Myanmar: Cattle shortage adds to misery of Burma's cyclone hit farmers
New Delhi - With thousands of cattle killed in the cyclone and in its aftermath from diseases, farmers in Burma's cyclone hit regions are helpless as the season for rice plantation is to end soon.
"I lost all of my buffaloes and I could not plant this year, I have nothing left," said a local farmer from Bawkone village in Laputta township.
The farmer, who owns over 30 acres of paddy fields, said even the few water buffaloes and cows that survived the cyclone, died in the aftermath of the cyclone from diseases.
"The cattle cannot eat and did not get enough rest as they are constantly disturbed by big forest flies making them suffer from various diseases," the farmer said.
A local resident in Laputta said a new disease spreading in the region caused cattle to suffer from foot and mouth pain and several buffaloes and cows reportedly died in the region.
"Diseases have killed at least two to three buffaloes or cows in each village in the region," said the local.
While the disease is not an outbreak, it added to the loss of cattle for farmers, who have suffered great loss in the cyclone, the local added.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Cyclone Nargis that lashed Burma's southwestern coastal regions in May 2-3, killed at least 120,000 cattle - cows and buffaloes.
The United Nations estimates that the cyclone left more than 138,000 dead or missing and left at least 2.4 million people devastated.
Irrawaddy delta, the hardest hit by the cyclone, is the rice bowl of Burma, producing nearly 65 per cent of rice for the country, according to the FAO.
However, a local aid worker in Laputta said Burma is likely to face food shortage unless farmers in the region are able to plant rice in the monsoon season, which will be over soon in mid-July.
"It is crucial for farmers to plant now, as the farming period for this year will soon be over," said the aid worker, who wished not to be named.
Aid to farmers
But for planting, farmers need help including tractors, power tillers or cattle to be used to plough the fields.
The local farmer in Bawkone said, "The government offered a pair of bullocks for around 60 families but even these buffaloes died after working for a few days."
Though the government has announced that it is providing more than 5,000 power tillers and tractors, very few of them are visible in their area, said the farmer.
An aid worker, who has been helping survivors in Bogale town, said there are no more cattle visible in the town and farmers are desperately in need of power tillers and tractors to plough their fields.
"A lot of farmers are now idle as they have no cattle and no paddy seeds," the aid worker said.
The aid worker said he has seen a few tractors being brought to villages in Kunchankone Township in Rangoon division but they are too few to be shared among the many farmers.
"I saw two tractors brought to a village in Kunchankone, but what I heard from farmers is that they were made to share it among many farmers in the village," the aid worker said.
Lack of knowledge to operate power tillers and tractors
Albert Lieberg, FAO's specialist, who made an assessment trip to Burma's cyclone hit regions, in a press conference on June 18, said plantation of rice will only be possible through replacement of cattle, particularly water buffaloes.
"If there is no replacement for 120,000 water buffalos or draught animals, (60,000 pairs of bullocks) then, 120,000 hectares will not be prepared for planting," said Albert Lieberg.
Lieberg's assessment rightfully points out that farmers in Burma's cyclone hit regions prefer cattle - water buffaloes and cows - to power tillers, as they are not used to handling the machinery.
The aid worker, who just returned from Kunchankone Township, said while the government's supply of power tillers is insufficient, the few farmers who received them find it difficult to operate.
"It is new to them and they are not used to it. In fact, they prefer old fashioned tilling of the fields with buffaloes," the aid worker said.
Additional information and Editing by Mungpi