Delays for planting season due to water shortages

Rice planting in North Hwanghae Province
Rice planting in South Hwanghae Province. Image: Rodong Sinmun

Chronic water shortages are causing delays for the planting season in North Korea. Droughts have led to diminishing water supplies for farmland and there are mounting concerns that the planting season will not finish on time.

Multiple sources in South Pyongyan Province told Daily NK that a meeting held to discuss the progress of the planting season on June 7 focused on the fact that around 50% of the fields have not been planted yet due to the issue.

“It’s an emergency situation,” one South Pyongan Province said.

North Korea generally holds its planting period for one month from early May to ensure that all farms start and finish their planting activities at the same time. Most farms would normally have almost completed their planting activities by early June, but the lack of rain has caused delays this year.

Daily NK reported last month through a source in South Pyongan Province that the lack of water in Pyongsong, Kaechon, Pyongwon, Sukchon and Mundok has led to delays in these areas. A source in the area reported that an intense drought had taken hold and noted that, “the reservoir water is so low you can see the reservoir bottom, so there’s no water to use in the fields. Even the creek nearby [the farm] is all dried up.”

North Korean state media has mentioned the difficulties faced by farms due to the lack of water.

The Rodong Sinmun reported on June 5 in an article entitled “Meeting the Challenge of Nature with Strong Determination” that “several areas of South Hwanghae Province are facing a lack of water due to a number of factors.” The article went on to say that “In Eunryul County, the Taedong River has lower water levels than usual. Farms are unable to conduct their planting activities on schedule because less water is flowing through water pumping stations.”

Radio Pyongyang, which is aimed at foreign audiences, reported that, “the continued drought has led to lowered water levels in both reservoirs and the Daedong River, and this is delaying the planting activities of farms in Paechon, Yonan, Kangryong, Ongjin, Jaeryong, Anak, and Shinchon.”

North Korean farmers in August 2018 in North Hwanghae Province attempt to prevent drought damage
North Korean farmers in August 2018 in North Hwanghae Province attempt to prevent drought damage. Image: Rodong Sinmun

Local agricultural management agencies are encouraging farmers to “dry harrow” their fields given the lack of water. Dry harrowing involves farmers using a harrow to even the fields after ploughing to crush lumps of earth in the absence of water.

The Rodong Sinmun reported on June 17 in an article entitled “Ways to Overcome the Recent Drought” that the head of the Agricultural Research Institute, Kim Song-jin, encouraged farmers to use the dry harrowing method so they could “save a great deal of water” and that “other water saving methods like furrow planting, mount planting, and planting without plowing should be used to save as much water as possible.”

The newspaper also published articles encouraging the use of water-saving practices including those entitled “Our Salvation: Dry Harrowing,” “The Practical Dry Harrowing Machine” and “[We Must] Actively Use Farming Methods to Save Water.”

A separate source in South Pyongan Province, however, said that “these farming methods are ineffective due to a lack of tractors, cows and any sort of fuel like diesel.”

For their part, the North Korean authorities are still encouraging optimism for agricultural production under the slogan “Let’s Support the Party with Rice.”