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Farm Products Declining

June 28, 2016

“We want to sell the paddy field, and if we can’t sell it, we will plant trees there,” Tara Achraya, a student who is now doing his Masters in English at Tribhuvan University, recently told this scribe. His small paddy filed lies just next to our home in Ilam. Until a decade ago, Tara’s family used to depend on the paddy filed to meet their food needs. Of course, this was the only land they had to grow rice then. But now it has become a burden for them as they lack the necessary hands to work the paddy field. Tara’s parents are getting old while his younger brother works in Malaysia as a migrant worker. His two sisters have already been married. Now only his old parents are staying at home.

As the paddy plantation season is approaching, this man is greatly worried as to how he will manage to reach home to plant paddy. Last year he had leased out his small farm for planting paddy, but this season he has none. Obviously, planting paddy has become an expensive venture, mostly in the mountainous areas over the years. No one is willing to lease a paddy field for lack of manpower and growing wages of the workers.

“Neither do we have animals to plough the field nor women family members to transplant the paddy seedlings,” Tara, a bachelor, added.

At least two male workers and two female workers as well as a pair of oxen are required to plant paddy on a farm a day.  One of the male workers ploughs the paddy field while another prepares the field to sow the seedlings. The two women collect the seedlings and transplant them in the ready field.  While one has to pay Rs. 1,000 in wages for a pair of oxen a day, the minimum daily wage of a farm worker is Rs. 500.

Again there is a practice of providing snacks and evening meals to the farm workers, especially those involved in paddy transplantation. Still, there is always a shortage of farm workers in the villages as most youths have gone overseas as migrant workers. Hence, Tara needs Rs. 2,500 a day, and it takes at least five days to transplant the paddy on his small farm.

Sadly, the production of paddy in the small field is hardly enough to meet the total expense incurred during the plantation season. Paddy fields need to be irrigated regularly while weeding is another key work at the end of August. Sometimes, the field needs to be guarded as monkeys have become a big menace for the farmers in recent years.

Tara is not the first person to decide to plant trees on the paddy fields in this village. A few paddy fields in the village have already turned into jungles for the same reason, and the new jungles have become a safe haven for the crop damaging monkeys.

Although the government in every annual budget has included plans to increase farm production, it has not done anything to address the problems of the small farmers like Tara. Even in the Terai, many paddy fields remain barren due to lack of manpower and irrigation facilities. As the farmers have stopped growing paddy on their farms, paddy production has dropped significantly over the years. Now this agrarian country spends billions of rupees every year to import rice. Not only that, the government has to receive rice from friendly countries in the form of donation to meet the domestic demand. But only little effort has been made to increase farm production in recent years.

By BG