ANANTAPUR: With the right time for the sowing of Kharif crop edging past, there is an increasing fear that Rayalseema might be heading towards another drought season.
Generally, monsoon is expected to start in June, but this year, it could well be delayed till August. Far from the coastline and cut off from the eastern ghats, the area is located in the rain shadow zone, and according to its history of the past 140 years, there has been severe rain deficit for the last 70 years.
Despite many experiments conducted, including cloud seeding introduced to attract clouds, none of them yielded positive results and the area continues to be a drought prone area.
Groundnut is only the major dependable crop in this area and it needs minimum rainfall till the second week of July. About 7.50 lakh hectares of dry lands exist with cultivation of about 7 lakh hectares expected annually during the kharif season in Anantapur district alone. But last year, only 2.43 lakh hectares of groundnut, Bengal gram and other crops were cultivated during the kharif season, resulting in huge losses for farmers because of the major rain deficit last year.
This year, the farmers hoped and prayed for timely showers but the rain deficit could possibly mean another consecutive drought year. Annual average rainfall of the district is 552.3 mm. The rainfall intensity, frequency, pattern and distribution are highly erratic during the monson season.
Normal rainfall for the south-west monsoon period is 338.4mm which forms about 61.2 per cent of the total rainfall for the year. The annual rainfall of the district ranges between 335 mm (1985) to 823 (1996) mm with an average of 548 mm (Standard Deviation: 129 mm and co-efficient of variation of 24 per cent) which highlights high degree of inter-annual variability in rainfall pattern, official sources said.
The high variability in south-west monsoon rain is indicative of the risk associated with farming in this district. Out of 40 years of data analysed for annual rainfall pattern, there are 23 near normal, 9 deficit and 8 excess rainfall years.
During the south-west monsoon season, the district rainfall was near normal in 13 years, deficit in 16 years and excess for 11 years. Manjunath, a groundnut farmer said that he could not get minimum returns for the last five years because of the drought.
“This is the fifth consecutive year that we have been unable to take up sowing and have left the land idle,” he lamented.
Meanwhile collector Satyanarayana has instructed the agriculture department to prepare an action plan to guide farmers towards alternative crops. Millets can only be sown as an alternative to groundnut. The debts have forced many farmers to commit suicides.
Though, more than 500 suicide cases have been reported since 2014, only 60 families got compensation while the other cases were rejected on reasons of improper documentation. At least 190 widows, whose husbands committed suicide had become labourers to eke out a living. In Anantapur, farmers offer different types of offerings to appease the Rain God. In addition to Kumbabhishekam at temples, the rural areas witness interesting traditions.
‘Drought Stones’ and broken kitchen articles are collected from the village and dumped along the borders of neighbouring villages, thereby casting out negative vibrations. Frogs marriages and another ritual to cut out negativity are also common in Rayalaseema....