Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nepali farmers abandon rice as monsoon shifts

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio in AlertNet: For most of his adult life, Bidur Basnet has planted paddy rice each monsoon season on his five hectares of mountain land. But in the last five years, as monsoon rains have grown increasingly unreliable, he has had to abandon the country’s staple crop. Now he grows easier-to-water vegetables on half his land, leaving the other half fallow.

“How can we prepare our paddy fields when we do not know which month in any year the monsoon rains will drench our fields?” grumbles Basnet, 43, who gave up rice farming after seeing his harvests fall by a third. “Sometimes the monsoon rain is on time and sometimes it is delayed. Such unpredictability is really confounding for us.”

With rains that used to come in April now shifting as late as mid-June, vegetables, which can be watered by hand if needed or planted at the time rains finally fall, are now a better bet, he says.

“Growing cash crops like potato, garlic and onion that require much less water as compared to paddy and have ready buyers in the local market has been a source of secure, constant income for our household,” Bidur told AlertNet Climate.

Battered by growing rainfall variability and unpredictable weather, Nepal’s rice farmers are looking for alternatives, including new crops....

Drying rice in Nepal, shot by Markrosenrosen, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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