May 212014
What's no longer reliable: rain for transplanting rice

What’s no longer reliable: rain for transplanting rice

The heat is undeniable these days. Some say it’s part of “global warming“, others suspect smog pollutants to be the cause, still others point to a regional cycle of climate change. But in either case, the weather over Nepal is warming up, and what’s worse for farmers: it’s also getting a lot drier. The annual monsoon is failing. In some areas the amounts of rain is a mere shadow of the past, in others it falls like a torrent, submerging paddies and washing away crops. Farmers across the country are in urgent need of irrigation or flood protection as the monsoon is delayed, erratic and insufficient. 

Consequence of migration: lack of farm labourers

Consequence of migration: lack of farm labourers

One misfortune rarely comes alone and indeed that’s also the case with the failing rains: many villages in Nepal are confronted with a critical lack of manpower. Out-migration of young men who travel to places like Qatar and Malaysia for work has exploded. As a result, villages across the country are left without the laborers who used to build and maintain the local irrigation canals and flood dikes. While the need for this infrastructure is more urgent than ever, there’s not enough manpower available to build it. Meanwhile, help from the government is limited, and so millions of farmers are left in dire straits.

When the rain fails: drought-striken maize

When the rain fails: drought-striken maize

This April alone – the time when rain is supposed to irrigate the land – forest fires broke out and tube wells in places like Mahottari ran dry. Once again, farmers are anxiously awaiting the monsoon. The rain is supposed to come by mid-June but is increasingly delayed and insufficient. To make things worse, the heat allows pests to flourish and eat up the crops. Farmers are calling on agricultural officers to give advice: to suggest which alternatives to rice and other traditional crops might exist and to train them in cultivation. However, many farmers are left without advice and just try to make by.

Giving farmers the word: still from Floriane Clements videos

Giving farmers the word: still from Floriane Clement’s videos

But why not give the word to the farmers themselves and hear their account of the situation. Indeed, that’s what Floriane Clement at the International Water Management Institute has done. There’s nothing like listening to the experience of those who are facing the crisis in agriculture first hand. Watch the videos below recorded by villagers that her team (Pawan Kumar and Preeya Nair) trained in handling a camera, and hear their testimony. The videos are from the Janakpur area but could have been recorded in many other districts. In short, here’s what local farmers have to say.

Video 1: Changing agriculture under a changing climate

Video 2: Cooperating under a changing climate

For more of Floriane Clement’s videos – recorded by locals themselves – visit the project website here. The project was funded by IWMI and the CGIAR programme on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

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