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Crop losses push Satrem farmers to the brink - Energy And Water Development Corp

Crop losses push Satrem farmers to the brink

20 Mar 2022  |   05:42am IST

Crop losses push Satrem farmers to the brink

The farmers of Satrem village in Sattari taluka in North Goa district have sustained heavy losses due to crop failures caused by water scarcity, weather vagaries and intrusions into the fields by wild animals, reports SHASHWAT GUPTA RAY
Crop losses push Satrem farmers to the brink

Nestled in the midst of picturesque Western Ghats and the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary, Satrem is the first village in North Goa bordering Karnataka. The main occupation of villagers here is farming. However, the farmers here are currently in severe distress.

The farmers are sustaining severe losses running up to lakhs of rupees due to crop failures caused by water scarcity, weather fluctuation and destruction of fields by wild boars, monkeys and peacocks and even mudslides triggered by excessive rains. Being located inside the wildlife sanctuary, there isn’t much these villagers can do since there are many restrictions.

“Satrem village lies on the border of Karnataka in North Goa. This village gets water from the streams flowing through the village. They are  rain fed and have water only during monsoon. By the time summer approaches, the rivers completely dry up. We have irrigation schemes, but the flow is not strong enough to use it for watering the fields. Due to lack of enough water, the crops are dying up. Farmers are sustaining heavy losses,” a local Pancha member said.

The Pancha member, who did not wish to be named, said even the rain water does not get stored due to the local topography.

“The streams originate from hills and run off during monsoon. So, technically even though there is a lot of water during the rainy season, due to lack of proper storage facilities its availability is restricted only till a few months. Gradually the water levels recede and it adversely affects farming here. We need a check dam here so that water is stored for a long-term basis,” the Pancha member said.

Areca nut, bananas, coconut, cashew along with vegetables like Bitter Gourd, cucumber, chilies, Long Beans, tomatoes are commonly grown here. But due to water scarcity and other teething issues like weather fluctuation like sudden changes in temperature, unseasonal rains along with intrusion into the fields by wild boars, monkeys and peacocks is resulting in destruction of crops. Due to these factors, the farmers are sustaining heavy losses, running into lakhs of rupees.

“I grow bananas, areca nuts and coconuts here. Due to water scarcity in summers, farming takes a major hit. By the month of May, there is no water at all. Due to this, our production falls. If this was not enough, there is monkey menace here which adds to our woes. Banana and areca nut plantations are the worst hit,” said Dhanu Gaonkar, a veteran farmer in this area.

While monkeys cause maximum damage, peacocks and wild boars are equally causing problems for him.

“Peacocks and monkeys are a big menace. We can’t do anything to prevent animals from destroying our fields as we live inside a wildlife sanctuary. I have suffered losses over Rs 1 lakh this year alone,” Gaonkar said.

Another farmer Vishnu Dulo Gaonkar, who grows only vegetables here, said water scarcity is resulting in crop failures.

“I mostly grow Bitter Gourd (commonly known as Karela), tomatoes, chili, and beans in my fields. Due to water scarcity, I am not able to grow the vegetables adequately. We face a lot of losses due to water problems. Due to weather fluctuation, the saplings and standing crops are getting damaged. Suddenly the weather becomes cold or hot. This year it was unusually cold. Few days ago, it was very hot, more than normal temperature,” he said.

Even if somehow the crops manage to weather the natural vagaries, the wild animals damage them.

“Almost half of Bitter Gourd and beans plantations have been damaged. This year already I have suffered losses amounting to over Rs 2 lakh. I don’t know how I will be able to sustain my family if this trend continues,” Vishnu Gaonkar said.

Another young farmer in the same village, Shyam Gaonkar said he has been farming since the last 10 years. Earlier he never faced so many issues. The weather started posing problems only in the last couple of years. Although water scarcity in summers has been a perennial problem here, it has intensified in the last few years in summers due to extreme heat.

“I have been farming since last one decade. But never before did I face such problems regarding the weather. If water scarcity is not enough, there is also the problem of water flooding the fields during excess and unseasonal rainfall. Last year I grew and sold strawberries worth Rs 40,000. Encouraged by the success, I invested a lot more on strawberries this time. But unseasonal rains destroyed everything and I incurred losses to the tune of Rs 1 lakh on strawberry alone,” Gaonkar said. (See box)

It’s not just strawberries that got damaged. Even cucumber has been badly hit due to volatile weather conditions.

“Due to excess heat, insects are not eating away our plantations. I have lost a major portion of my cucumbers due to a worm attack. Even the watermelon produced is not up to the mark. Tomato production also is not what I had expected,” Goankar said.

When asked about expectations from the government, Shyam Gaonkar said that while the government gives support for purchasing seeds, fertilisers and even farm equipment, the compensation for crop loss is not enough sometimes. 

“We need more government support in terms of finding long-term solutions to these problems if farming has to become a viable option going ahead in the future,” he said.

When asked about the crop losses, Director of Agriculture Nevil Alphonso said that the government pays compensation promptly for crop losses due to weather conditions.

“Government has a proper compensation scheme for farmers against any destruction of crops due to natural conditions like floods, drought. Someone has to approach us. Our officer then goes to the spot to assess the damage and compensation is paid accordingly,” Alphonso said.

He added that although issues related to water availability are taken up by the Water Resources Department (WRD), the Agriculture department is ready to take up the matter with WRD officials since it is connected with agriculture.

“From our side we will push the matters. If there is any proposal required from our side, we will definitely put it up to the WRD officials and follow up also. But actual work regarding making the estimates and getting necessary approvals is the responsibility of WRD,” the Director of Agriculture said. 

If a farmer is undertaking any kind of activity to create his own water source like digging wells and installing pumps, the Agriculture Department gives assistance up to 75 per cent, he added.  Chief Engineer of WRD, Pramod Badami said Satrem village lies inside a wildlife sanctuary, where check-dam is already built. 

“Whatever water could be stored we have done it. But we need permission from the Wildlife Board to build any structure inside the sanctuary. However, we have plans for building dams in the region named Satrem 1 and Satrem 2 under the Master Plan in the upstream. But we have not been able to move ahead because it is inside the wildlife sanctuary. Also, the dispute over Mhadei river water with Karnataka is going on,” Badami said.

As regards to building of dams, the WRD has received instructions from the government to take up studies for project assessment.

“Regarding building of check-dams, that can be taken up by the Agriculture Department as they have some funds under watershed development schemes. But the problem is even they can’t do it on their own because forest is involved,” the WRD chief Engineer added.


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