The hot, hot heat and the repercussions of rain

You read it right, all right, but how could it be true? How could there be repercussions of rain in Jamkhed, and throughout all of Maharashtra, when the arid, drought-prone area hardly received more than 10 inches of rainfall last year?

It seems contradictory. However, Jamkhed did not only experience rain: we had a downpour – rain falling so hard you could hardly hear someone right next to you as it pelted the tin roofs – AND it was accompanied by golf-ball sized hail! Though we had just three or four storms, each lasting less than half an hour, some serious damage was caused.

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Post-hail storm craziness: patches of the new preschool building’s paint gone 

The precipitation was so unexpected because this region of Maharashtra typically has two/three seasons, depending how you interpret it: a rainy season (July-September) and a dry season (the rest of the year); Lexi and I divide the ‘dry’ season further, into ‘bearable temperature’ dry season and the ‘too hot to do anything’ dry season. We are currently entering the ‘too hot to do anything’ season, and temperatures have been hitting 37 and 38 degrees C – not to be confused with the 37 or 38 degrees F that New Jersey is still enduring. You know it’s getting hot in Jamkhed when the man who used to visit campus with a cart full of fresh pineapple now rings a bell to notify us the ice cream man is here!

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If only he had mint chocolate chip in that cooler!

This time of the year, farmers are harvesting sorghum and onions, and wheat has been planted. About two weeks ago it was really beautiful to go on a walk to the lake (yes, there is a lake because there was so much rain this past year!) because on either side of the road are fields and fields and fields of green onion grasses and sorghum that just run into the horizon. The sunsets are beautiful. On one particular walk, I ran into Datta, who is CRHP’s main electrician, but, like many CRHP staff, has a second job as a farmer. He proudly took me on a walking tour around his fields, and explained to me how they harvest the onions.

Datta is a luckier farmer this year, because the rain and hail destroyed the wheat crop. One of CRHP’s other workers, Vishnu, lost Rs. 300,000 worth of his crop, about 45% of his yearly salary. Vishnu is a relatively well-off farmer, and so although this lost is devastating, he and his family will be okay. This, however is not the case for many: over two dozen farmers in Maharashtra have committed suicide since the hailstorms damaged sugarcane, wheat, pomegranate and mango crops. Maharashtra has always been one of the worst five states in India for rates of farmer suicide because water is such a scarcity; in 2011, the state showed an increase of 196 farm suicides compared to 2010. This is a great article that talks a bit more about the rising pressure of farmers, especially in the face of population growth and urbanization. CRHP has worked with communities to plant trees, helping to raise the water table, develop watershed programs, and teach farmers techniques of drip irrigation, rather than flood irrigation, which requires less water.

Matt and Richard are working on a film now that will feature interviews with farmers from various CRHP villages, highlighting their daily lives and struggles associated with drought. Again, how ironic that their first day of shooting – during this hot, hot dry season – was cancelled due to rain.

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Onions are harvested and their stalks are cut off. The bulbs are made into a heap, and the stalks placed on top to cover them. The onions dry out for about a week before they are ready to be collected, packaged and shipped. 

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