Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) on Wednesday announced that most parts of the country have thus far received below-average rains during this year’s monsoon. Ponds and lakes used by farmers for irrigation too have dried up and farmers have now given up on hope.
Nepal’s Southern Terrai region, the country’s food bowl, is facing a drought and there is little attention to the needs of desperate farmers as political leaders wrangle over seats they must contest in elections later this year.
Rupandehi is one such district. It borders the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Young men have begun migrating across the border in search for jobs – of which there are few on the Indian side as well.
The yellowing paddy fields have a tale to tell. A tale of the lack of water and no rain in over a month. And, with the monsoon nearing its end and the rains remaining uncertain, farmers of Rupandehi foresee trouble. As a result, the farmers have started cutting the paddy crop so that they can feed their cattle. This is grass, not a harvest. The crop was destined to perish in the drought. They say that this way, the paddy plants can at least be used as fodder for feeding animals.
Earlier, in absence of timely rains, farmers bought fuel at high prices to water their lands so that they could transplant the paddy. Now the lack of rain has added more problems for the farmers who have been cultivating paddy due to lack of fertiliser and water. Now the fields are cracking up due to lack of rain.
The ponds and lakes used by the farmers for irrigation too have dried up now. The underground water too seems to have vanished and farmers have now given up on spending money on fuel to pump out water from underground boring using pump sets.
In short, there is no hope of water from anywhere.
Nepalese daily, The Rising Nepal, quoted farmer Radha Koharang of Rupandehi’s Marchawari block saying this is a drought in the Terai and all hope of seeing the rice crop bear grains have vanished. She explained that this is why her family has started cutting paddy plants to feed the buffaloes.
“Weeds have grown in the fields with no rains, there is still no likelihood of rain,” she said. “The crops planted are not useful for us; at least we can feed the buffaloes.”
Another Marchawari farmer, Ram Naresh Koharang, said that due to the high cost of fuel, they could not irrigate water to the fields.
He said that the money he had was spent on planting paddy and now it is difficult to manage the expenses of feeding and educating the children.
Farmers who do not have access to irrigated areas are mostly affected by the drought. Farmers in Marchawari, Dhakdhai and Lumbini blocks have very little access to irrigation and farming in the region is mainly rainfed.
Awaiting government assistance
It is double whammy for many of the farmers as they were hit by heavy rains last year. On the other hand, they are facing a drought situation this year.
According to farmer Duniyapati Yadav, there is no hope of rain and the paddy crop is certain to fail. He demands that the government should declare the district as drought-affected and announce a relief package.
“I appeal to the federal, province and local governments to declare drought-affected areas and distribute relief,” said Yadav.
Yadav said that the local government should take initiative in this regard.
“The local government is a body that understands our problems. So now we should start protecting our people from this immediate problem,” he said.
According to Rupandehi’s Agriculture Knowledge Centre, around 270,782 tonnes of paddy was produced in the district last year with a productivity rate of 4.2 tonnes per hectare.
Around 58,337 hectares of land of 82,622 hectares of total cultivable land in Rupandehi is under paddy cultivation this year and only 57,989 hectares have irrigation facilities.
Anil Baniya, information officer of the Agricultural Knowledge Centre says that the productivity could shrink by 15 per cent this year due to shrinkage in the area of paddy plantation and present drought.
Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) on Wednesday announced that most parts of the country have thus far received below-average rains during this year’s monsoon.
The Madhes Province that covers the Terai region stands out among the regions that saw below-average rains.