Riverside farmers prepare for flood season and show challenges with lack of supplies

Bruno Pacheco – Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – Farmers and fishermen who live by the Rio Negro are getting ready for another intense period of flooding in the Amazonas countryside. Almost one year after the waters of the state reached overwhelming levels, registering record highs, the riverside dwellers fear again the arrival of floods in stilt houses and in the plantations used by them as a means of subsistence.

On Jacurutu Island, a riverside area 30 minutes away by boat from the city of Iranduba, the São José Community spends, on average, six months of the year under water because it is a floodplain region. Because of this, the residents suffer with the impacts of the rising water and end up losing all their crops, having to adapt to the reality of the place.

Jurandir Santana, 56, is a farmer, fisherman, and manioc flour producer, has been living for six years in the community with his family, where they plant manioc, cassava, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, onions, cheiro-verde, and other kinds of vegetables. According to Santana, starting this month of April, the tendency is that the Rio Negro will start to fill up and threaten the field where he makes his daily living.

Jurandir Santana showing the yuca root, harvested after seven months of planting (Bruno Pacheco/Cenarium)

“We plant for our own consumption and to sell. Starting in April, the tendency is to flood and we’ll start again in September. During this period of time when it’s flooded, we fish. Some fish, others go to work on dry land. And this is how we survive”, said farmer Jurandir Santana.

The crops, according to Jurandir, are sold in the city of Iranduba, in the Metropolitan Region of Manaus (RMM). The food that is not sold is consumed by the community or donated. In 2021, Jacurutu Island was completely under water. The farmer claims that the flood was the worst and most horrible he has seen.

The farmer has lived on Jacurutu Island for six years with his family (Bruno Pacheco/Cenarium)

“It was a historic flood. A horrible situation. It was one of the biggest floods of the entire Amazon in my entire existence here. I am 56 years old and it was the first time I saw the river rise so much. Besides, we were submerged”, recalled Jurandir Santana.

Historical flood

Santana told CENARIUM that he is hopeful that the level of the Rio Negro in 2022 will not reach that registered in 2021. Last year, the water reached, in Manaus, on June 20, the quota of 30.02 meters. The mark was the highest in history since records began in 1902.

“We hope to God that it doesn’t reach last year’s level, because it will be a disaster, everything will end and we will be at the mercy of many things. Last year, some people helped us. Five entities contributed with ranches”, he commented.

Another farmer, José Hélio Furtado, who has lived in the region for 56 years, since he was born, says that the flood brought losses to all residents. To CENARIUM MAGAZINE, Furtado showed how high the river reached him.

“In the flood of 2021, my loss was R$10,000. I went through bad times and many here went through worse situations than mine. Last year the flood came very strong. I am 1.72m and as we can see here, where it was marked on the church wall, the water surpassed my height”, said José Furtado, pointing to the mark left by the water in the church.

“Pézão” showing the mark on the wall left by the water (Bruno Pacheco/Cenarium)

José Furtado, known in the community as “Pezão”, highlights that agriculture is the main economic means of the island and affirms that it is not possible to live from fishing alone. Every year, the farmer waits for the dry season to be able to plant and harvest the crops to sell in the city.

“I live off agriculture. I plant and wait to be able to sell something. This year [2021], I planted tomatoes, the water came and took everything. But it is something of nature, and nature is perfect. There is no one who can undo it. If it was God who took it away, there is no reason to complain. When man is the one who destroys, you have to fight”.

For “Pezão”, the inhabitants of the region need to always have a reserve to be able to overcome difficult times caused by floods. The farmer remembers that he already does this and emphasizes to CENARIUM that he uses the resources saved for personal supplies and to buy seeds.

“We always have a reserve saved. For example, I have money saved to buy seeds. If I have R$ 2 thousand, I save one thousand to buy seeds and plant. It is a money that you save every year and when we need it, we use it”, emphasized Pezão.

River level

According to the monitoring service of the Port of Manaus, the level of the Rio Negro on Tuesday, 12, is 27.91 meters, having risen four centimeters in one day. On this same date, in 2021, the water level was 27.92m. The mark of the river, for the first time in three days, is not above that recorded in the same period last year.

Rio Negro once again registered, on Tuesday, 12, lower levels than last year (Thiago Alencar/Cenarium)

The Geological Survey of Brazil (SGB – CPRM), in the first flood alert for the rivers Negro, Solimões and Amazonas, respectively, that wash Manaus, Manacapuru and Itacoatiara, does not predict that the level of these waters exceed the historical mark recorded in 2021. According to the agency, in Manaus, the estimate is that the mark of the Rio Negro should reach 29.40 meters this year.

For Manacapuru, the CPRM forecast is that the level of the Solimões River will reach 19.90 meters in 2022. The chance that the historical maximum of 20.86 meters will be exceeded this year is only 4%, according to the agency.

For Itacoatiara, the CPRM forecast is that the Amazon River level will reach 14.70 meters in 2022. According to the agency, the probability that the historical maximum of 2021 will be reached is only 8%. Last year, it reached 15.20 meters.

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