It is well known that our weather patterns have changed due to global warming. Khumtia Debbarma speaks to an elderly farmer, Satya Debbarma, about how the lack of rains has affected his life
Winter is a time when the markets of Tripura erupt into a colourful display of fresh vegetables. The fertile soil nurtures many different kinds of vegetables such as radish, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, mustard etc. Visitors to the state often remark on how the vegetables taste better than anywhere else.
One of the most important requirements for planting and harvesting winter vegetables is water. However, Twima Harung, a farmland in the state, is facing water shortage as the stream nourishing the area is drying up due to less rains in the past two years.
I spoke to Satya Debbarma who has been farming on the land with five other families for the last many years. He said that vegetable cultivation this year has been slow due to lack of water. “Rainfall has been less in the last two years. Earlier the stream used to be bigger and would supply enough water to all. But now it is half its normal size and shrinking further,” he said.
The six farming families cultivate two kinds of crops on the land–paddy and vegetables. The paddy is cultivated during the rainy season and vegetables in the winter season. They grow potato, radish, ginger, garlic, corn, green chilies, peas, and bitter gourd. The issue of water has become significant among the tribals of Tripura as they now seek to grow all year round. This was not the case earlier. Satya said, “Earlier certain vegetables like gobi and radish were seasonal. We only cultivated it in the winter season. But the demand for such vegetables has risen and so many farmers are planting them throughout the year. This has led to an increase in the demand for water.”
These days in villages, people are buying their own motors and pipes to irrigate their fields. Unlike other agricultural states where the government makes canals, in Tripura, a few places have water supply and the rest are dependent on streams, rivers, and underground water. According to estimates 63% of the population depends on agriculture for sustenance. To help the farmers of Twima Harung, the government has made arrangements for water supply. It has created a small canal to bring the water to the farm but Satya says that it is not well maintained. The canal keeps running and no one switches off the supply. Also, some parts of the canal are broken but they are not getting repaired.
Highlighting the importance of water in agriculture, Satya says that if water levels keep decreasing, the entire wheel will come to a stop. “Without water there is no life. If the stream dries up, our lives will stop, our food will stop, and everything will come to a standstill,” he said.
On being asked how useful rainwater has been he said, “Rainwater is good when it comes to cultivating paddy. In fact for farmers water, sun, and winter are important elements for cultivation. Its timeliness and quantity decides the amount of production on any given season.”
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.