Read full article By Abhijit Mohanty@ India Spend Photo Credit: Abhijit Mohanty
Odisha has recorded a 215% increase in gross value of millet produced per farmer household from Rs 3,957 in 2016-17 to Rs 12,486 in 2018-19, according to a 2020 NITI Aayog study. In the same period, area under millet cultivation has increased from 2,949 hectares to 5,182 hectares and the yield rate has increased by 120%, the study showed.
Changing climate, changing times
“We used to produce most of our food on our land. But things have changed over the years. Heavy rainfall often destroys our crops. Farming has become less viable,” said Budhbari Mandra, 48, from Baunsapada village of southern Odisha’s Malkangiri district.
“Last year, flash floods destroyed our paddy,” said 33-year-old Sukruni Kirsani. “Heavy rains carried away the fertile top layer of soil. As we started applying chemical inputs with a hope to boost crop yield, our lands have become less fertile. And hybrid seeds often failed to withstand the weather extremities.”
This reflects the situation of hundreds of other Bonda farmers who have been struggling in the face of rising temperature, heavy rainfalls, flash floods and landslides.
“Young Bondas have started migrating to cities for better opportunities,” said Fredrick Stephen, director of Koraput-based Asha Kiran Society, an NGO working on holistic development of the Bonda community for over 20 years.
While Odisha’s average annual rainfall is 1,451.2 mm, Malkangiri’s is higher at 1,667.6 mm. But flash floods and landslides often destroy mono-crops. With the promotion of traditional millet farming, surface soil conservation has improved, and there is less erosion and siltation on the Bonda hills, Aniket Likhar, district coordinator, Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN), explained. This not only helps the farmers, but also protects the agricultural lands of other communities dwelling on the valley bottom of Bonda hills.