Whenever I think of the correlation between monsoon and agriculture, I reminisce myself studying in Class IV. I vividly remember myself drawing a water cycle where I would draw a river, clouds and raindrops falling on the crops (I would colour the crops with an extra dash of green!). I then realised, since childhood, Indians have a very special connection with agriculture.
Thankfully, this year’s monsoon started on a good note. The forecast by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) brought a new wave of hope for our farmers. Indians worship rains. Health of crops is largely dependent on rain. While a regular series of downpour maintains the health of a crop, too much or too little rain can be devastating as well.
If we were to believe in figures, around 58% of the country’s total employment is through agriculture. With more than half of the population depending on agriculture, depending on natural occurrences for the bounty of crops is a tricky affair.
So what can be done to ensure that our farmers have a bountiful harvest with a limited dependence on rains?
Seed innovation. It holds the key to address climate change and most importantly, rain woes. Both lesser and excessive rains have an adverse effect on our crops. Indian scientists are working towards developing drought tolerance crops which would be able to sustain themselves without being affected by excessive rains.
Farmers of Kerala are using innovative rainwater harvesting methods such as a Madaka. Madakas are the most common traditional rainwater harvesting methods used mainly in the laterite belt districts of Karnataka and Kerala. They occur naturally, similar to that of a depression with high terrain on three sides where water from the surrounding slopes, mainly runoff from the rains, gets accumulated. Traditionally, bunds are constructed on the fourth open side of this depression to check this runoff from the slopes and harvest rainwater.
Farmers are also encouraged to use applications which would enable them to predict the weather and then sow crops which would help them to challenge rain woes. To give you an example, around 25,000 farmers in Karnataka are sowing crops after checking the climate on their mobile phones. Now that is quite a progress!
Innovation is helpful in either situations and we should not deliberate it further. If we do this today, we all can be rest assured that we will be better equipped tomorrow.
By Dr. Manoj Mehta, EXIM, Mahyco