A socio-hydrological comparative assessment explaining regional variances in suicide rate amongst farmers in Maharashtra, India
Other literature type
den Besten, Nadja I.
Savenije, Hubert H. G.
Maharashtra is one of the states in India that has witnessed one of the
highest rates of farmer suicides as proportion of total number of suicides.
Most of the farmer suicides in Maharashtra are from semi-arid divisions such
as Marathwada where cotton has been historically grown. Other dominant crops
produced include cereals, pulses, oilseeds and sugarcane. Cotton (fibers),
oilseeds and sugarcane providing highest value addition per unit cultivated
area and cereals and pulses the least. Hence it is not surprising that
smallholders take risks growing high value crops without “visualising” the
risks it entails such as those corresponding to price and weather shocks.<br><br>We deploy recently developed smallholder socio-hydrology modelling framework
to understand the underlying dynamics of the crisis. It couples the dynamics
of six main variables that are most relevant at the scale of a smallholder:
water storage capacity (root zone storage and other ways of water storage),
capital, livestock, soil fertility and fodder biomass. The hydroclimatic
variability is accounted for at sub-annual scale and influences the
socio-hydrology at annual scale. The model incorporates rule-based adaptation
mechanisms (e.g., adjusting expenditures on food and fertilizers, selling
livestocks) of smallholders when they face adverse conditions, such as high
variability in rainfall or in agricultural prices.
<br><br>The model is applied to two adjoining divisions of Maharashtra: Marathwada
and Desh. The former is the division with relatively higher farmer suicide
rates than the latter. Diverse spatial data sets of precipitation, potential
evaporation, soil, agricultural census based farm inputs, cropping pattern
and prices are used to understand the dynamics of small farmers in these
divisions, and to attribute farmer distress rates to soil types,
hydroclimatic variability and crops grown.<br><br>Comparative socio-hydrologic assessment across the two regions confirms
existing narratives: low (soil) water storage capacities, no irrigation and
poor access to alternative sources of incomes are to blame for the crisis,
suggesting that smart indigenous solutions such as rain-water harvesting and
better integration of smallholder systems to efficient agricultural supply
chains are needed to tackle this development challenge.