Agriculture in Warangal, India
In 2011 a study on Warangal reported that, 471,000 ha are cultivated each year, and of them, 138,900 are sown more than once, resulting in a gross cropped area of 609,800 ha. 323,900 hectares (68.8%) of cultivated land are irrigated and the remaining cropland is rainfed.
At the time, the largest crop is rice, which accounts for 198,000 hectares each year (32.5% of gross cropped area). Almost all rice cultivation in Warangal is irrigated. The next largest crop is cotton, planted on 158,700 hectares (26% of gross cropped area). Altogether, farmers grow grains (mostly rice and maize with some sorghum) on 287,000 hectares (47.1% of gross cropped area), pulses and legumes (groundnut, green gram, red gram, bajra, and bengal gram) on 104,300 hectares (17.1% of gross cropped area), and horticultural crops (mostly chillies, some turmeric) on 33,400 ha (5.5% of gross cropped area). Only 39.7% of cotton is irrigated, and the remainder is rainfed. The average cotton yield is 438 kg/ha.
Agriculture in Warangal has changed since the 1960's. In the early 60's, sorghum accounted for 41 percent of total cropped area in the district, followed by rice (23 percent), and green gram (19 percent). The main commercial crops were groundnut, castor, and sesame. At the time, chili peppers were grown on 7000 acres, cotton on 3000 acres, and tobacco on 4000 acres.
In the 1960's, hybrid varieties of rice were introduced (see the article on the Green Revolution) and use of well irrigation for rice growing became more common, particularly from the mid-1970s onward. In the past, groundnut was grown during the monsoon season, but between the early 1970s and mid-1980s, it emerged as a popular crop to grow with irrigation during the post-monsoon season instead. In the 1980's "its place was reduced to some extent with the introduction of sunflower. By the beginning of the nineties, the premier place is occupied by cotton." With so many wells in place, ground water levels fell, forcing farmers to drill deeper for water in order to irrigate crops. Additionally, droughts and power shortages created water problems for farmers. "In the search for less water intensive crops and economic crops too, they found an alternative in cotton."
Before cotton and rice monocultures became so prevalent, crop rotation and crop diversification was practiced:
- "For sustained yields and increasing income traditionally crop rotation was practiced. It was arranged in such a fashion that the soil fertility is maintained in the process. Jowar was being rotated with ground nut and green gram. Groundnut was rotated by maize. Raising of multiple crops was supposed to provide security against risk and as well as control of pests. Jowar [sorghum] and red gram, groundnut and red gram, groundnut and green gram, ground nut and lentil, groundnut and castor were some of the combinations. Crop diversification was yet another traditional practice. They have been combined in such a way as to meet grain requirements for the family and farm workers and fodder to the cattle and to earn the cash. It used to provide a balance between these requirements so as to mitigate the risk of crop failures."
In the 1960's cotton was grown on a mere 1200-1600 hectares (3000-4000 acres) in Warangal. In the 1970's settlers from Guntur District came to Warangal and began growing commercial crops like chili peppers, tobacco and cotton on the district's black soils. Based on their success, Warangal farmers began growing chili peppers in the early 1980s and later switched to cotton. The area in cotton grew until it reached what was then all-time high of 123,000 hectares in 1997-1998. (Area in cotton has increased further still since then.)
Cotton was grown in both irrigated and rainfed conditions. The cotton grown under irrigation went from 21,882 ha. in 1986-87 to 31,540 ha. in 1994-95 and to about 50,000 ha. in 1997-98. Still, the irrigated area represented less than half of cotton growing area in 1997-1998. Between 1995 and 1998, the most popular cotton seed variety was a hybrid variety called RCH 2. In 1998, it accounted for 90 percent of the total cropped area under cotton. A 1998 study found that:
- "The hybrid varieties which are in use at present are of long duration and more responsive to fertilizers but are more pest-prone. They can not with stand to the dry spells of more than 15 days and hence requires assured irrigation. Moreover the scientists opine that the short duration variety of cotton is suitable for the low rainfall and shallow soil of Telangana while long duration varieties are suitable to areas with assured irrigation. By the very nature, these varieties require better irrigation, heavy investments and better insecticide management... The dwindling rainfall conditions, proneness to several insects like Aphids, Jassids, Thrips and Whitefly and fluctuating prices are the major factors, which entail risk. In view of this success of this crop depends on scientific management than any other traditional crop. Choosing right type of soil, right type of seed, ability to identify the pests, application of suitable pesticides at right dosage and right time, providing irrigation crucial stages, and provision of constant attention are some of the prerequisites of cultivating this crop. That being the prerequisites, the experience in Warangal, stands divergent from them. Agricultural scientists opined that the red soils are not advisable for growing cotton crop but more than 50 percent of present cotton is grown on such soils with out making any effort to improve the soil structure by organic materials and tank silt etc. Other important deviation is in the selection of seeds where entire area is covered with long duration varieties. The present pattern of cultivating the cotton under rain-fed conditions on red soils has turned out to be quite inimical. In the beginning, the settlers used to cultivate this crop in the black soils under rain-fed conditions. Without knowing the implications, the local farmers started raising this crop on red soils even. As for the choice of the seeds are concerned, the seed suppliers lead farmers in the village have influenced considerably. Network of sub-dealers in different areas in the district played crucial role."
In other words, farmers in Warangal were using the wrong type of seeds for their soils, a seed variety that also left them vulnerable to pests. The majority of farmers who grew cotton without irrigation were at even more risk of crop failure.
Compared to other crops, cotton and chili peppers also require more fertilizer. Farmers use 3-4 bags of fertilizer per acre (1 to 2 bags of complex fertilizers and 2 bags of urea) for rice; 6 to 8 bags per acre for irrigated chili peppers (3 to 6 bags for rainfed chili peppers); and 8 bags of fertilizer per acre for irrigated cotton (4-5 bags for rainfed cotton). This is more than farmers used on rainfed crops that have declined in popularity like sorghum, green gram, and sesame. With the adoption of chilis and cotton, pesticide use also increased. For these two crops, "farmers are accustomed for dusting and spraying once in five to six days, without regard to whether pest is there are not. That means between July to December not less than 20 to 25 sprayings will be done. The average consumption under irrigation conditions varies between 4 litres to 5 litres per acre. Under un-irrigated conditions it varies between 3 liters to 4 liters per acre." Between 1988 and 1998, the number of pesticide dealers increased from 300 to 1300.
- "The system is evolved in such a way that the pesticide dealer himself assumes the role of extension agency. However, he is more guided by the profit and greater sales, particularly of those varieties which give more commission and which are more powerful. Farmers have been depending more on the dealer for the type of pesticides to be used when there is a pest attack or else he obtains information from his neighbouring farmer. In the process, gullible farmers used pesticides indiscriminately and excessively. As farmers in large number could not possess enough cash, were tied to a dealer for obtaining pesticides on credit. This weakness being exploited by the pesticide dealer in several ways charging 15 to 20 percent price extra, supplying unwanted high priced pesticides and supply of spurious and adulterated pesticides taking advantage of the desperate need of the farmers... The emergence of monoculture practices has also contributed for uncontrolled spread of pests. The constant use of heavy doses of pesticides like synthetic pyrathroids has resulted in a greater resistance among the pests. Not only that it has resulted in killing of predators but contributed for reduction of soil productivity. The problem has become so intense that even the traditional crops, which used to give better yields without application of fertilizer and pesticides are no longer able to survive without the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Local research has clearly brought out the extent of soil degradation and the extent of loss due to this degradation, which is compounded because of excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides."
Several studies of farmer suicides focus on Warangal.
A 2005 study wrote: Although there is no district-level data available, available evidence, "particularly from an alert socially conscious print media in the country," points to "certain pockets within each of these states... where farm suicides are concentrated and where the problem would be very, very acute. The Vidarbha region in Maharashtra, Deccan and Hyderabad Karnataka regions in Karnataka, Telangana and Rayalaseema regions in Andhra Pradesh seem to be the ones – along with Wayanad in Kerala – have received a great deal of attention and coverage by the press on this issue... Now these sub-regions within these states – i.e., Vidharbha, Deccan and Hyderabad Karnataka, Telangana and Rayalaseema and Chhattisgarh – in fact do constitute a contiguous region in the heartland of India as it were." The area is a "semi-arid, poor, backward region in the heartland of India" and it appears that this is likely where the farm suicide issue is most severe.
Resources and articles
Related Sourcewatch articles
- Agriculture in India
- India's New Economic Policy of 1991
- Indian Fertilizer Subsidies
- Indian Farmer Suicides
- Warangal District
- Agriculture Contingency Plan for District: WARANGAL
- Agriculture Contingency Plan for District: WARANGAL
- A.Sudarshan Reddy, Sri S.Vedantha, B. Venkateshwar Rao, Sri Ch. Sunder Ram Reddy, Sri Y.Venkat Reddy, "Member Gathering Agrarian Crisis - Farmers' Suicides in Warangal District (A.P.) India: Citizens' Report," Centre for Environmental Studies Warangal, 1998.
- K Nagaraj, "Farmers Suicide in India: Magnitudes, Trends, and Spatial Patterns," March 2008.