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Impact of Extreme Weather on Agriculture and Desawari Paan

Impact of Extreme Weather on Desawari Paan

Desawari Paan, cultivated in the Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh, earned its Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2021. However, the farmers nurturing this delicate crop face a grave existential threat due to the changing climate.

Bijendra Chaurasia, a farmer, laments that his betel leaf garden, locally known as bareja, spanning 0.4 hectares, bore the brunt of heavy dew and cold waves in January, resulting in the destruction of Desawari Paan leaves worth ₹10 lakhs.

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Insight into Betel Leaves (Paan):

  • Mouth Fresheners: Betel leaves are widely consumed as mouth fresheners alongside areca nuts and various condiments throughout the Indian subcontinent.
  • Profitable Crop: Cultivation of betel leaves is a highly profitable venture. The crop typically thrives for two to three years, with monthly harvests.
  • Temperature and Rainfall Sensitivity: These leaves are highly sensitive to temperature and rainfall fluctuations. Excessive rainfall or temperatures falling below 6°C or rising above 45°C can prove detrimental.

Multifold Impact of Crop Failure:

  • Shrinking Paan Growers: The number of Desawari Paan growers in Mahoba has plummeted by 75% since 2000, reducing from 410 to a mere fraction. Additionally, the area under betel leaf cultivation has nosedived by a staggering 95%.
  • Rising Input Costs: Escalating input costs have rendered betel leaf farming financially unsustainable.
  • Paan Protsahan Yojana: Launched in 2018 under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, this scheme shoulders 50% of the cost incurred by farmers. Nevertheless, it predominantly benefits land-owning farmers.
  • Decline of Local Markets: In the Mahoba betel leaf marketplace, most shops have shuttered, with the remaining vendors primarily selling betel leaves imported from West Bengal.
  • Promoting Value-Added Products: To augment growers’ income, experts suggest government interventions to promote value-added products derived from betel leaves, such as betel leaf oil used in Ayurvedic medicines and the production of betel-flavored confectioneries, sweets, and ice creams.

The poignant saga of Desawari Paan unveils the vulnerability of agricultural livelihoods to the capricious climate. It underscores the dire need for strategies to safeguard traditional crops and empower farmers to adapt to the changing environment. The cultivation of Desawari Paan is more than just agriculture; it’s a heritage and a source of livelihood for many.

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