Rain woes: Climate change brings farming challenges for Tharu Adivasis

Location IconLakhimpur Kheri district, Uttar Pradesh

We belong to the Tharu community in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh, and our people have been living near the forest for the past 300 years. We would protect its flora and fauna and, in return, the forest would give us timber and wood to use for cooking food and building houses. However, since 1977, when the Dudhwa National Park was built, our community has been facing displacement and various restrictions on accessing the forest produce.

The forest department sees us as encroachers and stops us from cultivating on our own land. While three of our villages have received individual forest rights, there are 20 community forest rights claims that have not yet been reviewed.

On our limited land, we used to grow sugarcane and rice. But the sugar mills that would buy sugarcane from us would withhold our payment for months. Now, we mostly just grow wheat and rice, which is also our staple food.

However, this isn’t without its challenges. For the past three to four years, rainfall has been erratic. The pre-monsoon showers that used to arrive in early June and helped in seed germination have vanished. These days, when it finally rains in July, it pours. If a farmer sows the seeds during this time, the heavy shower washes the saplings away. It starts raining again during the harvest season so we can’t store the crops.

The government-run market is far away in the city. Even if a farmer manages to reach there with the produce, they have to wait in line for days before being able to sell it; this carries the risk of the crop getting damaged. Our people now prefer to sell to the middlemen even if it is for a lower price.

Instead of facilitating our access to the market or clearing our land claims, the government is asking us to use the rice that they are giving us through the public distribution system. This rice is of poor quality and none of us want to consume it. We often sell it back to the ration shops and get money in exchange. 

Nivada Rana is the vice president of the Tharu Tribal Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Manch.

Sahvaniya Rana is the general secretary of the Tharu Tribal Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Manch.

Know more: Read more about the houses of the Tharus and their traditional way of living.


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