By Raju Lamichhane,Mushikot, Mar.7: As there has been neither snow nor winter rain so far this season in Rukum East district, farmers there are worried that they will starve to death.
In the only Himalayan district of Lumbini Province, the farmers, who make ends meet by cultivating food and fruits, are staring at imminent food crisis because of lack of winter rain and snow.
During this time of the year, the hills used to be white with snow. But it is just the opposite this year. Making matters worse, there are no irrigation facilities, either.
Farmer Mankumar Budha, who is cultivating apples in Ghumlibang, Putha Uttarganga Rural Municipality-10, said that the lack of rain has wilted the apple plants. Budha, who is also producing apple plants through the model agricultural farm, informed that 6,800 apple plants planted in the nursery this season have started withering due to a lack of irrigation.
Nale Gharti, who runs a Nursing Multipurpose Agricultural Farm in the same village, said that 100 apple trees, which had started bearing fruit, are drying up due to lack of water. “There has been neither rainfall this winter nor irrigation facility,” Gharti said.
On January 24, for the first time this season, it snowed in the higher parts. Since then there has been neither rain nor snow. While there was light snow in Sisne and Putha mountains, Nursing, Putha, Chaurikhark and Lalpatan mountains have been without snow, as have been farmlands in these areas.
The farmers, who used to start planting corn after snowfall, have kept the land barren this time. Farmers have said that the beans, potatoes, wheat and barley crops planted in some places cannot bring good yield in absence of water. The farmers, who depend on rainwater for farming, worry that they might starve to death.
Thal Bahadur Basnet, Information Officer of the Integrated Agriculture and Livestock Development Office, Rukum East, said that wheat, barley and mustard needed a lot of water. Now it is time to sow maize, but farmers are leaving their land barren for lack of moisture.
According to the office, a total of 20,265 hectares of land is cultivable and 19,175 hectares is irrigable in the area. Basnet informed that 11,580 hectares of
total irrigable land are cultivated with rainwater and seasonal irrigation. He mentioned that only 16,670 hectares were cultivated this year in the district. However, the farmers are said to be hoping for snow.
Puniraj Gharti, chairman of Putha Uttarganga Rural Municipality, said that the farmers, who are hoping to harvest their crops after a snowfall, will be in dire crisis if there is no snow until the second week of March.
“The local government should keep tabs on the situation. If conditions get much worse, it should reach out to the farmers with help package,” Gharti said.