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Weekly Pullouts » Himachal Tribune

Posted at: Jun 9, 2018, 12:26 AM; last updated: Jun 9, 2018, 12:26 AM (IST)

Agriculture vulnerable to climate change

Chinks in government schemes in Sirmaur district

Ambika Sharma

Notwithstanding the claims of having enhanced irrigation facilities in rural areas by the successive state governments, social mapping of vulnerable households   in the three developmental blocks of Sirmaur district presents a dismal picture.     

The intervention, which is part of a centrally funded project, “Sustainable livelihoods of agriculture-dependent rural communities in drought-prone districts through climate smart solutions”, has exposed glaring chinks in the penetration of various government schemes. As many as 47 panchayats were found to be extremely vulnerable to climate change.

Irrigation schemes initiated in several villages falling in three developmental blocks of Paonta Sahib, Sangrah and Pacchad even 10 years ago have not been completed. Having the second highest rural-population growth in the state, a majority of which is dependent on agriculture, the farmers are forced to bear the undue financial burden of digging their own bore wells.

With few natural water resources, such bore wells in low- lying areas were causing a steep decline in the water level. A decline in the moisture content was also noticed, which further affected the quality of soil.

What was even more worrisome was the fact that people having their own bore wells were selling water for irrigation, thus putting an undue financial strain on the marginal and poor agrarian community that had no other means to eke out a living.

The lack of availability of quality planting material in the nearby public distribution shops forced the farmers to travel to Vikasnagar, Khidrabad and Dehradun in Uttarakhand. The area  not only lacks the facilities for protected cropping but the infestation of crops by monkeys, pigs, rats and at times birds led to further losses. Their woes don’t end here and even after overcoming all problems, a healthy crop doesn’t promise them a rich dividend, thanks to the exorbitant transportation cost and the abysmally low price offered to them in the market. It was surprising to note that the benefits of various government schemes elude these villages and they are left to fend for themselves. With the gains showing a decline year after year, the farmers were losing interest in the farming profession.

With little or no education and few ill-equipped government-run centres to train them in modern farming techniques, the farmers have failed to derive the benefits of the government schemes.

“This Rs 20-crore project sanctioned under the National Adaptation Fund has initiated a slew of measures to help the agrarian communities of the drought-prone areas. This includes developing assured irrigation facilities through reviving existing wells and adding new hand pumps, improving the networking of agricultural societies, training the self-help groups on key aspects of farming like seed banking and developing farm collection centres.  Other steps like  developing linkages with agriculture markets as well as assessing the potential to set up agriculture and horticulture-based small-scale industries, which can procure local produce were also being explored to improve the economy of these farmers,” confided Dr SC Attri, Senior Scientific Officer, Department of Environment, which was executing this project.

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