Drought, El Nino and a Weak Monsoon Conspire to Hit Indian Farmers


A farmer walks with his hungry cow through a parched paddy field. (Photo: Reuters)
A farmer walks with his hungry cow through a parched paddy field. (Photo: Reuters)

Drought, El Nino and a Weak Monsoon Conspire to Hit Indian Farmers

The year has just begun, but farmer suicides in Maharashtra are already high. Around 89 farmers ended their lives in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region. Drought has stricken the country and an expected weak monsoon means farmers are unlikely to get any relief soon.

Almost nine farmers a day committed suicide in Maharashtra in 2015, according to IndiaSpend, a data journalism initiative. The last time suicide rates were so high was before 2001.

In 2014, farmer suicide rates reached around 15 per day throughout the country.

Data from IndiaSpend.

Factors that lead to suicide often vary; from financial troubles, to failed crops, to substance abuse, but they can be linked to environmental factors.

In the coming decades, climate change will make events like flooding and droughts stronger and more devastating than ever before. Temperatures have already hit record high levels this year.

At the same time, the world is experiencing El Niño, a phenomenon that alters global weather patterns. During El Niño the Pacific Ocean releases heat into the atmosphere and makes wetter regions drier and drier regions wetter. The phenomenon is currently weakening, but is expected to last until summer.

Rural communities often lack the resources to cope with droughts exacerbated by climate change and El Niño.

Data from IndiaSpend.

Many villages throughout the country do not have adequate rainwater storage to capture water during the monsoon. To receive any aid from the government, villages need to be declared as being a drought zone.

Adaptations that could help farmers conserve water often don’t make it to the most remote areas. This could further exacerbate conditions which are already dire.

Lack of approach to save and conserve water by the government since 1972 has led to the current situation.
HM Desarda, Economist, to the Times of India

Meanwhile, farmer suicide rates remain high with little hope of relief.

Data from IndiaSpend.

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