KOIDA ( SUNDARGARH ): Adding to the woes of villagers sitting idle due to prolonged closure of mines, weak and erratic monsoon has severely affected agricultural activities in the mineral-rich Koida block under Bonai sub-division of Sundargarh district.
Farming continues to remain the first livelihood choice for farmers of Gopna, Bimlagarh, K Balang, Relhatu, Chordhara, Jamdihi and Swayambha Gram Panchayats (GPs) in the block. But, agriculture has taken a severe beating in mineral bearing GPs of Malda, Patmunda, Denguala, Kalta and Koida due to heavy iron content in the soil.
When the mining operations were in full swing in the area a couple of years back, the villagers abandoned agriculture due to various adversities plaguing the sector. When the scenario was gradually improving with sustained efforts to promote farming, scanty rainfall seems to be playing the spoilsport.
In June this year, the block received light rain for seven days and on one occasion, moderate rain of 45 mm. Total deficit for the month was 96 mm.
Assistant Agriculture Officer Niranjan Sahu said till July 15, the block has received 137 mm against the normal monthly requirement of 386.4 mm. He said the farmers have taken up transplantation of saplings and inter-culture operations with the available rainfall. Amid fear of weak monsoon, the Agriculture Department is encouraging the farmers to divert to non-paddy crops like arhar, maize, jowar, pulses, vegetables, coriander, ginger and turmeric.
Koida, a rain-fed block with hilly terrains, has abysmally low irrigation coverage. There is only one minor irrigation project (MIP) at Kurari which covers a cumulative crop area of 300 ha, while four lift-irrigation points cover around 70 ha. Natural sources irrigate about 150 ha and only half a dozen farmers own deep bore wells. Under cluster lift-irrigation programme, 130 deep bore wells have been installed but are yet to be energised.
Bonai-based District Agriculture Officer PH Kerketta said though they are trying to convince the farmers to go for non-paddy crops, the latter prefer paddy crop as a food security option. He said cultivation of the drought-proof arhar is a better choice but farmers are not interested.
According to official sources, the Agriculture Department should ensure cultivation of paddy crop in 9949 hectares (ha) and non-paddy crop in 4320 ha in the block during kharif season. But the department has failed short of target till date.