- With over 500 islands, the Andaman & Nicobar region has witnessed a series of extreme weather events which have impacted farming, one of the key income sources for the local people.
- Waterlogging, salt deposits, erratic rainfall, water shortage and limited land area are challenges for practising agriculture in the islands.
- The Central Island Agricultural Research Institute (CIARI), worked with farmers to implement land shaping, a climate-resilient solution. The video portrays farming challenges, agro-ecological approach to solutions and the impact on productivity, natural resources and income.
The Andaman & Nicobar islands, one of the Union Territories of India, are a group of islands between the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. The islands receive over 3000 cubic mm rainfall every year. Despite this, the islands face water shortage in summer.
After the 2004 tsunami, there was land subduction. This led to increased and fluctuating salinity. Similarly, heavy rainfall led to severe waterlogging. For many years after the tsunami, farmers were unable to grow anything on the land.
There are no canals, dams or borewells here and agriculture is completely rain-fed. Farmers have been facing crop damage with frequent cyclones and erratic rainfall due to the El Nino effect in recent years.
The Central Island Agriculture Research Institute (CIARI) worked on strategies for sustainable management of degraded coastal land and water. They did an assessment of climate change and agricultural vulnerability for the islands to develop climate-resilient, resource-conserving technologies. One of the key solutions was the land shaping technique. This technique, where land is modified to save water, improves drainage, enables rainwater harvesting and reduces salinity.
In these islands, land available for farming is limited. Scientists worked with the farmers to look at how productivity could be maximised in the limited land. At the same time, they also had to ensure that the solutions were localised, cost-effective, conserve natural resources like land, water and soil and make farming financially sustainable.
After years of experimenting and testing, land shaping solutions in the Andamans were standardised. Techniques like the three-tier farming system, broad bed and furrow system were implemented in farmers’ land, so that farming could be done throughout the year and there was enough water to do grow crops.
As farmers diversified their cropping pattern, they were able to offset their losses after cyclones or heavy rainfall and distribute their income through vegetable cultivation, fish rearing and plantation crops. This ensured that their incomes were not dented heavily with unpredictable cyclones and other extreme weather conditions like cyclone and earthquake.
Sharada Balasubramanian was in the Andaman Islands to cover this story as part of the Internews’ Earth Journalism Network Bay of Bengal Story Grants.