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Standing by Boro paddy growers

A farmer harvests half-ripe paddy from a submerged field as the river water level rises in Bangladesh after heavy rainfall upstream in India. The photo was taken from Kaundia area of Savar. — Focus Bangla file photo A farmer harvests half-ripe paddy from a submerged field as the river water level rises in Bangladesh after heavy rainfall upstream in India. The photo was taken from Kaundia area of Savar. — Focus Bangla file photo

A large segment of the dejected Boro farmers has lately been provided with the technology of combine harvester and reaper. Evidently, the mechanical device will greatly help the affected farmers harvest their ripe Boro paddy. Since the flash flood began, most of the bewildered farmers in 'haor' areas have been seen being engaged in harvesting their Boro crop hastily, using their traditional sickle.The Ministry of Agriculture is providing the farmers with the harvesters. Along with the farmers fortunate to see their crop ripe enough for harvest, those owning fields with half-ripe paddy will also be allowed to use the harvester-cum-reaper machines. Over the last week, it was the farmers with half-ripe paddy who comprised major part of the flood-affected Boro paddy growers. At present 1,700 combine harvesters are being used by farmers to harvest paddy. They are used in a large swathe of the water-filled 'haor' areas. The government also mulls bringing the automated reapers from the other parts of the paddy-growing country, if required. The government initiative to stand by the farmers at this adverse time of theirs is, undoubtedly, a fresh lease of life for them.

The farmers had been expecting good Boro harvests amid their struggle to adapt to the agro-economic fallout of the pandemic that festered for two years. Many of them in the country's north-east region attained near-success in facing the adverse times. But the erratic behaviour of nature coupled with the said region being part of a lower riparian area has dashed their hopes. Bouts of excessive rain starting mid-April in the Indian state of Meghalaya bordering the greater Sunamganj and Sylhet, triggered devastating flash flood in the Bangladesh part. The onrush of flood water continued to devour the lower swathes in the surrounding districts. In a few days, the flash flood waters inundated vast tracts of Boro paddy after overflowing worn-out and sloppily constructed embankments. The water onrush had gained such a surging speed in a week that the Boro fields began going under water one after another. As could be feared, the Boro farmers were taken fully off-guard. Finding no other handy remedy, they began harvesting the half-ripe paddies. They knew fairly well that a large volume of the unripe paddy would go bad. In that case the paddy stalks, after drying, could be used as fodder only.  This nightmarish development prompted the farmers to become desperate. The only option they found open before them was the bid to go for premature harvests.

Due to being a lower riparian country, flash floods remain a recurring scourge in Bangladesh. With the onset of even the pre-monsoon period, the country's farmers begin bracing for floods, which unleash a spell of havoc wrought to the country's Boro fields. The vulnerable swathes of flash flood are the low-lying vast wetlands, covering a vast area of the country. However, in years the country's non-'haor' areas growing Boro paddy are also not spared.  The crop has been planted this year on over 0.45 million hectares of land in Kishoreganj, Netrokona, Brahmanbaria, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Habiganj and Sunamganj districts, data provided by Department of Agriculture (DAE) shows. The latest flash floods coupled with heavy pre-monsoon rain have damaged around 1.0 per cent boro paddy in the total affected areas, the DAE adds. A thin ray of hope is nearly 41 per cent of paddy in the 'haor' region could be harvested in the first few days after the start of the paddy fields' submersion. To speak in brief, paddy grown in a number of fields in this region could be saved. Credit for it goes to the alertness and prompt action of the farmers concerned.

This innate virtue cannot be expected from paddy growers in all areas. Besides, experience and wisdom of the farmers also play a great role in saving their crops. Moreover, unlike the traditional flood theonrush of the flash floods begin deluging vast tracts of land overnight. Many younger farmers find it hard telling a flash flood from the slowly advancing traditional ones. This phenomenon distinguishes the flash flood scourge in its early days. That many farmers cannot identify this type of blitz-like flooding has a lot to do with their failure to start harvesting the paddy --- both ripe and half-ripe.

There are limited scopes, these days, for accurate flash-flood forecasting unlike forecasts about rain in a particular year. The irony is accurate forecasts about rain are also becoming difficult, thanks to the erratic climate behaviour. In the bygone days, the overnight swelling of the rivers downstream with waters carrying trees, log pieces etc used to speak of showers in upstream areas. In years, little accurate information about rain or drought in regions across the border can be exchanged. This is caused by the fast-changing weather in particular regions. To the woes of Bangladesh, the flows of its rivers are fast becoming unpredictable.

Perhaps due to erratic climate behaviours, correct knowledge in advance about a country's flash floods is proving difficult. In spite of these newly cropped up difficulties, there are few practical alternatives to exchange of long-term weather forecasts. On being enriched with correct information about weather in a region upstream, a lower riparian country, especially its agricultural sector can be benefited enormously. At the same time, people in the downstream areas ought to observe their own rivers and 'haors' constantly.They should also earn the capability to decipher the weather information supplied by the regions situated upstream. Unlike in the past, the frequency of flash floods is feared to keep intensifying. In order to face up to their impacts, the country's agricultural authorities are expected to remain ever vigilant and proactive. 


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