03/05/2016, 11.34
NEPAL
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Drought continues. Population risks starvation

by Christopher Sharma

In Karnali region no rain since July. It is one of the poorest areas of the country, with the lowest level of education. Shortage of irrigation equipment, the only source of water are ponds, which, however, are dry. Crops lost; the exodus of young people; residents forced to sell cooking pots to buy food.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - After the earthquake of 2015, the long months of the Indian embargo on exported goods, the difficulty in the reconstruction and distribution of international aid and the agitation of minorities, the Nepalese population is now at risk of starvation from drought.

Particularly the northwestern region, known as the Karnali, where there has been no rain since last July and farmers have lost half their crops. Lotai Lama, who lives in Simkot in Humla district, says: "We don’t have big dreams, we just want to survive. Forget human rights, political and other democratic rights ... we do not even know if we have two meals a day, whether we will live or die”.

According to Agriculture Ministry official, Chandra Prasad Risal, the region was hit by the most intense wave of drought in 40 years. Haribol Gajurel, Agriculture Minister, said: "We know that the Karnali region suffers from a vicious circle of poverty. But we will not let anybody starve. We will provide food and other necessities, taking them from other parts of the country. "

Despite the assurances of the Minister, the conditions of the population in the districts of Humla, Dolpa, Kalikot, Jumla and Mugu are desperate. The Karnali region is among the poorest in the country, with the lowest level of education. The population is almost exclusively employed in agriculture and depends on rainfall, which in turn affect the progress of the harvest. There are no facilities for irrigation and crops cultivated include rice, corn, potatoes, barley, beans, buckwheat, millet and soybeans.

Chief District Officer for Agricultural Development (Dado), Ramsagar Sinha, reported that "agricultural production has fallen by 50% and most of the land is uncultivated. The winter crop, which usually grows after the snowmelt, has suffered the effects of drought. The truth is that the area needs support from outside to feed the families. "

In Dolpa, where 90% of the fields depends on rainfall, the agricultural land remained barren. Bhim Bahadur Dharala, DADO chief in the area, said that 80% of winter crops have not grown.

A further consequence of the agricultural crisis is the exodus of young people abroad. Most go to India in search of work, and only the elderly and the sick remain in the villages. One of the residents, Hariyo Damai, admitted that he was forced to sell the cooking utensils to buy food. "For the first time in my entire life - he said -, ponds, our only source of water have dried up."

In the district of Kalikot food shortages are afflicting 35 thousand people; in that of Jumla, rice production decreased by 20%, beans by 30%.

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