Flooding, first started in the northern bioregions of Bangladesh and gradually affected the middle sections, submerged more than a third of the low-lying country during July to September, 2017; it took away at least 132 lives and affected more than 7.5 million people. Crops on more than 10,000 hectares (24,711 acres) of land have been washed away while another 600,000 hectares (1,482,632 acres) of farms have been damaged.
Besides damages to houses, schools, roads and other infrastructures, the loss of crops particularly the main paddy season of Aman was significant. Crops on 6.11 lakh (61 million) hectares of land were damaged by floods. Farmers in 32 districts could not plant the transplanted Aman seedlings, which were washed away twice in the fields with water logged due to heavy rain and flooding simultaneously. Farmers could plant Aman on 40 lakh hectares across the country, around 16 lakh hectares short of the target, according to preliminary field assessment by the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).
Aman, grown during the monsoon, is the most important paddy crop that contributes 38 percent to the country's annual rice output, the second highest after irrigated Boro that accounts for 55 percent of the total Aus contributes the remaining seven percent. This year the Boro crop also faced flooding in north-eastern part of the country and the standing Boro rice crops were damaged. The loss is estimated to be 20 lakh tonnes of Boro rice due to flashflood in Haor areas of Sunamganj, Sylhet and fungal attacks. In this context, production of the staple rice in the current Aman season is considered crucial for the country's food security.
The disaster management and relief ministry statistics show crops were completely or partially damaged on 6.11 lakh hectares in 32 of the 64 districts until August 25 with Dinajpur, Naogaon, Kurigram, Jamalpur, Sunamganj, Bogra, and Manikganj being the worst-hit. [newspaper reports during August, 2017)
In order to assess the flood damage and viable strategy to recover from the loss UBINIG collected information in Delduar Upazila of Tangail district. The information was collected from local administration as well as from Nayakrishi farmers. Nayakrishi farmers from different Unions and Villages of Delduar met in a meeting and had intensive discussion to assess the overall damage and a viable strategy to recover the loss from flood of 2017.
General Assessment by Upazilla Administration
According to the local administration about 58 villages in all the 8 unions under the Upazilla were inundated by flood water twice in three months. Crops in 528 hectares of land were fully damaged, and in 2150 hectares land were partially damaged [Source: Upazilla Nirbahi Officer, Delduar, August 2017].
Besides rising water in the river Dhaleshawri connected to mighty Jamuna, there were heavy rains. Water could not recede because the river water level was higher. That could be a normal phenomenon, but rain water caused water logging because of anarchy in infrastructural interventions lacking any sense of agroecology. The roads and embankments blocked water in the field, had no ways to go out. Conventional indigenous wisdom by which village settlements are built high allowing water carrying alluvium to flow through fields has been interrupted by unplanned infrastructures. The engineering notion that reduces ‘water’ merely into a physical element but not as an essential agroecological necessity is a major stumbling block in rural landscape development. As the village saying goes ‘no one knows how the water flows through villages through seven rivers, but everyone knows that it will go in only one direction’. Water is trained to serve agriculture on such simple wisdom. People are not afraid of the flood because it will go into one direction leaving behind rich alluvium to replenish the soil. But water logging is different type of man-made disaster and takes much longer time to recede. “We can deal with nature, farmers say, but we can’t deal when city people decides development”. Because of infrastructural anarchy, flood now does not mean necessarily bringing alluvium. But that is not the only problem. Water also brings pesticide-fertilizer residues from other fields and stays stagnant. It becomes difficult to assess the ecological damage suffered by farmers, particularly those who are committed to producing safe food.
Crop damage is conspicuous, On the two sides of the highways, one can see green grasses that are deceptive as young Aman paddy. But these are all a kind of grass, called “Kuch ghaas”; they have only a limited value as fodder for cows.
Loss of crops in the flood
The loss of crops was calculated in terms of land inundated with standing crops; some were fully, while others were partially damaged. The Delduar Upazilla administration made an economic estimation of the crop loss and land areas partially or fully inundated. The Upazilla administration estimation shows that out of 9005 hectares of land with standing crops, 41% (3670 hectares) were affected by the flood. Out of the affected crops, 47% (in 1740 hectares) were fully and 53% (in 1930 hectares) were partially damaged.
Aman paddy was badly affected. Seventy-five percent of the transplanted Aman seed beds in 40 hectares of land was damaged. The transplanted Aman paddy was damaged fully (100%) in 1680 hectares of land, while the broadcasted Aman in 1550 hectares of land were partially damaged. Seasonal (rainy season) vegetables were damaged in 125 hectares of land; 24% fully and 76% partially. Lemon is a very important cash crop in Delduar upazilla, about 240 hectares of land with lemon plants were partially damaged. Banana, another cash crop, was damaged partially in 35 hectares (38%), out of 90 hectares of land.
Loss in economic terms: Over Taka 28 crores
In economic terms, the Upazila administration estimates by the Delduar Upazilla Agricultural Officer shows that the total loss incurred from Transplanted and Broadcast Aman, seedbeds, vegetables, lemon and banana was Tk. 28 crore, 36 lakh and 54 thousand in the upazilla. The major loss (Tk.21 crore) was from the damage of transplanted Aman, followed by vegetables (Tk.2 crore, 38 lakh and fifty thousand), broad cast Aman (Tk. 2 crore, 32 lakh and fifty thousand), banana (Tk. 1 crore, 55 lakh and 61 thousand). About 19,005 farmers were fully or partially affected by the flood.
Assessment by Nayakrishi farmers
Nayakrishi Farmers from four Unions met to calculate their losses. They calculated the amount of crop lost and the possible market price that they could have received after selling the produce.
Farmer Tarikul Islam of Shalpanaru village in Lauhati Union had crop in 160 deci of land. He had five crops including a local variety Aman (Sada Digha), jute, brinjal, chilli and banana (shobri). The total loss was Tk. 97,400 including loss from Aman (Tk. 19,800), Jute (Tk. 20,400), brinjal (Tk. 19,200), banana (Tk.30,000) and chilli (Tk.8000).
Farmer Ali Hossain of village Babupur, in the Deuli Union cultivated crops in 132 decimal of land. He had three varieties of Aman (Hijol Digha, Lal dhepa and Sada dhepa) and vegetables. The total loss was Tk. 1 lakh and seven hundred, including loss of Aman paddy (Tk. 40,000) and vegetables Tk. 60 thousand seven hundred).
Suriya Begum of Fazilhati village in the Fazilhati Union is a poor farmer owning less than 50 decimal of land. She cultivated BR-11 and lost Tk. 9000 worth of crop. Her loss of papaya was Tk. 15,000 and vegetables Tk. 37,800. Total loss was Tk.61,800.
Tara Banu of village Mamudpur of Atia Union has less than one-acre land. She cultivated BR-29 and vegetables. She lost Tk. 27,000 from Aman paddy and Tk.20,120 from vegetables. Total loss was Tk.47,120.
Even if we take a conservative estimate of loss of crops in economic terms, the total loss from crops is huge. There were, however, different categories of farming households on the basis of differences in land ownership. According to farmers who got together to assess the loss, there are 10% families owning over 3 acres of land, 15% owning over 1.5 acres and the rest 75% owning less than an acre of land in their respective villages. For general calculation, the average loss by farmers (owning 3 acres) is taken as Tk.97,000; farmers (owning 1.5 acres) is Tk. 50,000 and farmers (owning less than 1 acre) is Tk. 25,000.
The loss per village by number of affected farmers is shown in the table below:
|Village||Farmer owning 3 acres (number)*||
Farmers owing 1.5 acres
|Farmers owining < 1 acres||Total Loss|
|Shalpanaru||Tk. 24,25,000 (25)||Tk.18,50,000 (37)||Tk. 47,00,000 (188)||Tk.89,75,000 (250)|
|Fazilhati||Tk.31,04,000 (32)||Tk.23,50,000 (47)||Tk. 59,00,000 (236)||Tk. 1,13,54,000 (315)|
|Babupur||Tk. 38,80,000 (40)||Tk.30,00,000 (60)||Tk. 75,00,000 (300)||Tk.1,43,80,000 (400)|
|Mamudpur||Tk.36,80,000 (38)||Tk.28,00,000 (56)||Tk. 70,25,000 (281)||Tk.1,35,05,000 (375)|
|Total Tk.||1,30,89,000 (95)||Tk.1,00,00,000 (200)||Tk.2,51,25,000 (1098)||Tk. 4,82,14,000 (1340)|
*Figures in brackets indicate number of farmers.
In the four villages 1340 farmers were affected. The percentage of farmers affected by flood (owning 3 acres of land) was 7%, (with 1.5 acres of land) was 15% and farmers (owning less than 1 acre) was 82%. That is, the smallest farmers were the hardest hit by the flood. The low-lying land and the land that was water-logged were the most affected. Farmers cultivating vegetables lost the most.
Local variety Aman Rice crop
The Aman seeds are broadcasted and transplanted. Broadcasting of Aman seeds known as “Chhit Dhan” (ছিট ধান) with Hijol Digha, Dhepa, Patjag, Moynagiri, Chamara, Pati shail, Bhaola digha, etc. The Chhit Dhan of local varieties survived the first round of flooding but were damaged in the second round of floods. Out of the local varieties, only Chamara survived better, as it is water-resistant. It grows and survives better with deeper water. The farmers have interesting rhymes about Chamara.
Ishtir moddhey mamara, jodi thake Nani
Dhaner moddhey Chamara, jodi thake pani
[Translation: Among the relatives, maternal uncles are the best if Grandmother is alive; among the rice Chamara is the best if there is water].
After losing the Chhit Dhan, farmers tried transplanted Aman, locally known as “Ropa Aman”, but again inundated by flood. The seedlings washed away. However, farmers experience shows that Chhit Dhan survives better than Ropa dhan. All the Chhit Dhan are not repeated in the Ropa dhan. So the number of varieties reduces in the Ropa aman. The farmers could not even get the Ropa Aman. Those who cultivated “numbered” varieties such as BR 11, could not survive at all.
General experience of the farmers proves again that indigenous varieties are generally flood resistant and interesting farmers strategy to recover the loss is to immediately shift to local variety and selecting one that could still be cultivated before the season ends.
The flood caused severe loss to the livestock fodders thereby making livestock keeping difficult. The paddy straws were not available. The loss of Aman crops means loss of straws as well. Although local variety rice varieties can still be used as fodder even if they are not giving paddy as an output. On the other hand, the modern varieties, which are usually dwarf, thus could not sustain overflowing flood water and had no straws left.
As a mitigation strategy farmers have started cultivation of Maskalai, a lentil variety that has multiple benefits. It is a nutritious and economically valuable food crop. Its leaves are used as fodder. The productivity of lentil is not the main goal of the farmers. Similarly Khesari is also sown as fodder and food. Farmers can even sell kesari plants even before lentils as fodder. Cows need to be fed two meals a day. A farming household with five cows needs at least Tk.1200 worth of feed per day.
Some rice varieties are cultivated knowing that it is late but certainly will help give straws as fodder. Others plant a variety of Jute known as “Ghati” or “Shonpat” for fodder.
Unfortunately, in the relief and rehabilitation plans, fodder security is not even considered.
[ This report is prepared by Farida Akhter with information collected by Rabiul Islam Chunnu, September 28, 2017]