Story of rural woes

Published On: June 30, 2018 01:00 AM NPT By: Prakash Acharya

Rural people look less motivated in agriculture in many hilly areas. Lack of irrigation and easy access to loan has made the matter worse

Fetching one gagri (traditional water jar) of water from the stream down to the village takes almost one hour. Individuals from every household, mostly housewives and also males and school going children, spend altogether over five hours a day doing this. They use this water for drinking and cleaning purposes. Additionally, they have to go to the streams for taking bath and washing clothes. Normally, every four-member family with two to four livestock needs to manage more than 150 litres of water for a day. Carrying a water jar in doko (hand-woven bamboo basket) on their shoulders back from Ranajor or Nagthan uphill home is one of the most important chores of the villagers. This tale of Kathajor and Thulimadhau of Manthali Municipality of Ramechhap district speaks of the woes of villagers in other parts of the country.

“We have not harvested rice for 13 years after local water sources dried up. Ants walk on the barren fields now. Due to lack of water, we are unable to plant vegetables. We have to walk over three hours to go to Manthali bazaar and return for buying veggies and other grocery items,” said Chandra Bahadur KC, headmaster of local Kalika Primary School. Thanks to the scarcity of youths, most of whom are away from home for earning, the laborers from Bajhang, Surkhet, Humla, Jumla and other far-west districts are employed in the construction of earthquake-damaged houses on 1500-2000 rupees as daily wages in Ramechhap. 

Unhappy country

Youths are either in Gulf countries, Malaysia or Nepal’s urban areas, mostly for earning livelihood. Workers from far west reaching out to eastern remote villages show how people from one deprived place are compelled to go to another underprivileged place in search of employment. Had there been self-employment or any other earning options, they would not have to leave their homes. Hiring untrained workers by poor villagers for constructing houses also shows how far-off villages are being out of workforce turning their once productive lands into barren fields.      

The locals are unhappy. “People used to produce milk and vegetables and sell in the district headquarters some 13 years ago. The village had greenery. All this has come to an end after local water resources dried up. The village resembles semi-desert now,” said Mohan Thapa, 64. No one has conducted study on why water resources dried up. 

This scribe met with the remote villagers listening to and watching their plights in the course of a research arranged by Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) that provides fund directly to the community people in 58 districts, Ramechhap included. Deprived people form Community Organizations (CO) comprising themselves as members and mobilize revolving fund provided by PAF as loan among them for doing some income-generating works like vegetable and livestock farming. “We have not been able to utilize the loan support sufficiently as we are unable to farm livestock professionally due to scarcity of water,” said Min Bahadur Thapa, 61, of the same village who is raising some goats and a buffalo with much difficulty. 

Government investment in alleviating poverty is becoming ineffective due to crisis of water, a basic need for daily life and farmers.  

Political leaders, think tanks and media personnel are busy talking about lofty developmental agendas like railways, hydro projects, per capita income, gross domestic product and investment in big projects. Even the district-level media outlets rarely talk about people’s real needs like water. Big development agendas seem to be mocking their plight.  

Rural people look less motivated in agriculture in many hilly areas. Lack of irrigation, easy access to loan and instrumental and technical support that the government’s agricultural offices are supposed to provide, awareness of modern agricultural techniques and tools, difficulty in having access to market for selling products and poor guidance by government technical assistants,  among others, are responsible for this.

Setting example 

Despite all odds, some farmers are found doing exemplary works by making self-income generation through agricultural production or by utilizing local resources. Khim Bahadur Adhikari, 44, of Manthali-13 is an iconic farmer. He earns over half a million rupees every year from vegetable farming and goat rearing.

Adhikari grew up in an economically miserable family of 12 members. He worked in the carpet industry and drove a rented taxi in Kathmandu for paying off the loan and managing family expenses. But he returned home 12 years ago after he heard the success stories of farmers. Now, his three children study in Kathmandu. He has constructed a concrete house spending 1.7 million in his village. “Life was hard. It was difficult to eat meat once in three months. However, now, we eat meat twice a week. Vegetable and goat farming has raised standard of my family. Adhikari was of the view that youths should work in their own soils. They can reap gold.   

Farmers like him suggest the government provide training on income generating activities and arrange basic needs like irrigation.  

This year the government has allocated around six percent budget on agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting. If this budget can be utilized in addressing basic needs like water it can motivate rural people to start income generating enterprises. It would also persuade youths abroad to return home.  Rural people are waiting for effective government response. 

The author is a lecturer at RR Campus

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