Covid exposing Food insecurity vulnerability of Far West

Kailali– Kailai, the poor will not even get a scrap while the rich flourishes even in famine – this is the words from BudhikalaPariyar aged 50, residing in Kailari Rural municipality ward No. 6. Like many, due to lock down, she was stuck in Delhi where along with her husband she had gone for labor work.

The family of 13 – along with the couple 2 sons, their wives and 7 young grandchildren, has hard time dealing with daily requirements. The sons work to feed the family. They own a meager 2 katha land the couple started facing additional pressure to be engaged in earning for their survival. At the end of Magh they both went to Delhi to work. Husband got a work in a textile factory that paid 8 thousand rupees for his hardship. The second month saw the lock down come into effect. Shares Pariyaar.

She says, “The money that our sons send was not adequate to run the family, so we decided we also lend our hand. It is our misfortune.”

We are all now at home. We do not have enough land to grow food for family and the labor work is also not timely paid and sufficient. Budhikala mourns the hardship.

PradeshiChaudhari, aged 32 of same community has been working as labor in different states in India for more than 10 years now. He used to enter India twice a year and return with nearly 1 lakh Indian rupees every season.

He resides from Kamaiya family. He has so far used most of his hard earned money to buy 8 katthaa land. His family includes 4 children, his wife and mother and his father. He used to return to his home in Asar and Asoj for paddy plantation and harvesting respectively while rest of the period he enters India for daily wages.

Covid has brought a massive tragedy in his life. During the lockdown the family was residing in Bikram village of Paliya, working in a sugarcane company, eagerly waiting for the border to open so that they can go to their respective houses. Once the border opened, he found out his wife has gone missing. June 15, his wife was nowhere to be seen.

Aggrieved Chaudhary shares, “On the 20th June, with 4 children I came back to Nepal. A foreign, additional to that the fear of Covid – where and what were I supposed to do?” He has decided not to go back to India and that he would start a new business in agriculture in his own land.

Similar decision is echoed in Shankar prashadDhungana’s words, who have been working in Mumbai Kanduli. He is currently staying in quarantine at Laxmi high school in Kailaari 8.
He came back to Nepal with his wife SitaDhungana and 4 years old daughter. After over a decade living in India, he is finally thinking of not going back and put his efforts in agriculture in his own land.

“I have my parents and 2 children. I had taken one of the child and my wife to India to work and used to send around 50 thousand every month which was adequate for my parents to take care of one of my children and manage the house. We also have 10 katthaa land. Now we plan to work in our agriculture field, he said.

Nepal government has enlisted to prioritize agriculture, employment and health in this year’s policy and program.

These are mere examples. More than 6 lakhs people of far west are engaged with foreign employment. The country has seen a 3 months of lockdown since Chait 11 to Asaar 1. According to Far-west Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration, 2,42,529 people have entered Nepal from India. Far West State is the most prove to Covid 19 due to the fact that it scored the highest in terms of returnees from foreign employment.

Food insecurity in Far West
Out total 19, 539 square kilometers, most of the hilly lands are left barren. Tarai region covers 4,857 which over 24 percent. The census of 2068 reported that total population to be 25, 52,517 whereas, the midterm estimated population is 28,26,123

And out of 3,68,796 hectare land only 3,22,000 is used for agriculture with 1,66,325 hectare or 44% irrigated. Kailali and Kanchanpur are the most suitable for agriculture in Far West.
Foreign employment especially those gone to India have been hit hard by Covid 19 after being sent back to Nepal amidst their job raising the issues of food insecurity in the province.
The records from the past is not encouraging as the local production of all 7 hilly areas in the province hardly last for a year. It is said that over 6 lakhs people move to India to earn living every year, however, the numbers is not formally recorded.

Sherbahadur Saud, from Achham says around 70 % Nepali have lost their job in India due to the pandemic. He has also returned as soon as the lock down was loose.
HarkasinghDhaami, from Golkule of Darchula shares his local scenario that rural communities are already entangled in famine. He distresses, “how long the local level canbe distributed food materials relief support the people.”

According to TekbahadurBista, Information Officer of Far West Agriculture Development Directorate, the local production of food material in 7 hilly districts has never been adequate. He further points out the productivity of Kailali and Kanchanpur and emphasized the proper management of the production distribution to prevent food insecurity in far west province.
Baajura, Bajhaang, Achhaam, Darchulaa and Baitadi homes around 10, 56, 048 population living under food scarcity, adding more anguish, this year saw the food production reduced to 35 metric tons only.

Far west requires around 5,43 ,042 metric ton food supply every year to cover its total population. The production from Kailali and Kanchapur are stored for future. Dadeldhura and Doti can survive a year on their local production but it all depends on the climate.

In fiscal year 2076/077, the Garima Hybrid paddy planted in 653.43 hectare land did not bore grains, reducing the production by 2895 metric tons, shares Bist. However, he further appeals locals not to be depressed as there claims the availability of 15, 08, 919 metric ton food supply in total that includes over 1,02, 724 metric ton and 77,110 metric ton food materials stored in Kailali and kanchanpur respectively.

Government should manage the proper distributing channel of food materials from Kailali and Kanchanpur to the hilly areas of the province. Bistafurther claims that had the food supplies not been exported to India in the past years, the food insecurity could have been avoided.

Information officer Bista points out that every year Nepal exports paddy and wheat grains to India in exchange to 36 arab worth rice and that a policy for proper management of the local production with sound distribution channel should be formed soon. Over 22 arab worth long grain rice are imported from India. Province government should establish collection centers along with the bigger seller industries in the Province itself, says Bist.

Furthermore, he adds that the global economy is crumbling due to Covid 19. Nepal is also facing the ripple effects. If the government can form policies and programs based on the needs and plan, the production of Far West province is yet not that concerning.

Records of Far west Production
According to data of 2074/075, Far west province has produced over 6 lakh 93 thousands 706 metric ton. Out of which 5 lakh 34 thousand and 787 metric tonsare consumed whereas 1 lakh 58 thousand 919 metric ton are stored.

Likewise in 2075/076 10 lakh 29 thousand 499 metric tons were produced and in 2076 7 lakh 23 thousand 880 metric ton and in 2077 7 lakh 58 thousand and 365 metric ton were produced as per the record of Agricultural development Directorate.

Similarly, according to DilliraajPokharel, Information officer at Nepal Rastra bank in far west province, over 2 arab 35 crore 56 lakh and 10 thousand remittance was received from foreign employment for the months of Magh, Falgun and Chaitra. He said that large number of man power travel to India from Far West Nepal for employment opportunities. Most of the workers do not use bank transfers, he adds, thus it is hard to tell the remittance in exact numbers.

Covid 19 has certainly bestowed opportunity for 2 and half lakh youth who have returned to Nepal, if the government could utilize the sources and framework in the agriculture sector and prevent the province from food insecurity, he shares.

DevilaalKhanal, food security activist shares concerns over the famine in Far West after Covid 19.The government should allocate budget and form policies and programs to prevent the future famine and unemployment problems, as well as especial focus should be on the vulnerable groups. He further adds that it is very vital that government investment is utilized on the necessary sectors.

Laajuraam Chaudhary, Chairperson at Kailaari Rural Municipality said that a proper policy is being introduced that promotes the agriculture as contemporary and reputed profession along with development and employment in the coming fiscal year focusing on deteriorating development and economy due to corona virus. The municipality will develop short term, mid-term and sustainable Agriculture Plan and allocate necessary budget for so, he further adds.

Policies that will allow communal land, guthi land, community forest and river sides be used for agriculture is in effect to attract and encourage foreign employment returnees.

Fertilizers exceeds last years’ demand but found to recipients
Based on the agricutural land available in Nepal, throughout the country 7 lakh 50 thousand metric ton fertilizers is required but till date only 3 lakh metric tons have been distributed. The record shows that 60 percent of the farmers are not reliant on chemical fertilizers.

Agriculture Material Company and Salt Trading Corporation has been distributing fertilizers in Far west, and yet the farmers have complains that they have not received them on time.
Prem Bahadur Chaudhary, 50 of Ward No. 8 Kailari rural municplaity says that he has already finished plantation without any use of fertilizers. He adds that untimely use of fertilizers can reduce the production. He complains that he has already deposited required amount at the nearby cooperative but did not receive the fertilizer in time.

“Every year the government announce policy and program to promote farmers for sustainable agriculture. Huge budget is allocated as well but the farmers and the concerned stakeholders are not aware of where the money is being spent”, says Chaudhary.

PadamAiyr, ward no. 10 Gairigangaa Municipality, shares concern over the possibility of food insecurity in current year. “Paddy in the field are already green and still we do not have fertilizers. I am worried, we use fertilizers to increase production but it is getting late.”

Ram Chandra Joshi, Fertilizer Branch officer at Salt Trading, Dhangadhi says that Salt Trading Corporation has purchased 1hundred 59 decimal 45 metric ton DPA, 2 thousand 74 decimal 80 metric ton Urea and 84 decimal 30 metric ton potash for Kailali alone. He adds 971.40 plain SSP, 345.40 Zync, 95.75 Boron and 2.55 AS all in metric ton have been purchased.

Every year Salt Trading has been importing 4 thousand 12 decimal 95 Urea, 1 thousadn 9 hundred 57 decimal 25 DPA, 256 decimal 10 metric ton Potash,he shared.

Similarly, Agriculture Material Company, Dhangadhi has procure 1 thousand 2 hundred 69 metric ton DPA and 1 thousand 33 metric ton Urea from Chaitra to Asar, shares NawalsinghBogati, company’s regional manager.He further adds that fertilizers were bought in the month of Jeth too but the blockades led to halt in import.

He adds that Far West province requires 15 thousands of Urea and 10 thousand metric ton of DPA every year. Despite that, only 5 thousand 174 Urea and 4 thousand 582 metric ton have been imported.

Summing up both the Salt Trading and Agricultural Materials’ purchases the total of 10 thousand 572 decimal 4 of Urea and 7 thousand 53 decimal 05 of DPA and 569 decimal 4 metric ton have been bought in.

Government of Far West initiated the Chief Minister Agriculture Program declaring the prioritization of Agriculture, its modernization and technical development. On the contrary, the farmers have not yet received adequate fertilizers even after the plantation season is over. Farmers were in demonstration in previous years pointing out the inadequacy of fertilizers.
Binita Chaudhary, Minister of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperative says that the government is promoting sustainable agriculture by introducing subsidy in interest, discount in taxes, electric irrigation, subsidy in the production and agriculture insurance.

In 2076/077 only 2 arab 30crores were assigned for agriculture, this year over 30 arab has been appealed in budget policy and programs, informs Minister Chaudhary. Further she adds that farmers are given 50 percent subsidy in seeds collection by the province government.

Covid 19 thoroughly has caused additional problem in transporting the fertilizers on time due to nationwide lock downs despite the tender calls, she says. In previous year, Agriculture Material Center distributed 20 thousand metric ton chemical fertilizers, thus this year anticipating the high demand, 30 thousand metric ton have been brought in.

Similarly, salt trading also has imported additional 600 metric ton this on the 10 thousand metric ton regular annual import.

But the question has been raised, so why are farmers still not getting enough fertilizers? Where all the fertilizers have been lost, Minister Chaudhari said that this topic has been in discussion in ministry.

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