Flood-hit Sunamganj farmers demand incentives for survival

These days, sexagenarian Gous Ali feels like he can never catch a break.

Shams Shamim, Sunamganj Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 28 May 2022, 03:17 PM
Updated : 28 May 2022, 03:18 PM

He had some sleepless nights after a flash flood wiped out crops in some other parts of Sunamganj in late March and throughout April. After his crops survived the onrush, the farmer of Ochintyapr village in Sadar Upazila had a feeling that he probably dodged a bullet this time.

Or so did he think.

On a not-so-fine morning last week, Gous watched helplessly how all the Boro crops in his 24 kedar (a unit of land measurement in Bangladesh) land went under water, when the low-lying district, along with some of the others in Sylhet division was hit by the worst flood in two decades.

The devastated crops, the sole income source of his family, were about to be harvested.

The water from upstream in India’s northeast swelled Bangladesh’s Surma and Kushiara rivers, resulting in floods in Bangladesh’s northeast that submerged at least 60 percent of areas of Sunamganj and neighbouring Sylhet district.

Since then, a visibly distraught Gous said, he can’t sleep anymore, with worries about what the future holds for him and his family of five.

“I don’t know how I am going to provide for my family for the rest of the year,” an emotional Gous said.

Some of his fellow homesteaders are so desperate that they are harvesting the crops from under the water. Most of it was rotten already and not edible anymore.

Gous now demands special monetary assistance in the form of monthly stipends from the government.

He is not alone. Some other farmers in a similar situation from different villages, who agreed to be interviewed for this article, echoed his demand.

Promising to stand by the farmers to help them recoup losses, Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque last month told journalists in Dhaka that the government was working to formulate a plan to provide incentives to the affected farmers in the Haor area, which includes the lowlands of Sunamganj since Boro is the only crop there.

Every year, 20 million tonnes of Boro paddy are produced across the country.

According to government estimation, 1.2 million tonnes of Boro crops are produced in the Haor region alone, which is under constant threat every year due to adverse weather conditions.

Bimal Chandra Som, deputy director at the Department of Agricultural Extension in the district, told bdnews24.com that his office has already submitted a list of farmers, who had lost their crops during the flood last week, for consideration for incentives in the next season.

“In our estimation, crops from 1,100 hectares of land have been destroyed completely. We are working to provide the farmers with some incentives for the next season,” he said.

Additionally, the department estimates that Aush crop seedbeds on 130 hectares, Aush crops on 30 hectares, peanuts on 95 hectares and vegetables produced on 70 hectares were destroyed during the latest flood.

Not everyone agrees with the estimates though.

Bijon Sen Roy, general secretary of the Haor Conservation Movement, claimed that the real figures are much higher than what the government estimates.

He claimed the floods destroyed Boro crops on more than 5,000 hectares of land, which is at least 5 times higher than the government estimation.

Bijon also emphasised providing the badly hit farmers, who have lost their income source, with special monetary support now.

“They [the farmers] need the incentives now so that they can survive this year and prepare for the next season,” he said.

[Written in English by Adil Mahmood]