Across much of India, farmers are struggling to adapt as their crops fail season after season as a result of increasingly unpredictable weather: floods and droughts. In June, like many people in the parched state of Maharashtra, Suraj Patil was hoping for the skies to open up and ease the state’s poorest rainy season in 40 years.
So when a few showers fell in mid-July in Latur, one of the hardest-hit areas, the 47-year-old ran outside to plant pulses and sweet potatoes, scattering seeds, and pushing vines into the moistened earth. For the last six months, Patil and his family of eight have relied on one meal a day, while many desperate farmers have killed themselves – more than 400 farmers committed suicide this year, and more than 2,000 in 2015. Now, after plentiful rains in the past two months, Patil hopes to have enough food to feed his family this year.
Over a quarter of India’s population battled a second consecutive year of drought, and the most of the drought-hit states had ill-conceived irrigation. Two rainless years had depleted the major water reservoirs and dried up the rivers, causing a massive water shortage.