Jiwan Shahi: I keep saying we don't have a food shortage in Humla, we have a rice shortage. The people of Humla have their own crops: corn, millet, potatoes. It is true that winter droughts over the past two years have affected these indigenous crops, and the food shortage is more acute than in the past. The rice that is flown in to Humla for the civil servants has spread dependency on the outside world for food even to Humlis.
What can be done to make Humla self-sufficient?
Southern Humla, where there is supposed to be a food shortage now, is the part of Humla that can feed the whole district. It's a low-lying valley, and bananas and vegetables grow there. If only we could irrigate the flats along the Karnali, the farms could make Humla and even the whole Karnali, self-sufficient.
And less dependent?
Food should never be just given away except in extreme emergencies. The World Food Program is on the right track with its food for work program. If we can use the food to build irrigation in southern Humla it would solve our long-term food crisis. As an MP I have always stressed on road access and irrigation for Humla. This way, we can set aside upper Humla for livestock, middle Humla for fruit and nut cultivation, and southern Humla for grain. And you will see that within a few years Humla won't be hungry anymore.
As an MP you must know all the politicians in Kathmandu, why can't you ask them for help?
I have, but Humla is always given the least priority. I have been in politics for 20 years now, and they always say "yes-yes" and then nothing happens. All we need is Rs 40 million in irrigation for Humla to grow enough food, but I am beginning to suspect there is no interest in making us self-sufficient because the mafia involved in flying food grains to Karnali have a vested interest in keeping us hungry.