Jaffna Peninsula falls under the dry zone, which receives annual rainfall of about 635-1400mm that is highly seasonal, out of which 65-75 per cent is received during October-March (maha season) and the rest during April-September (yala season).
The Jaffna farmers have small plots of land and without large enough tanks to irrigate their paddy fields, depend on regular rainfall to grow rice in their fields during the maha season only. Most farmers normally cultivate 3-1/2 months crop that is expected to be harvested by the second week of February; while other farmers grow 4-1/2 months crops – normally the traditional Moddai Karuppan, Pachchai Perumal and Murungan, in this case, crops would be ready for harvest by March.
Paddy seeds are sown in anticipation ahead of the rain on prepared dusty paddy fields; success of paddy production is totally dependent on receiving correct quantity of rain at the right time. Thanksgiving festival takes place in mid January, on the first day of Tamil month as a mark of respect to nature in anticipation of a good harvest called “Thai Pongal Day”, that is a declared Public Holiday in the country.
Land preparation by use of bull power has given way to mechanization and accommodate tractors. Paddy harvesting too is carried out by combine
harvesters due to the current demographic drift away from the land, with farm labour less readily available. With the poor start to the maha season and the ensuing poor harvest, the demand for farm labour has been lower than usual.
Thus the farmers in the peninsula continue with their subsistence agriculture practices growing food crops to meet the needs of themselves and their families. As farm output is targeted to survival and is mostly for local requirements with little or no surplus trade. This method of paddy cultivation is not a very profitable venture for the farming community; yet they continue with this rain fed method utilizing the low lands that get flooded year in year out.
Paddy was the major cultivable crop of this region, however the conflict has lessen the opportunity to grow rice by one third . Further, prior to the war banana, grapevine, chilli and small onion were cultivated for the southern markets, but the closure of the A9 land route for security reasons compelled farmers to abandon the production of these crops declined due to the marketing difficulties. After the war was brought to finish in 2009, cultivation of these crops resumed for the southern markets on re-establishment of north-south connectivity by the state.
With the past dry season Jaffna Peninsula braced a period of severe drought, as the monsoon failed and consequently paddy crops cultivated were affected badly. With the farmers fearing crops in the entire paddy lands in the Peninsula might fail, it is good to see harvest taking place, though production of paddy was poor for many farmers.
Renewal of Agriculture-Driven Livelihood is necessary for the development of Northern Province; left without a proper national plan to support it. Thus the farmers in the peninsula continue with their subsistence agriculture practices of growing food crops to meet the needs of themselves and their families. In subsistence agriculture, farm output is targeted for survival and with little or no surplus to trade. Though not a profitable venture for the farming community; yet they are left with no other option than to continue paddy cultivation with rain fed method on low lands that get flooded year in year out.