With farmlands being devastated, the agricultural economy in the district is in deep crisis.

How the deluge has taken a toll on farmers lives in Idukki
news #Keralafloods Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - 16:18

A farmer by profession, the ‘uprooting’ from his own soil was painful for Jose. But the 70–year-old man had no other choice but to move on.

The deluge and the consequent landslides have reduced his farmland, nearly two acres, to rubble. He has been a farmer his whole life. “There is not even a leaf left, the organic content is lost,” Jose says pointing to the debris. Losing his farming-only source of livelihood and with his house becoming non-liveable –Jose and his family are shifting to Muvattupuzha, a town on the border of Ernakulam and Idukki districts. The district authorities have warned that the house is no more liveable as it is in a landslide-prone area. “We were told that we shouldn’t live in the house, it is not possible to go farming again as the entire land is devastated. A kind-hearted person had offered a job for my son in Muvattupuzha and we have decided to go,” he says disconsolately.

On August 18, two houses near Jose’s home were devastated in the landslides. The people in those houses had moved from there to safer places a day before and hence human causalities were avoided. “They had left with the clothes and with a few household things which they could take in their hands,” Jose says.

“There were coconut trees, cocoa and pepper. Now everything is under the soil, I don’t have any clue what to do with the land. It was one acre and 70 cents, the entire land was washed away, I don’t know how to start again,” Jose says ruefully. His neighbour Vijayan also has the same story to tell. The families had shifted from the area ever since the frequent landslides. They would go to relatives’ houses in the night. 

Jose and Vijayan 

“We would eat at least one meal of the day from the farm produce we cultivate. Farming is not solely a livelihood for us but something that defines our life. Without the land, where will we go?” Vijayan says. The soil has lost its fertility and the underground water streams have deviated from their routes, the farmers say.

“On August 17 afternoon, the earth began giving way from under our feet, then the people shifted to other houses. By 9 in the night, landslides had occurred twice. The next evening, the whole place where the houses stood had caved in,” says Anjitha who lives nearby. There are cracks in her house also, and they stayed in a relative’s house.


They are afraid that the southwest monsoon would also be destructive.

The drought followed by the deluge has destroyed acres of land. Farmers living in the area have lost the confidence to cultivate again and are thinking of moving to other jobs. For Soman, another farmer, he lost rubber cultivation in 2.5 acres causing a loss of more than Rs 10 lakhs.

“In my farmland, it was mostly rubber. It needs Rs four to five lakh to cultivate in one acre. This time, I had replanted rubber and it was half grown. I could have got yield for more than 10 years from it. Now the land has caved in,” he says. The 50-year-old farmer now plans to look for other work to keep him going.


“The scorching weather immediately after the deluge has also had its impact on farming. “It is normally during December that the leaves of rubber plants would began to fall and by February no leaves would be left on the plants. Now the trees stand like that in February. The impact of the scorching sun on the trees- be it the nutmeg, or the pepper could be assessed after a few more days. The leaves turned yellow as the organic content is lost. It is as if the agricultural economy of Idukki has been wiped out,” says Madhu Joseph, a local person.

For every farmer had dedicated his whole time, worked hard to make their land fertile, to cultivate and harvest. “We would start working from the early morning and there were only a few hours when we would not be on the farmland. Now we have lost everything,” says Reena.

Reena and her husband Bose are farmers. Their house along with their farmland has also been devastated.

Total Loss

As per the preliminary assessment, total loss caused by the floods to the farm sector could be worth crores of rupees. An amount of Rs 10 crores has been sought from the Directorate of Agriculture. "But it may differ, it will take more time for the final assessment," district Agricultural officer Maya S Nair said. A total of 28,112 applications for assistance have been received from farmers, out of which 12,205 applications are certified. Crop insurance of Rs 62 lakh has also been sought.

This article has been produced in partnership with Oxfam India. In the last 10 years, Oxfam India has delivered over 36 impactful humanitarian responses in India. Oxfam India is providing critical relief to the affected families and communities in Kerala: clean drinking water, sanitation, and shelter kits. Click here to help #RebuildKerala.

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