Anantapur: Drought-hit arecanut farmers in dire straits

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Devaganipalli and Tammidepalli villages are rich with farmers of betelnut orchards in the district.

Anantapur: Areca nut (betel nut) orchards are starting to fade away in the Rayalaseema region.

The Madakasira area located near the borders of Karnataka – Tumkur and Chitradurga districts, were known as ‘Ananta Ooty’ for their areca nut gardens, are now in a miserable condition due to consecutive years of drought.

‘Areca nut’ which means ‘thousand year crop’ had no break for production for many generations due to its plantations.

Eeranna from Tammidepalli, had five acres of orchards filled with betel nuts along with leaves as intercrop. Now, acute depletion of ground water has gradually affected his business over the last 15 years.

He has drilled more than 6 borewells for a decade.

“I drilled four borewells but none of them were successful,” he laments, adding that the orchard is in a dry, unproductive state.

‘Betel nut’, a commercial crop, requires cool climatic conditions. It is normally protected by the shade of other trees.

K. Nagaraju, from Devaganipalli in the Amarapuram mandal, turned into a migrant labourer after repeated losses and the withering of 3 acres of his orchards. The debt-ridden farmer is currently working as a labourer in Bengaluru city.

Not just these two alone, but at least 2,000 borewells have dried up, with more than 10,000 new wells failing after being drilled.

“We will need to drill more than 850 feet to get any water, which will be a big gamble for us”, said  Hanumantha Rayappa, a betelnut farmer.

Decades ago, conditions were favourable for the production of betelnut due to adequate ground water availability.

Devaganipalli and Tammidepalli villages are rich with farmers of betelnut orchards in the district.

Madakasira area has turned into a symbol of drought for the past 15 years after consecutive droughts. Earlier farmers would pump water for traditional wells about two decades ago, but the water table has had a steep fall during the last decade. With at least 4,000 acres of betelnut orchards ten years ago, these have now declined to just around 400 acres.

Farmers had attractive markets at Bheemasam-udram in Davanagera area in Karnataka, as Madakasira nuts – ‘unhusked whole fruit’, ‘de-husked dried’ and ‘boi-led nuts’ were in huge demand in Karnataka markets.

A Mandya-based scientist Dr.Hanamesh Gowd has stressed the need for farmers to opt for techniques through ‘drip irrigation’ to overcome the water deficit.

MLC K.Gundumala Thippeswamy hopes that the ongoing phase II of the HNSS project will bring back the golden days in the area. The HNSS project to fill all tanks in Madakasira area should be a reality soon, he said.

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