The third year of very dry conditions here in North Thailand started earlier than last year and looks bad for agriculture. So far water conservation measures have not been announced for people in the city, but farmers have been warned. This drought affects their cash crop production. If the lack of rainfall and water reserves continue into mid-year there will be food shortages, hitting the poorest people hardest, of course. People with money will still be able to buy their way through the shortages. Meanwhile farmers who gambled and planted rice a couple of months ago, are seeing their plants wither, the ground harden and crack, and hopes fade. Fields and streams are dry.
One wonders about national water management in times of drought and floods. No doubt our current national leader’s plans to convert the country from an agricultural economy into an industrial economy have a lot to do with the status of reservoirs and dry irrigation canals. The number of crops that make money for farmers is dwindling. The switch to a money economy is pushing farmers in a number of directions. More and more land is being modified for specialty crops, and away from things to eat locally. Farm size is increasing and machinery use is growing, meaning agricultural employment is decreasing, and being done by non-residents. Farmers either find jobs to earn money or descend into subsistence living with ever fewer system supports – such as dependable irrigation and nearby areas for hunting and scavenging. Most villages will have trouble recruiting people for traditional activities, and housing developments never had such community events. Social change is one generation away, but drought hastens such things.
We are still a long way from starvation for anybody, but the drought means hard times.
Today we decided to resort to the deep well to water the fruit trees. The well was working the other day, but wouldn’t “hold a prime” today. The most ominous possibility is that the well is dry and there will be no fruit in August and maybe no trees by next year this time.
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Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.