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Food shortage stares Karnali folk

Kalikot villagers in district headquarters Manma to buy rice.

Karnali, February 29, 2016: Karnali zone in the Mid West that often faces food shortages has gone through a long spell of drought this year, raising fears of a famine unless help arrives. The region has not received rain since July.
Hectares of arable land lay fallow as water sources are drying up. Crop production in Humla, Dolpa, Mugu, Kalikot, Jumla and Mugu districts has fallen by half, local authorities said. People are worried about an acute food shortage.
Farmers depend on rain for growing crops as there are no irrigation facilities. Ram Chandra Budha of Gothi, Humla, said their summer crops were not good while the winter yield has also reduced significantly.
Lotai Lama of Simkot said there was little snowfall this year. “We used to grow crops after the melting of snow,” he said. It’s almost seven months since the last precipitation.
Ramsagar Sinha, officiating chief of the District Agriculture Development Office (DADO), said crop production has gone down 50 percent as most of the land remained uncultivated. He said winter crops would also be hit by the draught.
In Dolpa, where 90 percent of fields rely on rainfall, farmlands have remained barren. Man Bahadur KC of Pahada VDC said the crops had dried up. Bhim Bahadur Dharala, acting chief of DADO Dolpa, said that 80 percent winter crops had failed. Mukot, Chharka, Tinje, Bhijer, Saldang, Dho and Phoksundo VDCs, which are food-insecure, are sure to face an acute food deficit. “Farmers used to harvest 14,429 tonnes of summer crops each year. The production this year was only 30 percent,” said Dharala. Dolpa Horticulture Officer Bhuwan Bahadur Malla predicted a 60 percent fall in farm yield this year. Farmers grow rice, maize, potato, barely, beans, buckwheat, millet and soybeans in the district.
Of late, there has been an exodus of youths from the region. They go to India in search of jobs. Villages are left with only old and sick people. Hariyo Damai of Rawaldanda in Photu VDC said he had sold kitchen utensils to buy food. “Ponds, our only source of water, have dried up, first time in known history,” he said.
According to Senior Agriculture Officer Chandra Prasad Risal, the draught was the worst in the Karnali region in the past four decades.
In Kalikot, food shortage is imminent in remote VDCs. Chief District Officer Pradip Shrestha said arrangements had been made for five depots to supply food grains to nine VDCs. Around 35,000 people have been directly affected.
In Jumla, paddy production fell 20 percent whereas beans yield has declined by 30 percent. Electricity generation from Jugad river, which supplies the district headquarters Khalanga, has been halved due to a reduced flow of water.
The town receives power merely five hours a day. Senior Agriculture Development Officer Bishnu Bahadur Mahat expressed his hope that the people would not starve as the district is linked by roads.