and a half week of approximate work in a month and they had to live on government ration.  “Because of floods and heavy rainfall in Gokak which is nearby, most of the agriculture was affected and there was no work for us for weeks.”

For other emergency situations like health issues, the villagers take money from money lenders and pay them later from their daily wages.

Bailhongal is also known for its cotton production. The cotton produce was cut in half this season due to heavy rainfall and floods.

Hanumant is a retired police officer who enjoys farming. He has a cotton field along with coconuts lined on the border. The crops were all dried up. Red worms were seen crawling in some of the white soft cotton crop. “One of my sons is a lawyer, my daughter is in police. I started agriculture after my retirement but this time after the heavy rainfall, most of the crop is ruined. The crops are infected with bugs.

“As I stay in Bailhongal town, I don’t get time to come to the village every day and work in the field. Labourers also do not come every day. So the crops are destroyed because of weather and lack of proper attention.”

Hanumant added since the day that coconut trees started bearing fruits; he has not been able to taste even one because when he goes back to his house, the villagers steal all the fruits. 

Because of the floods and rainfall, many cotton farms were destroyed and the production was very low. This has resulted in low sales in APMC markets.

“Farmers are not coming to APMC because of their crop loss. Earlier we used to get around 1000 to 2000 quintals of cotton in a day and now after the floods it has reduced to 50 to 60,” said Ramesh Pujeri, a cotton broker at Bailhongal APMC. One quintal goes for around Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000.

The raw material is then sold to the cotton ginning centres where it is processed.

Pumps installed to drain out the excess water at the banks of Malaprabha river in Bevinkoppa, Belagavi.

Weather conditions and lack of awareness are the two factors because of which the extent of loss is higher. Weather cannot be controlled but it can be forecasted and indicated beforehand so that the farmers take necessary actions. As given in the Agriculture contingency plan for weather related situations like floods, in case of heavy rainfall for more than two days, soybean should be avoided at the seedling stage. In the vegetative, reproductive and harvest stage, excess water should be drained out.

In the case of floods, where acres or farm land drown, there is little that can be done other than displacing the land but in case of rainfall, farmers can take necessary action to protect their crops from damage and reduce the loss.

The government had come up with a scheme of Raitha Mitra Yojane with the objective to provide updated information on crop production options, practices market, etc. It is also there to facilitate on-site provision of critical inputs like seeds, bio-fertilizers, micro nutrients etc. Though the centres are established in the taluk, not many farmers know and use the scheme to their advantage.

“India floods every year in place or another and the most affected sector is agriculture. Our farmers need to learn the basics and the technologies that they can use in the case of floods, so that they can save a whole lot of produce from destroying, be it from floods or droughts,” said Pankaj Ingole, an agriculture expert.

“It has taken a toll on my family. Loan over loan and instead of profiting from the produce, we are working only to clear our debts,” said Ramalinga, sitting with his sister Anjali, whose husband’s farms were also flooded in the Gokak floods. He could do nothing but flip his passbook, calculating how much money is left in his account to keep his house running.


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