Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Floods have left farmers with nothing

Jul 28. 2020
armers bring boatloads of paddy after harvesting from a flooded field in Chatmohar upazila of Pabna. Photo: Star
armers bring boatloads of paddy after harvesting from a flooded field in Chatmohar upazila of Pabna. Photo: Star
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By The Daily Star/ ANN Editorial

The continuous floods this year have been particularly devastating to farmers who were already facing hardships in growing crops because of the pandemic, which left them with an acute shortage of farm hands and difficulties in selling their crops.

Now, thousands of hectares have been destroyed in northern Bangladesh as the water continued to rise, drowning the paddy fields, vegetable farms as well as seedbeds. It is estimated that 40 lakh people in 147 upazilas in 30 districts have been affected by the floods. Thousands of farmers have had their dreams shattered and all their hard labour has been washed away with the floods.

Our correspondents from various districts have reported a colossal loss of arable land and crops in Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Tangail, Thakurgaon, Gaibandha, Nilphamari, Sirajganj, Bogura, Manikganj, Sunamganj and Sylhet, among others. It is not just paddy that has been destroyed but also huge amounts of maize, green chillies and other vegetables. In some areas, farmers were preparing to harvest jute, but those crops have become submerged as well. Seedbeds for Aman cultivation, which usually takes place in the monsoon season, have also been destroyed.

The hardships and utter despair that thousands of farmers are going through are not hard to imagine. It is reassuring that the government's department of agriculture has said that they will help the farmers by providing them with seeds and fertilizer free of cost, and that farmers will be rehabilitated. But we cannot help but wonder whether this will be enough to make up for the losses, especially in the income they would have generated had their crops not been lost.

The government is therefore faced with a huge challenge in addition to the task of trying to keep farmers afloat during the pandemic. Now, the government should provide financial assistance to the farmers and their families, who have no crops or money to survive.

There are other concerns that will arise from the loss of so many crops. It will definitely adversely impact food security, which must be addressed immediately. With the scarcity that will inevitably follow the shortage of rice and vegetables, prices may spiral upwards, placing a greater burden on people already facing economic hardship. The possibilities of growing hunger, malnutrition and disease are quite high and the government must urgently strategise to address this new crisis. This includes making sure we have food security, not only for now, but also the near future. But first, the farmers must be rescued.   

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