Friday, 22 March 2013

Affect of cyclone on Rubber Plantation: What’s the trend?

    Cyclone and it’s affect on lives and properties is not new to anyone, there are cases where people suffered economically due to natural calamity like cyclone.
    In Tripura, people are well aware of cyclone that had caused huge economic embarrassment due to loss of crops and properties.
    In case of crops, a perennial crop like Rubber suffers a lot due to cyclone that usually takes place during the month from April to July in almost every year.
Pattern of damage due to cyclone
    There’s report of cyclone and it’s affect on Rubber plantation and Rubber growers are reportedly faced huge hard ship due to cyclone in the state.
    To see the prevalence and pattern of damage of cyclone on rubber plantation, I’ve collected data from 50 numbers of rubber growers from different districts of the state Tripura, India.
    Below are the data collected randomly from rubber growers:

Grower    District    Age of Plantation    Nos. of damage
G1          Unakuti                     9                  10   
G2          Unakuti                     10                41   
G3          Unakuti                     11                26   
G4          Unakuti                     8                  30   
G5          Unakuti                     5                  400             Max
G6          Unakuti                     5                  40   
G7          Unakuti                     11                25   
G8          Unakuti                     10                100             Max
G9          Unakuti                     9-10             65   
G10        Unakuti                     9-10             100             Max
G11        Unakuti                     8                   25-30   
G12        Unakuti                     6-10             120             Max
G13        Unakuti                     5                    200            Max
G14        Unakuti                     3                    50   
G15        Unakuti                     10                 200-280     Max
G16        Unakuti                     10                 150-200      Max
G17        Unakuti                     13                 25   
G18        Unakuti                     13                 12   
G19        Unakuti                     13                 12   
G20        Unakuti                     10                 10   
G21        Unakuti                     5-6                 20   
G22        Unakuti                     10                 20   
G23        Unakuti                     10                 20   
G24        Unakuti                     10                 15   
G25        Unakuti                     8                   15   
G26        Unakuti                     10                 150               Max
G27        Unakuti                     10                 30   
G28        Unakuti                     10                 32   
G29        Unakuti                     10                 15-20   
G30        Unakuti                     10                 10   
G31        NORTH                   10                 7-8   
G32        NORTH                   10                 7-8   
G33         WEST                     10                 10   
G34         WEST                     10                 40   
G35         WEST                     10                 15   
G36          WEST                     6                 120                Max
G37          WEST                     10                400               Max
G38          Sipahija                    8                 250                Max
G39          Sipahija                   10                 52   
G40          Sipahija                   10                 270               Max
G41          Sipahija                   10                 50   
G42          Sipahija                   10                 800               Max
G43          Sipahija                   10                 80                 Max
G44          Sipahija                   10                 150-175        Max
G45          Sipahija                   10                 200               Max
G46          Sipahija                   10                 70-80            Max
G47          Sipahija                   10                 50-60   
G48         South                        7-10             20-25   
G49         South                        10                 400               Max
G50         Unakuti                     8                   225                 Max
   (G- Grower)
    From the above table, it’s clear that cyclone damage is prevalent and interestingly, productive and matured rubber plantations are the victim in majority of cases.
While, there are varying degrees of damage but in terms of maximum and substantial damage (as noted in remark column of the table), it’s quite significant.
    Out of the data collected from 50 nos. rubber plantation owners, it’s seen that 19 (nineteen) rubber plantation owners had suffered substantial damage due to cyclone.
    The range of damage for these 19 (nineteen) nos. of rubber plantation owners are from 80 to 800 matured rubber trees.
    The remaining 31 (thirty one) nos. rubber growers are within the range from 7 to 79 nos. of damage.
Loss of mature rubber tree is cumulative loss
    As everybody is well aware of the fact, it takes quite a long time (7-8 years) to grow rubber trees to be productive, when one loss occurs, growers can’t gap fill with a new seedling because in the middle of the mature rubber plants, new rubber seedling will not grow.
    So, what you loose is loss from regular return. That’s; grower is actually permanently loosing the matured rubber trees.
    As grower, you can’t even utilize the space created due to loss of matured trees with other purposes too. This is due to thick canopy of surrounding of rubber trees that would prevent any new species or even rubber seedlings to come up. That means, loss eventually reflects on your long term economic goal.
    The question is; who would want to be susceptible to the cyclone and other forms of natural calamity?
    But case in the point is; rubber growers or people connected with rubber plantation seem to be not doing enough. This is because; rubber growers rarely take management measures to protect their rubber plantation from cyclone.
    This (management) point should draw the attention of all rubber growers and planners or strategists. They should find out as to why this (wind break) onetime and easy to take up (wind break tree plantation) aspect is not realized properly despite ample evidence of damage by the cyclone to the Rubber plantations in the state.
Issue in public domain
    It’s not the issue is alien, the issue is in the public domain, people were heard saying their economic misery due to onslaught of cyclone on rubber trees.
    I’ve heard and learnt the issue from my association with many rubber plantation owners and, I’ve had practical experience from own village and elsewhere as to how devastating the cyclone was to the plantation crop like rubber.
Rubber plantation needs serious thought out plan
    The fact of the matter is, rubber being long term perennial plantation crop though remain productive for longer period of time do also take longer time (7-8 years) for achieving productive stage.
    So, when a mature and productive rubber tree which is about to be used for tapping or already in latex tapping stage fall the victim of cyclone then it’s cumulative loss to the rubber plantation owners.
    Therefore, learning to avoid this unavoidable cyclone should play vital role in protecting the interest of rubber growers.
    One peculiar aspect that is observed is, though cyclone causes substantial damage to the rubber growers but how to avoid and manage rubber plants and rubber plantations from vagaries of nature is not hugely discussed topic as far as field level adoption is concerned.
Historical evidence of cyclone affect on Rubber
    Well, I’ve collected some data as represented above from Unakuti, North, South, West and Sipahijala districts where cyclone had caused damage to the Rubber plantations in varying degrees.
    Historically, cyclone had affected the rubber growers in past also, I’ve had the information from my own area since 1998 onwards and practically, there had been devastating affect that almost mowed down a mature rubber plantation.
    But interestingly cyclone, it’s something like luck factor sometime it happens in scale or partly or no damage at all but to whom and where it would inflict the next damage is unpredictable.  
Past experience is not reflecting future endeavor
    Growers are aware of the fact but except some elite or educated rubber growers, maximum growers are in the opinion that like any other natural calamity, it may cause damage to them. That’s they (growers) don’t think for protection or management measures (wind break tree) for their rubber plantation.
    There’s some kind of inhibition or reluctance so far as adoption of wind break trees plantation is concerned for safe guarding the rubber plantation.
    They actually feel for cyclone but when it comes to practically taking up the wind break tree plantation, they seem to be reluctant.
Rubber growers’ perspective
    On grower’s point of view, what’s important is whether they have actually taken up any safeguarding measures while starting the rubber plantation.
    What’s the reality that you could assume from the random data shown above is, it’s showing the practical data reflecting the damage and its prevalence (cyclone) in the state.
    The matter of the fact is, as a concept, the preventive measure is not that difficult one. Rubber growers can easily implement this in field level.
    The most popular method of managing or protecting the rubber plants from cyclone is  through planting of certain tree species in North and South direction or otherwise in the border lines surrounding the whole rubber plantation.
    What’s to be pointed out is; if there’s certain kind of mechanism with which important insight could be spread to the stake holder (rubber growers).
    As stated above, people are well aware of the fact due to the exposure in real life or through media but it’s also the reality that there’s least amount of recommendatory measures found in the public domain that could have been beneficial to the people wanting to start rubber plantation along with wind break tree plantation.
    That’s to say that there should be information on the issues and at the same time, there should also be solution measures for creating awareness to the rubber growers too.      
Objectivity of the issue
    My point of view is very clear, as an enthusiast rubber growers, you can’t afford to remain with only on the basic issues of growing rubber trees, you should also take all such necessary steps for Rubber Plantation. This is because when you have taken major pain in establishment of rubber plantation, implementing cyclone management is relatively a sort of tertiary work that absolutely requires no major headache in terms of amount of investment.
    The mentality that has arisen due to the fact that plantation is still safe should not be construed as permanently safe. This is because, cyclone effect might have happened to some body this year but nobody can guarantee that it’ll not happen to you in next year.
    The point is; this can happen with anybody in any time therefore considering for taking up the issue with seriousness is utmost importance.
Expert View
    In the interaction with few rubber growers, it has come to my understanding that there are no definitive recommendations like any other issues which have serious thought out plans by the concerned department too.
    This is how the rubber growers perceive. The case in the point is; is rubber board consider affect of cyclone on rubber as substantive one or otherwise.
    If substantive, what’s the suggestion they make to the rubber growers to protect their rubber plantation from cyclone and other form of natural calamity.
    Are there any special tips for rubber growers for cyclone prevalent months like April to July?
    Are there contingency plan to help the affected rubber growers?
    While discussing with the rubber growers, I could not get any idea on what’s to be done in these crucial issues.   
    However, one grower pointed out that his rubber plantation is covered under insurance plan through rubber board. It’s stated that rubber board would pay certain amount of money on per plant damage based on the age of the plantation.
    The coverage for rubber tree of 6-7 years is said to be 625 per plant. That means; when a 6-7 years old rubber tree is damaged their grower will get 625 (Rupees six hundred twenty five) based on the certain guidelines. But this gives only nominal amount compare to what is supposed to be getting by the plantation owner had the rubber plants been saved. When a grower suffers maximum damage, he’s puzzled to take right decision.
Cyclone compels but indecision remains
    What happen is; when a grower loose more than 200 numbers of matured rubbers trees, he can’t even decide what’s exactly to be taken to recover from the loss.
    There’s also situation that rubber growers can’t just start all over again. This due to the fact that if out of total 650 nos. rubber trees, 200 is lost in cyclone, rest remains 450 but in the dwindling income he can’t decide as to how to readjust.
    In this typicality, he just can’t take appropriate decision because; recovery action depends on the nature and pattern of damage.
    Say for example, if in a given rubber plantation, one portion is completely mowed down and rest are good condition then you can think over for new plantation in that particular site.
    However, if damage is distributed in the whole plantation then you can’t do anything but to be with economic misery.
    This is because, you don’t like to cut down the rubber trees that withstood against the cyclone and gives you half of the return of the whole plantation.
    But, whether or not to be with remainder in less return is important decision, a rubber growers has to take.
Documentation on the cyclone affect
    Although, there’s occasional reporting on the issue of cyclone and it’s affect on rubber plantation but there’s no data or documentation indicating the damage that took place till date.
    Unless there’s organized data, interpreting and finding out the effective solution measure would be difficult to arrive at therefore, there should be documentation on the issue.
    This documentation should be made at department level involving grass root level organization like the Rubber Producers Society or any organization that works in the welfare of the rubber producers in the state Tripura, India.
Knowing something but doing something different
    The matter of the fact is; maximum rubber growers are aware of cyclone and it’s eventualities but most of them are not taking up corrective step even though concept is known and eventualities are well understood.
    The point is; does it indicate the extra involvement in taking up of wind break tree plantation shying away from doing required work?
But, so far as involvement of extra investment is concerned, it’s pretty less and in terms of percentage of share of total investment it’s pity amount.
    What’s understandable in Tripura perspective is; there’s some kind communication gap, if there’s awareness also, it might not be up to the extent that’s reflecting in field level participation by the most rubber growers.
    If it’s due to fear of extra involvement then rubber growers should not consider the wind break tree plantation as an extra; it should be part and parcel of whole rubber plantation process.
    This may also be one factor I hope many rubber growers are not implementing the wind break concept in the whole issue of establishment of rubber plantation.
Does availability of local resources an issue?
    Again, this should not be fact; in fact there are many locally available tree species that can be used as wind break tree. Tree species like.
    1. Mango
    2. Jackfruit
    3. Sal
    4. Eucalyptus (comparatively new)
    5. Acacia
    that grows luxuriantly and fast can be made used quite successfully.
    The case in the point is; may be level of knowledge is making huge difference in field level adoption by the rubber growers.
Mass awareness needed
    There’s strong need for creating awareness and awareness to teach what is practically needed and to be done for better management of rubber plantation.
    It’s generally understood that people are aware of the concept of the wind break tree plantation but in reality growers with whom I interacted while collection of information does not seem to be well conversant on the wind break kind of things.
    That means there’s gap in knowledge and understanding in the appropriate target group.
    However, the idea to be adopted, the message should be well dispersed to the target group in every level through effective extension campaign / mechanism.
    Assumption is; this should not be difficult one owing to the fact that the major issue of other plantation management has already been part of the whole plantation process.
    So, encouraging for wind break tree plantation that requires much less effort should not be the factor that would require much persuasion.
Rubber growers need to re-look the whole issue
    It would not be wrong to say that more than 90% of rubber plantations in Tripura don’t have wind break mechanism to protect the rubber plants from cyclone.
    This is what I’ve observed all through my journey to different rubber growing belts of the state.
    From the present scenario, it could be said that rubber growers are actually preoccupied with the accommodation of as many rubber seedlings as possible with the goal to produce maximum natural rubber latex.
    But one very core aspect, wind break tree plantation is sidelined in the process.
    Therefore, rubber plantation owners should re-look the whole issue of rubber plantation taking / considering all such important aspect for achieving wholeheartedly in their economic prospective.
Growers’ Practical knowledge to avoid cyclone affect
    There’s one opinion that’s expressed by growers; in the initial year of plantation, it should be ensured that branching of Rubber tree should not take place at the height of 5-6 feet that’s said to be futile due to the fact that whenever there’s gusty wind, breakage of side branch takes place in the joint portion of the such rubber trees.
    Well, generally branching don’t take place at ground level however when growing tip of the main shoot of rubber seedling is damaged or growth is inhibited then there’s bound to be side branching in the rubber tree.
    What one grower suggest is; whenever there’s side branching, effort is being made to remove side branches retaining only one main shoot.
Training of rubber seedling
Training of rubber seedling
    Of course, there’s no data to prove that branching portion is weak that tends to be susceptible for damage due to cyclone.
    What’s usually observed is uprooting, mowing down and of course breakage of main branches of the rubber tree.
Strategic planning to safe gourd the plantation
    In the prevailing condition, there should be planning by the concerned department or organization to protect the interest of the rubber growers.
    It is expected that concerned department would be looking into the matter and consider research effort for finding out the effective measures to protect the rubber plantation from cyclone and other forms of natural calamity.
    At the local level, people especially rubber growers should also take certain measures by which damage is minimized and risk is curtailed.
    In Tripura, as repeatedly mentioned that people are quite experienced and aware of the occurrence of cyclone but concern is why wind break is not popular.
    Hopefully, the rubber board being the main body for rubber and rubber research might have the scientific guideline as to how to manage in such situation. The Board also surely come out with many new successful process or techniques in the evolving situation that rubber growers can implement and can be pursued to take up windbreak tree plantation.
    It would not be wise to note that there’s scarcity in methods for rubber growers to take up at field level for cyclone management measures, there’s should be the appropriate process/steps as mentioned above.
    The fact of the matter is, it is the rubber board that can give specific recommendation on the issue of cyclone management and other important steps/techniques as far as rubber is concerned.
    In general, what some rubber growers do in the name of cyclone management through wind break tree plantation is more of a generalized one with no specificity on what species to be considered and spacing to be followed etc.
    From the field survey generated data, it’s also observed that some growers had taken the matter with due seriousness and this should give idea to the neighboring growers as to what’s to be done a grower part. These few intelligent growers are doing exceptional things on their own.
    What the growers’ shares is more interesting process with which they aim to tame the cyclone from its devastating effect. What they do is; first a row of tree species planted in 6 to 8 feet spacing and in second row, tree seedling is planted at distance at 8 feet from first row considering that in the second row tree seedling is planted in a way that is forming a triangle shape.
Windbreak tree seedling plantation
Windbreak tree seedling plantation
     The idea is; by planting the seeding in the position would act as wind seal so that cyclone doesn’t directly strike to the rubber plants.
     This is of course the idea of the rubber growers for positioning of his rubber plantation from cyclone.
   What’s understood is; a species with thick canopy can be used or could serve the purpose of wind break mechanism to certain extent.
     Or, any hardy tree species with thick canopy. Aforementioned species are although available locally however not tried by the local rubber growers at local level.
     The point; the trees in the boundary line should be acting as diffuser of strong wind current. The devastating wind speed if obstructed by the tree in the boundary line should weaken when finally it enters in the whole rubber plantation. The tree should withstand the strong wind velocity.
     So, what the species used does not count much so far as it doesn’t affect the rubber plants, it’s to protect the rubber plants.
Age of plantation an issue
     While discussing the wind break issue with growers, one issue surpassed that’s whether or not wind break tree plantation is effective in case of grown up plantation.
    But, it (wind bread) would not be any use, if this is taken up to the grown up and mature rubber plantation, it should been planted simultaneously with rubber seedling plantation.
     When wind break tree and rubber seedling is planted simultaneously then there will be uniformity in growth to a certain extent and this will ensure your rubber plants gets safe guarding from initial year onwards.
     What would happen, if rubber growers mind to take up wind break plantation when his plantation is 10 years old? When wind break tree attains the position to support your rubber trees, your plantation will be 20 years old which is the start of declining of productive stage of rubber.
What is chosen? Seeds, seedling or planting material
     Of course, this is very difficult to elaborate because, the practice of taking up wind break tree plantation is quite rare in the state so there’s any practical experience even though I’m from rubber growing belt.
     However, in discussion with few rubber plantation owners (well educated) owners who actually suffered the setback due to cyclone, I’ve been given an idea that both seeds and seedlings of wind break tree are planted in north south direction and surrounding the plantation at 6-8 feet away from last line of rubber seedling or rubber rows in boundary line.
     There’s one interesting aspect that has come in discussion, Rubber of hardy clone type is also said planted in the boundary line to act as wind break.
     But, at the some time, I was also given an idea that this type of rubber tree does not give good return in terms of latex compare to popular rubber selection or clone in the rest of the given plantation.
     What’s lacking is; there’s no knowledge regarding definite spacing to be maintained and numbers of rows of wind break tree is to be planted for ensuring effective management strategies from cyclone affect.
     But logically, seedling should be considered for planting because in that case number missing seedlings should be less.
    Again, so far as tree spacing is concerned, it should be comparatively less than the normal because, your aim is for dense plant population to protect the rubber plantation from cyclone. This way, you ensure affordable live fencing with these wind break trees.
    This is the fence which will decide largely the faith of your rubber plantation from vagaries of nature.
    In so far as hardy rubber clone is concerned, it’s not sure what that Rubber clone is. What the grower is to say is it’s of hardy type rubber plants.
    There are hardly any one who knows available rubber clone or selection available in India as well as outside, growers confusion is due to lack of knowledge on available rubber.
    Here are some rubber clones or selection in India as well as outside India.
     1. RRII 105  
     2. RRII 118  
     3. RRII 203  
     4. RRII 208
     1.   RRIM 600
     2.   RRIM  623
     3.   RRIM  628
     4.   RRIM  701
     5.   RRIM  703
     1.  GT1
     2.  PR 255
          TIMBER CLONE
     1.  RRIM   928
     2.  RRIM   929
     3.  RRIM   931
     4.  RRIM   2014
     Logically, what to choose over other is less important so far as if both the category is maintained for the purpose of safe guarding the rubber plantation.
     But, what I understand is – both will have beneficial effect and at the same time again, there’s bound to be adverse affect too. I say adverse because some productive rubber plants could not be accommodated that could have given a fair share of yield either latex or final product that is dried rubber sheet.
     But fact of the matter is – if you even take up other species will also cause some economical loss because the given space you could have accommodated few more rubber seedlings so is extra natural rubber latex.
     In any case you have to sacrifice something to gain in return. But relating management measures with economic return is always good to have because; your effort should be paying off.
Nobody can guarantee
     Yes, but then if one rubber tree is saved, you are saving good pie in return. The fact of the matter is; wind break will substantially reduce the intensity of damage by saving so, is likely to ensure protection to the maximum rubber plants.
     Nobody can guarantee that wind break tree will give cent percent protect in to the rubber plantation.
     But, it will definitely ensure that manageable or moderate types of cyclone don’t inflict any remarkable damage to the plantations.
Wind break; a perpetual requirement
     By this time almost the entire land that can be brought under rubber plantation have been covered. Considering the maximum plantations are in the stage of mid productive stage hence, some people question the relevancy of wind break as too late to be considered.
     But to be precise, there’s relevance for thinking of finding effective solution for managing the rubber plantation due to natural calamity like cyclone, fire and flood etc.
     Although, quite a good percentage of existing rubber plantations are in the middle stage of productive cycle and there are also quite a good percentage of plantation at the fag end of productive cycle.
     But, having repeatedly mentioned in my earlier post, Tripura is emerging state in rubber plantation therefore maximum numbers of rubber plantations should be in the initial years of establishment.
     Again, rubber plantations which are in the fag end of productive phase would be removed and re-plantation would again be done so, necessity for windbreak is bound to would emerge repeatedly.
     So, there’s relevance of wind break concept that would be felt time and again. What’s to be said is; so long as popularity of rubber is there, there will be continuity in rubber plantation and when there will be continuity there’ll always be requirement for wind break tree plantation like anything else that comes in the process of management of rubber plantation.
     The above scenario gives a glimpse on the issue of windbreak tree plantation for managing the rubber plantation from cyclone.
     Although the primary objective of raising rubber plantation has been achieved quite significantly but some issue (s) not given due importance.
     Windbreak is not a make or break kind of thing but ensuring this aspect would surnely bring extra advantage to the plantation owners.
     What is supposed to be done is:-
     (1) Growers awareness on windbreak mechanism
     (2) Target message to the target group.
     (3) A serious thought out contingency plan.
     (4) Insuring the rubber plantation, if available.
         This is my views and understanding on the issue, yours views would certainly help in the process. Your valuable feedback is requested in the comment box.
         N:B: For specific tips or suggestions, user is requested to refer Rubber board of India guidelines.