Tonnes of stored paddies were ruined in recent floods in Sunamganj. The farmers, however, won’t give up

An old English saying goes like this: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, which is used to encourage optimism and a can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune.

Masum Billah from Sunamganjbdnews24.com
Published : 4 July 2022, 08:16 PM
Updated : 4 July 2022, 08:16 PM

Even if the majority of the people in Sunamganj were unaware of the proverb, it was apparent that the people from this frontier district on the north-eastern tip of Bangladesh may have adopted the saying as the sole mantra of their regular lives, evidently the way they have been handling the aftermath of the “worst floods in 122 years”.

People from Sunamganj have been living with water for centuries. The whole district is practically a massive marshland, comparable to Louisiana’s bayou in the United States.

There are dry pockets of higher plains within the wetlands where settlements flourished and people living in those pockets have their way of dealing with natural disasters like floods.

The flooding which swept away the district and the greater Sylhet region was no exception for them.

To them, floods come and go, but life doesn’t stop there. They move on.

Take the example of Sirajul Islam, a farmer by profession.

When bdnews24.com correspondent visited Sirajul’s modest place at the Dowarabazar Upazila’s Jalalpur point of the district on Friday, there was a structure of the house with a tin-made roof and a partially destroyed granary. However, the soil-based floor of the house can barely be recognised as a floor.

The floor looked like a seedbed, ready for cultivation and plantation.

The most bizarre scene was a thick wave of lash green rice plants on the floor, which according to Sirajul, grew when they had to abandon the house to take shelter on a higher plain to avoid growing levels of water on Jun 15.

What happened there, as Sirajul explained, was when the floodwaters rushed in, around 738.5 kg of paddy stocked in his granary were washed away. However, some of the seeds remained stuck on the bamboo-made wall of the house.

After 15 days, when Sirajul and his family were able to go back home to assess the damage, they came across young fresh healthy rice plants, but within the house instead of an open field.

Though the sexagenarian farmer has been living in a makeshift shelter on the Dowarabazar-Sunamganj highway with his family since the floods ravaged the district, he appeared unmoved in the face of an uncertain future.

“Well, the floods swept away our year-long storage of staples. What can we do? Got to buy it for the rest of the year,” he said while speaking to bdnews24.com.

Some of Sirajul’s neighbours on the highway held similar nonchalant views when interviewed by bdnews24.com.

But the situation on the ground is quite shocking.

Hundreds of other farming families in Sunamganj are in the midst of a similar situation at the moment, as the devastating floods last month washed away most of the crops that they had kept in storage to cover the year.

GOVERNMENT GIVES A GRIM PICTURE

The government’s number crunchers presented a dark picture, too.

Bimal Chandra Shom, deputy director of Sunamganj Agricultural Department, said the flash floods in April and May have damaged Boro crops, which were yet to be cultivated, on 6,658 hectares of arable lands.

The massive flooding in June alone was responsible for ruining crops of 6,125 hectares of Aush crops.

This year, 872,000 tonnes of Boro crops were produced in Sunamganj on 222,805 hectares of arable lands, which is 3.3 percent less compared with the previous year.

Last year, 902,000 tonnes of Boro crops were produced.

Locally, according to Shom, the year-long demand for rice is 611,000 tonnes.

ALTERNATIVES USE OF MAIN STAPLE

Khadiza Begum from Bishwambarpur Upazila’s South Islampur had to rush to save herself from the onrush of water the day floods first hit the area. She was worried about what would happen to her paddies in the granary, but she could not do anything about it at the time.

When she eventually returned, she found out that around 1500 kgs of paddies in her granary were rotting.

She was not known as someone who gives up easily.

Unlike others, who have been attempting to dry up the crops under a scorching sun, she saw an opportunity in disguise.

She had sold those paddies to a nearby duck farm to be used as feed.

Khadiza’s son-in-law, Masuk Miah, said normally she could have sold the paddy in the open market at Tk 900-950 per maund (around 37.42 kg).

“We've sold it for Tk 500 per maund. At least something is better than nothing,” he said.

Munfar Ali from Mannargaon Union under Dowarabazar Upazila said he was planning to do the same with his around 5,600 kg of rotten crops.

[Additional reporting by bdnews24.com’s Sunamganj correspondent Shams Shamim, writing in English by Adil Mahmood; editing by Biswadip Das]

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher