The cultivation of Aman, the second-largest rice season heavily reliant on rainwater, is facing significant disruptions.

A lack of rain has made it challenging for farmers to plant paddy, resulting in the destruction of seed beds. As a desperate measure, some farmers have resorted to planting paddy using irrigation pumps, incurring additional costs, while others are hoping for natural rainfall to resume.

Farmers from different regions of the country say if there is normal rainfall, Aman planting is usually completed in July. But this year the agricultural lands across the country are still lying barren owing to a lack of normal rainfall.

The Ministry of Agriculture had set a target of rice cultivation in 59.335 lakh hectares for this year’s Aman season. Aman contributes around 1.5 crore tonnes of rice to the country’s food grain stock annually. But, only 12.82% of the targeted land has been cultivated so far.

The dry season this year has resulted in a 6% reduction in the target for seedbed production. The extreme heat has caused numerous seedlings to wither and die; sunburned rice seedlings have also turned yellow, signalling the severity of the drought.

Experts and the authorities concerned are worried that the overall paddy production may be severely impacted if this situation persists, as it happened last year when many farmers had to rely on irrigation pumps for planting.

Officials and experts are deeply concerned about the recurring adverse effects of climate change on Aman cultivation. They emphasise the urgency of adopting alternative strategies to cope with drought conditions and safeguard the crucial agricultural sector.

Speaking to TBS, Mostafa Kamal Palash, a PhD researcher on weather and climate at Saskatchewan University in Canada, has attributed the reduced rainfall to El Nino conditions, which are projected to cause a 20%-30% decline in rainfall during May-July in Bangladesh. The country experienced a record low rainfall in July last year, 57.6% below normal, marking the driest July in 42 years.

Due to El Nino, crop production is being affected in India, China, and various European countries.

An idea of the weather in July can be obtained from the daily reports of the Department of Agricultural Extension control room. Record high temperatures have been reported for the past few days, with some places recording 37.5 degrees Celsius or more. Again, the amount of rainfall is very little throughout the country.

According to meteorologists, the average July rainfall in Bangladesh over the past 30 years till 2021 was 496 millimetres (mm). But, rainfall in July 2022 was only 211mm – the lowest since 1981. Rainfall in July 2021 was 471mm.

The agriculture ministry and the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board have issued instructions to farmers to use irrigation pumps for planting as soon as possible to mitigate the impact of the drought.

Rabindra Sri Barua, additional secretary (Extension Wing) of the ministry, told TBS, “For two years we have been dealing with the adverse effects of climate change during Aman. This situation is definitely alarming for our agriculture.

“We have instructed farmers to plant paddy through irrigation as soon as possible. The Electrification Board has also been instructed to keep irrigation pump lines operational for a supplementary irrigation system of 13-14 days.”

Rabindra said farmers in the northern region have already installed pumps and started transplanting paddy seedlings, but it has not yet started in other regions.

However, not all farmers have the capacity or resources for this and are still waiting for normal rain.

Moniruzzaman Munir of Dalgacha village of Nandigram in Bogura said, “Farmers in the upazila usually plant Aman paddy between 15 Asharh and 15 Shravan of the Bangla calendar year. Even though the first week of Shravan has passed, they are unable to plant the land due to a lack of water.”

TBS Bogura correspondent Khurshid Alam said a similar picture prevails in the entire northern region.

Raju Ahmed, a farmer of Kalikapur village of Bogura upazila, said most of the farmers are now forced to rent electric irrigation pumps and shallow machines. “The owner of a deep tube well charges Tk1,000 per bigha for irrigation while a shallow machine costs Tk1,500…This is an additional cost to the farmer.”

Nandigram Upazila Agriculture Officer Adnan Babu said there is still time to cultivate Aman. But, if the hot spell continues, farmers are advised to water their land through irrigation.

Last year, more than 6 lakh irrigation pumps were used due to insufficient rainfall. Typically, about 16 lakh irrigation pumps are used during the Boro season, with the majority being diesel-powered.

Despite challenges, farmers across the country produced 1.5 crore tonnes of rice during the Aman season last year.

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