“In 2007, I had harvested about 700 kg of pepper from my 2.5 acres of land. Since then, there had been a sharp decline in yield as pepper vines dried up owing to the extended dry spell. Last year, I sold just about 25 kg of pepper, and this year I would be lucky to pick 5 or 6 kilograms.”
The tale of woes narrated by Plappilly Paily, a farmer from Kolavalli in Mullankolly panchayat of Wayanad, bears witness to the unusual severity of drought that is wilting the economy. Paily, who used to cultivate pepper and ginger in a plot close to the Kabani river, is now pinning hopes on his banana crop.
“I have planted 400 banana suckers on this two acres of leased land. All I need is a little rain and if it happens, I would be able to wade through the crisis,” says Paily. Banana prices, Paily says, have been satisfactorily steady.
The story of Thanapuraykkal George, 68, a farmer in Perikkalloor, a village tucked away from the main road and located about 12 km from Pulpally, on the Karnataka border, is equally distressing.
Though he owns two acres of land, George lives a difficult life.
Without water, the crops are wilting and his family of six, lives off the income earned from selling milk.
“Unlike those who do largescale farming, I cannot spend money on drilling a bore well to tide over the water crisis,” he says.
The worst-hit spots are to be found in the panchayats of Mullankolly and Pulpally - Kollavalli, Seethamount, Alathoor, Chamappara, Channothukolly, Marakkadavu and Padichira.
“The area is blessed with organic-rich black soil.
For soil-types with poor water retention, the dry summer months may require some supplemental irrigation.
Otherwise, the soil may become hard and cracks would surface,” said Dr Sunil K Mukundan, a researcher at the Regional Agricultural Research Station in Ambalavayal.