Flood damages: Farmers face hunger after loss of crops
When the floods came this year, it was not just the rice in the paddy fields that were washed away, but also those stored at homesteads -- leaving many in a state of food insecurity.
According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, two crore tonnes of Boro rice were harvested from the fields -- an amount higher than last year -- despite the floods in April and May.
After injecting the rice into the market, farmers had stocked their homes for the season.
Their storages now lie empty.
In spite of having brought home 20 maunds of rice, Faruk Ahmed's family has been living on dry biscuits while his stove lies cold.
Faruk is from Laki village, in Sylhet's Tawakkul union.
The village lies at the frontier of the wetlands bordering the impassive mountains of Meghalaya.
It receives the first faceful of the rainwater run-offs coming from the mountains.
Faruk's 20 maunds had survived the floods of May as they were brought home safe before the floods hit.
This time, however, he could not help but silently watch his precious grains get swept away in the chest-deep waters invading his house. Along with those went his 40 ducks.
And just like that, a healthy homestead is now surviving on relief food.
At the first sight of sun last Saturday, farmers brought out their meager stocks of rice and put them out to dry on plastic sheets the road leading from Shalutikar Bazar to Tawakkul union.
Any patch of land that was not under water was covered by ankle-deep mud, forcing the farmers to crowd the tarmac with barely enough space for even a CNG to pass through.
But for every plastic sheet containing shining golden grains, there were 10 others containing damp, brown kernels that would yield inedible rice.
At one spot, goats happily munched away at the damp grains without getting chased away as farmers let the animals eat what they can't.
At another, a pick-up truck mistakenly ran over the plastic sheet, and a thin man in worn-out clothes came charging with a stick, trying to protect his spoiled rice with a fierceness that can only be driven by hunger.
Asked how he would consume the damaged rice, he said he would try and salvage any good grains.
In the last flash floods that hit the Sylhet division in the last week of April, 7,730 hectares of Boro were damaged in Sunamganj, Sylhet and Habiganj districts.
Another flash flood hit on May 11 and damaged around 2,534 hectares of Boro, 1,674 hectares of Aush, 1,500 hectares of vegetables and 75 hectares of peanuts.
The floods that began on June 15 is the third blow within two months.
In Sylhet district alone, 28,945 hectares of crops were damaged till June 26, according to the district administration.
The loss of the crops in three other districts is being assessed as the floodwaters had still not receded in the low-lying areas.
However, an estimate released on June 21 by the agriculture ministry said 56,000 hectares of Aush had been destroyed.
Musharraf Hussain Khan, additional director of Sylhet Divisional Agriculture Office, said, "This flood is a major blow to the agriculture in Sylhet as around 50 percent of the Aush is damaged.
"Moreover, we are facing a huge crisis of dry land to prepare Aman seedbeds as the floodwaters were still not receding."
Sylhet division alone produces around 16 percent of the nation's Aush yield and eight percent of Boro.
Meanwhile in Sirajganj, Babul Kumar Sutrodhor, deputy director of the district's agriculture extension department, told The Daily Star that 12,599 hectares of crop fields were submerged in floods this year.
"We are calculating the crop loss and expecting to get a full report this month."
Md Nasir Bhuiya, a resident of Kawakhola in Sirajganj Sadar upazila, said he had cultivated 10 bighas of jute -- all of which has gone under water.
"If the floods last a week longer, none of my crops will survive."
Meanwhile, the flood claimed two more lives in Sherpur and Habiganj districts in 24 hours till yesterday morning, raising the fatalities to 84, reported UNB.
Each of them died by drowning in floodwater, according to the Directorate General of Health Services. The total deaths were recorded from May 17 to June 26.
(Our Pabna correspondent contributed to the report.)