Farmer Ganpatram Bheda, 66, fears he will lose his two acres of land in northwest India after scarce rainfall and extreme cold in recent years hit crop yields, trapping him in a web of loans with little help from the state to overcome his financial woes.
As small-scale Indian farmers like Bheda grapple with growing climate uncertainties, researchers this week called for a robust rural jobs scheme, crop insurance and mental healthcare to ease growing distress and suicide in agrarian communities.
In a new report linking rainfall deficits to higher farmer suicide rates in India’s drought-prone states, researchers said climate change was making “agriculture an extremely risky, potentially dangerous and loss-making endeavour“.
Farmers are among the most at-risk groups in India for death by suicide, said the report from the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), as recurring droughts affect their health and emotional wellbeing.
For more than two decades, rural India has struggled with farmer suicides, as consecutive years of drought, poor harvests and costly animal feed have fuelled debt and mental anxiety.
Climate is a factor, but vulnerabilities like poverty, illiteracy and lack of social safety nets, or knowledge about how to access them, come together to create a difficult situation.
Ritu Bharadwaj, principal researcher, International Institute for Environment and Development
Nearly 11,000 farmers, cultivators and agricultural labourers took their own lives in 2021, averaging about 30 deaths a day, according to India’s most recent crime data cited in the IIED report.
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