August 27, 2016
BHAKTAPUR DISTRICT, NEPAL — It was the first day for planting rice seedlings and an open-air celebration in Kautunje, a large village of around 20,000 people, was underway.
Farmers had for weeks plowed the land and prepared the seedlings. When it came time to plant, each small seedling was pressed into the tilled earth by hand, one plant at a time.
“This year was the first real planting of rice after the earthquake,” says Shanti Thapa, referring to the earthquake in Nepal in April 2015 that destroyed her home and hundreds of others in the village.
The agriculture sector in Nepal suffered massive losses due to the earthquake, according to a government report that assessed the impact of the disaster. The sector suffered losses of around 28.3 billion Nepalese rupees ($264.9 million), according to the same report.
Almost two-thirds of Nepal’s population was engaged in agricultural activities in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, according to the Ministry of Agricultural Development, the latest year for which data has been released.
The production of rice in the planting season immediately after the earthquake, dropped by 22 percent, according to the ministry. Corn production fell by 20 percent in the same period.
Yogendra Kumar Karki, spokesperson for the Ministry of Agricultural Development, says the ministry has observed an increase of rice farming, from 42 percent of available land farmed last rice planting season, to 53 percent of land being planted in the current season. The ministry estimates 5 million metric tons (5.5 million short tons) of rice will be produced this year, he says.
For farmers like Thapa, the recovery process has been slow and arduous.
Thapa, 40, says her family, which includes two grown children, lost all its seed crops when their house, made of mud and wood, collapsed in the earthquake.
Before the earthquake, the family harvested about 18 muri (1,080 kilograms or 2,381 pounds) of rice every season, Thapa says. They sold some of the rice for income, as well as seasonal vegetables family members grew between rice seasons.
Rice farming occurs once a year, and is based on monsoon rains. The planting season is from April to August.
After the earthquake last year, Thapa borrowed seeds from a neighbor whose store was not affected to plant half her family’s usual area of 2 ropani (about a quarter of an acre) of land, she says.
“If we had not planted a little paddy last year after the earthquakes, we would have had to live in hunger this year,” she says. “We would not have had any food to eat.”
The family has lived in a temporary hut since the earthquake.
“It has been difficult to eat, live, rear cattle and produce food due to the lack of a house,” says Nani Ram Thapa, 42, Shanti’s husband.
The family waited for almost a year after the earthquake to receive funds promised by the government to rebuild homes, Nani Ram Thapa says.
“After getting fed up of living in the shack for a long time, I started building the house,” he says. “But I have bitten off more than I could chew! Now I don’t have money, nor is there anybody to give me a loan.”
He was also motivated to begin rebuilding the house because, he says, he heard that the government would provide a loan of 2.5 million Nepalese rupees ($23,403) to each family. But the family hasn’t received that money.
A majority of families in their village are suffering the same plight, he says.
But now, with the new planting season, hope has come to the village. If all goes well, the farmers will harvest their crops between October and December.
Sagar Ghimire, GPJ, translated this article from Nepali.