Pest invasion, a new challenge for farmers in hill areas
Source: Hueiyen News Service / Sobhapati Samom

Imphal, November 30 2013 : Pests and Plant disease management has become the major challenges of farmers in Manipur particularly in the hill districts.

The frequent outbreak of plant diseases in the wake of insect invasion, unavailability of adequate water source and subsequent economic value of certain agricultural crops, forced the villagers to take up other cereal and oilseed crops cultivation instead of paddy in the Khambi village, about 130 km from Imphal under Phungyar sub-division in Manipur's Ukhrul district.

"Considering the economic value of the crops in the present day markets and of course the plant diseases, most of us cultivate maize, banana and bene seeds in our fields", says 52 year old Weapon Malue of Khambi village.

"However, we've planted paddy in a limited area with extra labour," he added.

After taking retirement from active service more than a decade back, Weapon used to cultivate maize, banana and bene seeds on his cultivable land measuring around 5 hectares besides taking up poultry and piggery to feed a family of eight including his 6 children.

"But the frequent insect attacks at our farms since the last three years has created a new threat to our farming activities while we're trying to manage a sustainable livelihood", he felt.

Interestingly, like Weapon, more than 100 out of the total 130 village households followed similar cultivation pattern in view of the insect invasion and changing rain pattern, etc.

Sharing a similar sentiment, Solei Luiram of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, a farm science centre in Ukhrul district, said that unavailability of water and pest management are the new challenges of the cultivators.

"Only few of them out of around 100-130 households in a Ukhrul village(Khambi) retains paddy cultivation while the remaining focuses on other crops", the KVK scientist pointed out.

The new development has created an alarming situation where farmers are encouraged to use more pesticides or insecticides to control the pest and new diseases in the field.

"Thus, there are chances of vanishing the culture of producing organic agriculture products in the days to come," he added.

Well experienced Tangkhul couple Wilson Shongvah(46) and Leiyaphi Shongvah(45) of Khamasom village, 110 km from Imphal in Ukhrul district, have also been facing similar situation this time, forcing them to cultivate peas, grams and cabbages, etc, in half of their paddy field measuring around 3 hectare.

As a result they had a hard time to support the education of their four children as they managed to get only about 700 kgs of paddy against the previous record of more than 2500 kgs.

Not only the farmers in Ukhrul district, their counterparts in the remaining four hill districts Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati and Tamenglong have also expressed their desire to draw the attention of the concerned authority to overcome the pest and water management challenges to enhance their farming activities.

On the other hand, the 6-member family of Amazon Ranamei (38) and Lily Ranamei (35) of Mayangkhang village, 54 km north of Imphal in Senapati district complained of excess water in the fields due to unpredicted rain this year.

Monsoon is said to be sustained by cloud formation over a warm Bay of Bengal which eventually blows northwards and precipitate over the region.

But there are instances wherein the warmer Indian Ocean kills clouds prematurely leading to unpredicted rainfall.

Manipur had witnessed drought like situation in June 2009 and again in July last year the months during which heaviest rainfall is usually the norm.

Surprisingly the average annual rainfall recorded in 2012(1156 mm) was much lower than this year's 1242 mm (till November 2013), as per Meteorological Office in Imphal records.

"The wet season (in May this year) has affected the growth of almost all the vegetables plants in the fields," says Lily, who cultivates Broccoli, Brinjal, cabbage, pea, ginger and ground nuts besides paddy at her tiny farmland measuring 1.5 hectares.

"Otherwise, we could have had a good harvest this time," she added.

Similarly, SK David (48) of Mayangkhang village who had a multi-cropping field besides poultry and piggery and Luini (60) and her husband Peter Maram(70) of Maram Khunou village both in Senapati district had also faced a similar situation in their respective farmland in hills.

But the villagers of Makuilongdi village, about 100 km north of Imphal in Senapati district have a different story.

Almost all the 250 households of the village never cultivates paddy since the last three decades as their fields are not suitable for the paddy but good for cultivating Cabbage, Potato and Pea.

So the Zeme tribe inhabited village, which becomes one of the largest producers of the above mention items in northern Manipur, buys rice/paddy every season for their consumption after selling their products.

"We've been supplying cabbage for consumption of Senapati district and beyond," says Chairman Lungronang of Makuilongdi village.

"Our village produces more than 200 truckloads of cabbage and about 100 truckloads of potato and pea in a season." Most of the farmers need new technology to deal with such challenges as the climate change is happening across the globe.

"In fact, we've requested the ICAR (Indian Council for Agricultural Research)team to investigate into it (the insect invasion)", says Project Manager Tychicus Vashum of North East Region Community Resources Management Project (NERCORMP), Ukhrul.

"On the other hand, we've been initiating irrigation and land development besides taking all out effort (since last 13 years) to reduce jhum for the development of permanent farming sites,"Vashum said.

Horticulture scientist Dr Subhra Saikat Roy of ICAR Imphal when contacted in this regard, suggested for regular seed treatment with fungicides, use of bio pesticides or neem(organic) products.

If situation demands, the farmers should have judicious use of chemicals, he added.

"We've even identified some of the climate resilient crops for the region," he disclosed.

With the NERCORMP intervention programmes, now more than 100 hectares of permanent farming areas could be visible in 12 villages in north and east Ukhrul, according to NERCORMP functionary.

Besides, Tusom khullen under Chingai sub-division Rice, Kasom Khullen, Kamjong and Phungyar have named as Rice, Banana and Orange belts in the district.

For the records, Manipur's agriculture is confined to only about 10 percent of the total geographical area and the net agricultural area being 2.34 lakh hectares.

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