Climate Change

After working on social development in our region, ODAM soon realized that the issues facing our community were part of a bigger problem: climate change and environmental ruin.

Climate Change

Climatic change over the past 50 years has led to a receding monsoon season, shifting the monsoon to unpredictable time tables.  The amount of rainfall is the same in the Virudhunagar district, but the arrival of the monsoon and its duration has become unpredictable, thus shifting centuries-old agricultural calendars. Traditionally, rainfall begins the first week of September each year and lasts 3 months. To illustrate, 2009’s monsoon began the first week of November that year and lasted just 10 days, which delayed all traditional agricultural cycles and devastated harvests for all crops. Farmers are at a huge loss, and each season many are forced to sell their land to work as day labourers. This is where this cycle of poverty begins for many families.

The impact of climate change in our district directly hits the poorest the hardest; landless labourers and small farmers are unable to find jobs and often migrate to urban and coastal areas for employment. In many cases, men leave families behind or parents force children to work as bonded labourers, as forced urbanization takes its toll on the safety and health of families.

Invasive Weeds

In the early 1950s, the government of Tamil Nadu introduced a non-native plant species to the state known as Prosopis juliflora.This thorny tree species was originally introduced here to fulfill local charcoal production needs. At first, the farmers referred to it as “black gold” for the income it yielded during drought conditions, but this activity has since taken its toll on the soil. Unfortunately, this weed’s growth now far outpaces local demand for fuel.

Extremely hardy and drought resistant, its seeds internally carry moisture that enables the plant to take deep root in almost any soil base. Since its introduction, the plant has gradually started invading the cultivable fertile lands; and during periods of continuous drought its invasion expanded widely, as it could out-compete local species in such conditions. This invasive weed has since established itself as a fixture to the Tamil Nadu landscape.

These Prosopis trees cannot be removed manually, as its poisonous thorns and deep roots make it a hazard for cultivators to uproot.  Heavy machinery is required, which poor farmers cannot afford. As a result, many farmers in our community have had to watch their fertile farmland be overrun and soil degraded by this weed’s invasion over the years. It is a widespread and uncontrollable species whose seed  can spread easily by air and can grow in any soil base. The soil’s nutrients have been significantly depleted and many marginalized farmers have been compelled to sell their land. Forced out of agricultural employment due to worsened environmental conditions, many families turn to bonded labour and desperate loan-seeking as solutions.

To this end, ODAM has taken steps to help local communities adapt to these environmental changes, create new livelihoods, and prevent families from suffering the ill effects of forced migrations.