Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Phet woes continue in Oman

Oman is located in a geographic location which is quite sensitive to climate changes and the increasing number of monsoons dropping their destruction on the landscape have brough a struggle to Omani farms and agricultural areas.–KAS

Phet woes continue
by Yousuf Alvi

http://www.theweek.co.om/disCon.aspx?Cval=5705

Saleh bin Salim al Batashi’s 35,000sqm farm in Daghmar, Quriyat, was destroyed when cyclonic storm Phet hit Oman in June 2010. He borrowed RO10,000 to start farming again but that decision didn’t quite pay off. As things stand today, his production is half of what it used to be before Phet struck.

“My whole farm was washed away by Phet and only some big old trees were left. I used my loan to procure new water pumps and fertilisers and began farming again but still my production is just 50 per cent of what I used to produce before Phet,” he said. Saleh grows mangoes, date palm, Alfa Alfa, lemon and other seasonal crops in his farm but is now having a tough time coping with the problems that arrived with Phet. In 2007, Saleh’s entire farm was destroyed by Gonu and the government provided a compensation of RO1,000.

Saleh is one among the 2,379 farmers in Quriyat, who are still struggling with the problems posed by Phet. Abdullah Mohammed al Batashi is another case in point. Like Saleh, Abdullah’s farms too were destroyed by Phet. He is still trying to recover from the shock of the cyclonic storm that disrupted not only Quriyat. Abdhullah’s farm was flooded which destroyed all his crops. After the disaster Abdullah had to change the soil before planting new trees.

Dwelling on the farmers’ state-of-affairs, Abdullah Khalifa Abdullah al Shmakhi, director of Agriculture Social Centre Quriyat, Ministry of Agriculture, said, “Out of the total farmers affected by Phet here, around 25 per cent have still not gone back to normalcy.”

Said bin Ali bin Abdullah al Maliki, another farmer in Quriyat pegs his loss following Gonu and Phet at around RO100,000. He said, “Lemon tress were the main source of income for me before Phet struck. I had around 100 trees and I lost almost all of them. It will take a lot of time for me to go back to pre-Phet production level.” Following Gonu, Said received a compensation of RO5,000 from the government, but nothing after Phet.

An overflowing wadi is a big threat to the farmers in the area. Almost 85 per cent of the village is affected when the wadi overflows. Said and other farmers of his village have been sending letters to the authorities to help them come out of the setback caused by the natural calamity. They also want a cemented protection from the wadi that would be a permanent solution for the people and farms in the area.

Mohammed Adi Mohammed al Batashi has two farms in Quriyat which were affected in Phet. The worst hit were the date palms. He said, “Out of 100 date palm trees on my farm, close to 50 were destroyed by Phet. The authorities came to assess the loss but till now we have not received any relief.”

Another problem that the farmers are facing is the composition of underground water. The salinity of the underground water is very high and this adds to their woes. A water distillation plant is the only solution, but it is way beyond the means for most of the farmers. A small water distillation plant costs around RO3,000.

According to Mohammed Rashadi, senior engineer at the Agriculture Social Centre Quriyat, the commonly grown crops in Quriyat are Alfa Alfa grass, root grass, tomatoes and cucumber,
and almost 50 per cent of the crops were destroyed by Phet. Quriyat currently has a total of 335,291 date trees. The wilayat has 102,87 hectares of farming area for date palms, of which 4,587 hectares are currently farmed. The total number of mango trees in Quriyat now stands at 7,250. “It took around four months for the farmers to clean the farms and plant new trees. The government is helping the

farmers in the area with numerous schemes.” The schemes in Quriyat include, 75 per cent subsidy on building green houses on farms, 50 per cent subsidy on tractors and other subsidies on seeds and fertilisers. Besides other benefits provided by the government, the Agriculture Social Centre Quriyat also provides free advice to farmers on ways of cultivating crops.

The plight of the farmers in Quriyat also drew the attention of H E Fuad bin Jaffer al Sajwani, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, who visited the wilayat to discuss and assess their problems last month. Commenting on the minister’s visit, Shmakhi from the the Agriculture Social Centre Quriyat, said, “The meeting with the farmers was very successful. The minister met the wali, sheiks and farmers of the area and issues pertaining to providing more services to the farmers were discussed. We hope that the farmers will benefit from the decision that will follow the visit.”

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