Kohima: In just four months since December last year, a total of 68,662 hectares of Jhum fields in 915 villages across Nagaland have been affected by deficient rains, causing poor germination and wilting of standing crops. With the state witnessing a drought-like situation after 10 years due to delayed and erratic rains, the Nagaland government has sought assistance from the Government of India to mitigate the effects of deficient rains.

As per a data compiled by the Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority (NSDMA) from January to May, rainfall is largely deficient in Dimapur district (-66%). Rainfall is also deficient in districts like Kiphire (-49%), Kohima (-47%), Phek (-42%), Tuensang (-41%), Zunheboto (-39%), Wokha (-36%), Peren (-35%), Longleng (-11%), and Mokokchung (-6%).

Mon is the only district that has witnessed excess rainfall from January to May by 48%. Out of the state’s total population, over 70% are dependent on agriculture for sustenance.

Minister for agriculture and cooperation Kaito Aye on Wednesday said the state of Nagaland has been particularly affected by the shortfall of rains this year and with the rivers drying out.

Mon is the only district that has witnessed excess rainfall from January to May by 48%.

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With 70% of the farmers involved in jhum cultivation, the situation in the state is expected to take a grim turn if it doesn’t rain sufficiently until July. Given the situation, Aye said that the state government is also pursuing the matter with the concerned Union ministry for assistance.

In addition to the jhum fields, the remaining 30% of Terraced Rice Cultivation (upland) and Wet Terraced Rice Cultivation has also been affected due to deficient monsoon rains in all the districts, causing delays in land preparation and sowing.

Agriculture Production Commissioner Kikheto Sema said if the trend continues until next month, farmers across the state will fail to undertake cultivation activities. He said the rice production from Nagaland, which was 5.51 lakh million tonnes (MT) in 2020-21, is now expected to decrease to 1.66 Lakh MT this year—a drop of 70%.

Out of the state’s total population, over 70% are dependent on agriculture for sustenance

Sema added that the shortage of rainfall has not only affected the production of normal seasonal crops but affected commercial crops like large cardamom, fruits and vegetables as well as other livestock such as fisheries, piggery and so on.

Sema said seeds and planting materials were distributed to the affected jhum areas in the month of May for re-sowing to ensure that no land is left bare. “However, even after this action, we were not able to achieve the desired result due to the shortfall of rain,” he said.

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Mhathung Yanthan, adviser of horticulture and border affairs, said jhum cultivation in the foothill areas has also been affected. He said that although a drought has not been declared yet, the Nagaland government is doing its best to mitigate the drought-like situation and that exigency plans were being made.

With 70% of the farmers involved in jhum cultivation, the situation in the state is expected to take a grim turn if it doesn’t rain sufficiently until July

Yanthan said that through various programmes, the government is encouraging climate resilient agriculture and taking steps to intervene and address the issues faced by farmers Nagaland.

Meanwhile, Sema said the state government under chief minister Neiphiu Rio is trying to mobilise resources and distribute seeds of rabi crops to the affected farmers by September or October in order to make up for the losses.

He said a core committee of Agri-Allied departments has been formed to monitor and review the ground situation as per reports received from the field. Further, Sema directed all officers of the Agri-allied departments to remain in station and closely monitor the ground situation.

Does the government have a plan for managing water?

When asked if the Nagaland government has any plans for managing water to avoid droughts in the state, APC Kikheto Sema said a discussion with the agri-allied sectors, including water resource department, is to be conducted.

He said the department has also been advocating about the importance of water over the past years. Terming water scarcity as “another pandemic”, Sema said the chief minister, in a recent meeting, has stressed on the need to “search for water”.

Agriculture production commissioner Kikheto Sema (L), minister for agriculture and cooperation Kaito Aye (C) and Mhathung Yanthan, adviser of horticulture and border affairs at a press conference in Kohima on Wednesday

Sema added that the Naga Integrated Settled farming model, which is underway at Boke Botsa in Kohima district, is a farming model that is to be replicated across the state to revive streams and preserve the natural ecosystem.

He also suggested the need to incorporate technology in farming activities, working out ways to conserve water, building check dams and also practicing rain water harvesting.

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