Files This photo taken in March shows carcasses of sheep, mountain goats and yaks that died due to heavy snowfall. Photo: Republica
POKHARA/MUSTANG, May 26: Having lost almost all of their cattle due to severe weather as well as dearth of fodder and grass in February and March, farmers in Mustang are left with no resources to resume farming. Their request for help from the government bodies has largely gone unheeded. Neither the provincial nor the central government has allocated adequate budget to support the affected farmers.
Over 4,800 cattle starved to death due to shortage of grass and severe weather in weeks-long snowfall in Mustang in February and March. The government of Gandaki Province has allocated only Rs 2 million for building cowsheds, while the federal government has not allocated any budget at all.
Farmers say that being cash-strapped, they can hardly resume cattle farming without external support. Massive damages occurred in five rural municipalities—Lomanthang, Gharpajhong, Barangu Muktichhetra, Lo Ghekar Damodarkunda, and Thasang. The local body of Lomanthang has allocated a budget of Rs 750,000 to support the farmers, but this amount is only worth 1 percent of the total value of cattle lost.
According to the official budget allocation, loss of a yak is compensated with Rs 1000 while deaths of male and female mountain goats are compensated with Rs 300 and Rs 200, respectively. Likewise, compensation for each baby goat is Rs 50.
However, these amounts are extremely small compared to the market value of the animals. While a Yak costs Rs 100,000, a mountain goat costs anything from Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000.
Chief Administrator Officer of Lomanthang Rural Municipality Sushil Aryal said that the catastrophe was not expected, and no budget could be allocated for the purpose beforehand. However, they still managed to allocate the amount, he added. Aryal also said that the federal government should allocate budget to compensate the farmers.
No other municipality has allocated any budget for the farmers’ support. Both government authorities and lawmakers from the high mountains accept the fact that farmers are on the brink of leaving their profession, which may send them into a vicious cycle of poverty.
Chief Administrative Officer of Ghekar Damodarkunda Rural Municipality Manohar Dhungana said that they have not yet fixed any amount to compensate for the loss of cattle in the snowfall.
“We have an amount of Rs 1.5 million allocated for the natural disaster, but no decision has been made to pay the farmers,” added Dhungana.
Both Gharpajhong and Thasang rural municipalities informed that they have not yet made any decision on this matter. Whereas, Barangu Rural Municipality said that the budget allocated for natural disaster has already been distributed to victims of landslides, and that it was left with no additional budget for the purpose.
Lawmaker of Gandaki Province from Lomanthang Indradhara Bista said that the catastrophe has left farmers helpless as they could hardly resume their profession and make a living out of it.
“But they have very little help, if at all, to make up for their losses,” said Bista.
The government of Gandaki Province has allocated Rs 2 million for the purpose but that is very little compared to the damages, according to Bista.
“Losses are in the tune of millions of rupees, but the provincial or central governments are not serious about it,” said Bista. He also stated that the federal government should address the farmers’ concerns immediately.
Spokesperson of Agriculture Ministry of Gandaki Province Madhav Lamsal said that the amount was provided for building cowsheds to keep the cattle safe during harsh weathers in future.
As per the damage reports compiled by local authorities, the losses could be above Rs 100 million.