Back-to-back calamities a shock for Wayanad farmers

Vasudevan at the plantain farm damaged in the floods.

Hectares of crops damaged in floods and landslides have become a common site in Wayanad in North Kerala that suffered the maximum damage in this year's natural calamities.

For the thousands of farmers of Wayanad, the back to back natural calamities have come as a bolt from the blue as most of them were struggling to revive from the massive damage caused in the 2018 floods and landslides.

Out of the 1,791 houses fully damaged across Kerala, 535 were in Wayanad. Similarly, of the 14,559 houses partially damaged in the state, 5,435 were in Wayanad. The total damage to the agriculture sector of Wayanad in the rains and landslides from August 7 this year was so far estimated to be around Rs. 225 crores. During last year the agriculture sector of Wayanad suffered damage to the tune of Rs. 331 crore.

E Moidu, a plantain farmer at Chennalde who lost about 500 plantains in the floods, said that he was yet to recover from the loss caused in the previous floods.

As many as ten farmers committed suicide in Kerala over the last year mainly owing to financial stress. In Wayanad alone, three farmers committed suicide so far this year. The farmers of Wayanad, which is now represented by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the Parliament, is looking forward for schemes like loan dues waiver to tide over the crisis.

Kerala government agriculture department officials told DH that the maximum damage was caused to the plantain crops this year. About 1,350-hectare plantain cultivation of Wayanad were damaged. Many farmers were preparing the crop ready for harvest by the upcoming Onam festival season in Kerala next month as banana chips fetch high demand during the season. 

This apart, over 1,500-hectare paddy fields, over 90-hectare pepper and 130-hectare ginger crops were damaged in the flood. Coffee and areca nut sectors also suffered huge loss owing to the heavy rains.

Vasudevan a plantain farmer at Maniyankodu near Kalpetta said that the about 2000 plantains he cultivated remained submerged in water for four days. While many plantains were fully damaged, many ready for harvesting lost the quality. Many farmers like Vasudesan also did not avail the crop insurance scheme owing to lack of proper awareness.

E Moidu, a plantain farmer at Chennalde who lost about 500 plantains in the floods, said that he was yet to recover from the loss caused in the previous floods.

K Surendran, president of Haritha Sena, a forum of farmers of Wayanad, said that the government should take steps like waiving loan dues of farmers as moratorium would not offer any lasting solution. The compensation under the crop insurance schemes also need to be enhanced, he urged.

The dairy sector, which has been another thriving industry of Wayanad, also suffered loss to the tune of Rs. 2.41 crore this year. As many as 3,450 dairy farmers of Wayanad suffered damages this time. Though the government offered compensation for cattle lost in the calamities last year, many dairy farmers who suffered huge loss due to damage caused to cattle sheds did not receive much compensation. This year also about 250 cattle sheds were damaged, as per government reports.

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