Starvation, Thirst and Dead Cattle: Odisha Farmers Devastated after Cyclone Fani hits Croplands
"It has been five days. We're starving. We have no food, water. We need help please," begged villagers in cyclone-hit areas of Odisha. Destroyed fields, crops and dead livestock threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of farmers in the state.
Agriculture was hit hard in the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Fani. Massive evacuations along the coastline ensured marginal loss of human life. However, crops, livestock and agricultural land worth crores of rupees stood no chance against the cyclonic storm’s devastating winds and rain.
Odisha’s economy is highly dependent on agriculture. According to data from the state’s Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment, the State has a total geographical area of around 156 lakh hectares of which total cultivated land is about 62 lakh hectares. This constitutes nearly 40% of the total geographical area of the State. Small and marginal farmers constitute more than 90% of the farming community.
Rice is the major crop produced in Odisha. The state is one of the largest producers of rice in India and grows almost one tenth of the total rice production of the country. Some of the other crops cultivated in the state include, jute, oil seeds, pulses, coconut, sugarcane, tea, rubber and cotton. Tackling two extremes, droughts and floods, most poor farmers lack proper irrigation and cold storage facilities.
Before Cyclone Fani’s landfall, hundreds of such farmers were evacuated to safer areas. However, all their immovable assets, such as land, crops and cattle, had to be left behind.
"It has been five days. We're starving. We have no food, water. We need help please," begged villagers, stopping a Blue Cross of India rescue vehicle.
Farmers’ land and crops are heavily damaged while many of their cattle are dead. Even the animals that are alive are unhealthy and suffer grave wounds. The desperate situation threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of poor farmers.
Native cattle also play a big role in Odisha. Home to the Puri Jagannath Temple, Puri is known as a tourist destination. The temple also consumes a large supply of milk for daily religious duties. The cattle are hence a means of survival for poor farmers in the region. Environmental experts have reportedly said that measures like building separate shelters to house cattle in rehabilitation camps were not taken during the evacuation for Cyclone Fani.
Water and food scarcity plagues even cities like Puri. Farmers with little or no money are left to fend for themselves in this crisis. With their houses damaged, puddles of water allow breeding of mosquitoes and the risk of water-borne diseases spreading is incredibly high as well.