By Pitambar Sigdel
Nepalese farmers have been devastated by the April earthquake and subsequent aftershocks.Livestock, crops and agricultural machinery are still under rubble. Thousands of farmers lost their homes, relatives, farming equipment and land. The earthquake’s impact on food security and agricultural livelihood is already significant.
Livestock, crops and agricultural machinery are still under rubble. Thousands of farmers lost their homes, relatives, farming equipment and land. The earthquake’s impact on food security and agricultural livelihood is already significant.
“I lost my ox, plough, scythe and other equipment. I had 300 kg. of rice, wheat and maize for the coming month, but all are under rubble, so I don’t have any idea how to survive and produce crops,” says Rambahadur Bomjon, a farmer from the Dolakha.
The latest estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture predict the agricultural sector has lost around 10 billion rupees in livestock and crops (almost USD $97 million). 1 billion rupees alone are estimated to have been lost in aviary production, with 47,500 hens and ducks lost to the earthquake. 9,000 cows, buffalo and ox have been lost as well as 15,000 farm animals such as goats, pig, sheep and other small animals. As well, there is more than 32,000 metric tonnes of harvested crop still under rubble.
Farmers are struggling with the loss of family members, finding shelter and their own psychological fears.
“I will have nothing to eat for the coming month. My house is destroyed and I don’t have seeds or farming equipment,” says Urmila Tamang, from Batase, Kavrepalanchock district. She also lost her 9-year-old daughter in the earthquake.
At the same time, they are faced with a food crisis and have virtually lost all crops that were stored. There is a small window for farmers to dig out their crops, but the pre-monsoon season has already started, which puts farming on hold from June to September. Drought and rupturing grounds are other significant concerns this year, and any crops that could be harvested cannot be stored because the traditional storage buildings are no longer standing.
Unfortunately, Nepali farmers do not have crop and livestock insurance, and the government is still undecided about potential compensation. However, the government is expected to help manage quality seeds for affected farmers.
But with collapsed irrigation systems, farmers like Bomjon are demanding compensation for more than seeds: new equipment and oxen for example.
Before the earthquake, the government predicted 1.8 million tonnes of wheat would be produced in the coming year, but the production is expected to decrease significantly. Now, the FAO reports approximately $8 million is required to help Nepalese farmers recover lost inputs and resume production in time for rice sowing.
“It’s the symbol of future food crises and food insecurity,” says Hari Prasad Parajuli, Minister of Agriculture. “Mostly the farmers from remote areas will have to face serious food crises.”
The agriculture sector is the main GDP contributor in Nepal. Maize, wheat and rice are the primary crops, contributing to one third of the country’s total economy. The ministry had predicted 2.3 million tonnes of maize and five million tonnes of rice before the earthquake.
Now, farmers in remote areas like Bomjon are continuously focusing their eyes on the skies for a helicopter with a pallet of rice and relief materials.