Fearing extreme weather, farmers scale back rice cultivation
Last year’s floods and other extreme weather events have prompted many farmers in Ayeyarwady Delta to leave some of their land fallow. Phyo Thiha Cho/ Myanmar Now Aung Kywe remembers how he had to stand by helplessly last year when massive floods in the wake of Cyclone Komen affected Ayeyarwady Delta and destroyed half of his 14 acres of paddy.
That traumatic experience came on top of years of decreasing yields, Aung Kywe said, adding that this monsoon season he will leave much of his land in Kawkatkyi Village, Zalun Township, fallow to avoid loss of money with another failed harvest.
“Paddy plots on the lower-lying land are almost sure to be flooded,” he said, adding, “Paddy yields have also decreased year by year, from 100 baskets per acre to 75 baskets.” A basket of rice weighs around 25 kilograms.
In neighbouring Maubin Township, also located in the heart of Myanmar’s ‘rice bowl’ delta region, farmers spoke of similar measures to limit exposure to what many believe are increased occurrences of climate change-related extreme weather, such as drought, heat and floods.
Kyaw Minn, from Palaung village, said, “I will not grow monsoon paddy this year, but will cultivate other seasonal crops when the water level drops after the rainy season.”
Farmers in the delta generally grow two rice crops, one in the rainy season and one in the cooler season in lower-lying areas that are fed with receding flood waters. They might also grow a third, short-cycle crop, such as beans, in the hot months before the monsoon.
Thein Aung, chairman of the Independent Farmers League in Ayeyawady Region, said that because of rising concerns among farmers vast areas of land will go uncultivated this year.
“The farmers from our villages will not be growing paddy in a total of 200,000 acres situated on the low lands,” he said, before adding that the impact on overall paddy production would probably be limited as these fields are some of the least-productive tracts.
The Ayeyarwady Delta is home to many millions of subsistence farmers whose income and food security relies on their annual harvest, and to a lesser extent fishing.