Mahottari farmers worry about feeding family as they are yet to plant paddy without rainfall

Govinda Lal Khan Tharu, a farmer of Ramnagar of Bhangaha-4 in Mahottari district wonders how to put food on the table for himself and his family as he has yet to plant paddy this year without rain.

Being largely dependent on rainwater for lack of irrigation facility, the 65-year-old farmer has yet to plant paddy even when the Nepali month of Asar is ending. Asar is the month during which the peak plantation of paddy takes place across the country.

In previous years, his paddy plants would grow and turn green as of now during the same period.

This year, only sporadic rain has taken place during monsoon resulting in paddy plantation not taking place in most cases, sending a chill down the farmers’ spine that this might result in a famine.

Farmers of the villages are facing the same problem as they have not planted paddy when the planting season is about to be over. They are worried that famine may befall them as paddy plantation, their main crop for livelihood, has yet to take place.

“Asar is about to finish. As of this time, paddy plants should grow and turn green. But we are yet to plant paddy this time,” lamented Tharu’s neighbour Raghubir Mahara, 70.

Another farmer Haridev Sah, 65, is worried about providing food to his family as he has not yet started paddy cultivation due to lack of irrigation. “We have not planted a single paddy seedling for want of irrigation facility. I am wondering how to feed my family without paddy plantation in time,” he complained.

The farmers have given up when rain did not fall until the third week of Asar. “We had expected rainfall albeit late this year. But there was a sunny day on Wednesday. Now we have given up hopes of planting paddy,” said Iliyas Rayen, a farmer of Matihani-3.

For summer paddy cultivation, nursery beds are prepared, and seeds are sown before mid-Jestha (May-end). And the seedlings are transplanted after they are 25 to 50 days old.

But this time, farmers could not prepare nursery beds for want of irrigation on time. Without any other option, they sowed seeds in dry soil although it requires muddy soil for quality seed germination. But sadly, the seedlings have dried up without water.

“We may thing over whether or not the remaining saved seedlings should be planted even when it rains. We doubt that the over-growned seedlings can produce much paddy grains,” said Jagat Yadav of Bhalani in Balawa Municipality-11.

This time, the weather did not favour the farmers, said a litterateur Maheshwor Raya. Increasing deforestation and rampant extradition of river materials and digging the land for roads are to blame for these irregular patterns of rainfall, he said.

Water sources drying up

Without rainfall, water sources started drying up since the Nepali month of Chaitra (15 March, 2023), thus leading to water crisis. Lack of irrigation and the availability of seeds and fertilisers timely have been the perennial problems of the farmers.

The governments at all the three levels, federal, provincial and local, being least concerned about their problem have made the matter worse.

The unfair distribution of facilities and programmes targeting farmers has been a matter of concern, said Ram Chandra Thapa Magar, a farmer of Pashupatinagar of Bardibas-9. Only those who have an access to the people in power can avail such facilities, he rued.

Towards the end of Asar, the peak planting season, only 10 percent of paddy plantation has taken place in the district.

Fbeds for paddy seedlings and lack of adequate rainfall have caused a delay in paddy plantation, said Dr Ram Chandra Yadav, chief of the Agriculture Knowledge Centre, Mahottari.

Around 50 percent of paddy cultivation took place during the same period last year, he said. Out of the total 50,000 hectares of paddy cultivable land, paddy is grown on 45,000 hectares on average. Of them, 21,000 hectares have access to irrigation, and the remaining depend on rainwater.

Paddy cultivation has taken place only on around five to six hectares of land when Asar is about to end, said the centre.

Even planted paddy is turning yellowish green for want of sufficient water, said Dr Yadav.
Rivers including Ratu, Badahari, Bhabsi, Jangha, Mahara, Gananta, Oksi, Bighi, Khayarmara, Tuteshwor and Banke flowing down through the Chure mountain range through the district join each other and reach Sitamarhi district of India.

The farmers have however accused the authorities concerned of failure to tap into the rivers for irrigation.

Any government at all the three levels is not able to utilise the rivers flowing through the district for irrigation, complained Chandeshwor Raya Danuwar of Bhangaha Municipality-4.
According to the centre, rice plantation can take place within 15 days after preparing nursery beds when it still rains.

In case of rainfall not taking place, other crops requiring low amounts of water should be grown, suggested agriculture experts. Winter creepers, and other vegetables can be grown, suggested Dr Yadav, adding that the soil can be prepared to grow wheat when the Nepali month of Kartik starts (third week of October).

The farmers have urged their representatives to seek alternatives for irrigation. “Our representatives should understand that agriculture is everything to us.

Irrigation comes first when it comes to farming. The government at all the three levels should seek alternatives to manage irrigation,” said Laxmi Mahato of Gaushala Municipality.
Fifteen local levels of the district have launched various programmes targeting farmers.

But these porgrammes have not been effectively implemented without easy access to irrigation, said the farmers. Under such programmes, fruits plants and seeds of crops, vegetables and grass have been distributed.

In some cases, these programmes have not accommodated the actual farmers, complained the farmers. Such programmes should reach out to the actual farmers, demanded Satya Narayan Yadav of Bhangaha-4.

In the context that the farmers are not able to plant paddy due to lack of sufficient rain even when Asar is about to end, they have demanded adaptive farm package programmes by declaring the area dry and drought-affected.

“Now, we immediately need a relief package after declaring the area drought affected. Our timeline to repay the loan should be extended, and interests be waived.

Technical consultation and required concessional loan on the alternative farming are now required,” said Parshuram Thakur, coordinator for the All Nepal Peasants Federation, Mahottari.



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