4-10 December 2015 #785

The worst drought

Janak Raj Sapkota in Nepal, 29 November

Thirty two-year-old Brahma Bahadur Shahi along with two hundred others from his village in Mugu recently walked two days to Gamgadhi, the district headquarter, to purchase rice.

While in previous years the villagers grew enough crops in the summer to last them for six months, bad weather and scanty rainfall affected their harvests this year.

“We will have to buy rice for the whole year,” said Shahi who purchased 50kgs of rice during his visit.

The situation for the farmers has been made worse by the current blockade which has affected transportation of food supplies from the Nepal Food Corporation to remote areas.

“It didn’t rain the entire monsoon, so the district is facing an acute food shortage,” said Chandra Prasad Risal, Chief of District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) in Mugu, “This is probably the worst drought faced by the district in 15 years.”

According to a preliminary report prepared by the district office, 14 out of 24 VDCs in the district have been severely hit by drought, accruing a loss of Rs 217 million. Out of the four belts in the district, Gam is the worst hit.

The situation is no better in Humla where locals say there hasn’t been any rain for four months. According to Dinesh Ray, Chief of DADO in Humla, all 27 VDCs of the district are facing food shortage. The first tri-annual report prepared by his office concludes that food scarcity and the risks of famine are set to increase. The transport of fuel supplies by air have also been affected in places inaccessible by road.

Says Narayan Singh KC of Nepal Food Corporation in Humla: “Many more people need food supplies, but we are running out of rice. We don’t know what to do.”

The situation is similarly dire in villages across the Karnali district.

Kul Bahadur Shahi of DADO in Kalikot says, “We need to double the amount of rice distribution. It is likely more people will move to India to look for work if this continues.”

In five of the 30 VDCs of Kalikot, the crop production has gone down by 90 per cent according to DADO.

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