Kathmandu, 10 October: Ravi Ale has worked the family’s two hectares of land in eastern Nepal since he was old enough to help his father. But after a lean harvest this year, and with his cash running out, he will leave next month to look for work in India, along with five of his friends in the village.
The problem is drought – one that has lingered for more than a year in a region only rarely previously hit by dry conditions.
“Paddy (rice) and maize almost failed to grow as the monsoon brought no rain,” said Ale’s wife, Sunita, sitting outside her home in Aangna, a village of about 570 households.
Climate change is bringing tougher times for many farmers around the world, including those in eastern Nepal. A prolonged winter drought hit tea production in the region, and a weak monsoon season means vegetables and other food crops are expected to fail in many areas, farmers said. “Water scarcity and drought were something alien to us a few years ago but they have become a new normal now,” said Ale.
He said Nepal’s National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) had ranked Panchthar district as one of the less-drought-vulnerable districts in a 2010 vulnerability mapping exercise.
“Even drought-resistant crops cannot stand as a strong option in such conditions as they are consumed by pests if not by drought,” he said.
Niraula said that many local people have used up their reserves of food and animals and now fear worsening hunger, particularly if the kind of drought seen over the last year becomes more frequent.
Such changes are already underway in a range of villages in Nepal, and harvests are improving in those areas, residents say.
As a result, in Aangna, a growing trickle of farmers is now looking to migrate to tide them over until the next rains.
“I want to live here with my family but at the same time I can’t see my children go hungry,” Ale said.