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Challenges to the Himalayan Farming Communities


Forest Fire in Almora (2016); Source: Wikipedia

Recently the social media was abuzz by alarm for Uttarakhand forest fire, which were apparently found to be untrue and uncalled for. Photos from yesteryear China and Chile forest fires were used and shared by many. Once the Uttarakhand Forest Department put halt to the false rumours, many social media handles also apologised for believing any and every thing on the internet without proper fact-checking.



However, if one hails from the Devbhoomi or has visited it during peak summers i.e., May-June, one might have come across mountains gleaming all night, burning for days even. The forest wildfires of 2016 are still fresh wounds to Uttarakhand and the cumbersome loss of flora and fauna is irreparable. The recurring forest fires are a major problem for the farming communities across the region. These sometimes reach the inhabitants and their cultivable land, posing threat to their livelihood. Cattle and livestocks are compromised in huge numbers.



Uneven and in-Patches Terrace Farms in Uttarakhand

The disseminated landholdings with farmers in the hills is a major hindrance as for the otherwise productive agricultural land. Farmers have plots of land dispersed across the whole village in bits and pieces and agricultural activities on such spread-out patches become very difficult to oversee due to various reasons.The far out plots, in addition to being exposed to forest fires are also vulnerable to animal attacks.



Human-wildlife tussles also pose a challenge cum threat to the farmers in the state. Monkeys during the day and boars at night in Himalayan fields have created havoc and damage to agricultural yields since forever. The attacks are more frequent during summers when they embark on their quest for water. The locals can't even do away with monkeys, unlike the boars, because of their sacred ancestral substance.If only one could single out the rowdy monkeys for giving headache to the farmers. However, nature too, shows absolutely no benevolence at times.



Irrigation is another major issue faced by the primary producers all over Uttarakhand. One might wonder how amidst all the forest clad and opulent natural resources, is it even possible? Trust me when I say, we had to fetch water for regular uses and drinking from a kilometer afar till as late as 2016. It was from a dhara/naula, a naturally occurring stream. The management was inapt to develop functional pipeline facilities, let alone for the purpose of irrigation. The condition is not much different today. With deforestation and evident climatic change these natural streams and founts are also drying up. This, unquestionably, puts strain on the cultivators of the Himalayan region.



Add to this, a heavy downpour of hailstorms every year, washes away the hopes of thousands of farmers working day and night for a good harvest. This season was no different where growers reported burdensome loss. Farming is a laborious task, especially in the hills. Almost everything is done manually without any help from the machines like in plain fields. For instance, tilling and ploughing the land is done by oxen or by farmers themselves as tractors can't conveniently work on the slopes.



Agriculture in Mountains is still Labor-intensive

Now imagine all that hard work being put into the agricultural space only to yield nothing by the end of the season.People hence, unable to feed themselves and their families have been forced to migrate out of the region for mere subsistence. This heavy outflux is giving rise to the alarming phenomenon of ghost villages in Uttarakhand.




"More than a third of the population of Uttarakhand's rural, hilly areas have migrated out in the last two decades, according to a recent report. The migration, an average 246 people a day, can alter the state's political geography."
-downtoearth


Since the founding of Uttarakhand, it's been witnessing a very steady agricultural growth, be it in terms of productivity or its economic development. Allocation of proper funds by the government and adequate farming supplies along with competent irrigation facilities is a must, taking into account the present plot of Uttarakhand's hardworking farming communities.


 

Shared by Nikita Bisht

nikita08126@gmail.com

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