Climate Change, Earthquake Spell Double Trouble For Nepalese Farmers

Nepalese farmers plowing their field
Nepalese farmers plowing their field
Shuriah Niazi

NAUBISE â€" In the village of Naubise, about 90-minute drive from the capital Kathmandu, farmer Nirbhaya Sapkota is experimenting with crop rotation, mixed cropping and even intercropping â€" anything to maintain soil fertility and moisture.

Sapkota, 45, and others this area are contending first-hand with the effects of climate change, which is particularly hard-hitting in Nepal because of its high poverty rates and low adaptive capacity. The major earthquake that struck in April has complicated matters even more.

But in this community, at least, Sapkota and other smallholder farmers refuse to go down without a fight. With the help of the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Program (HICAP), they began, in February, to adopt a variety of smart climate cultivation methods. The move is already paying dividends.

"Our production has increased since we started using bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides instead of chemical fertilizers," says Sapkota. "Apart from that, we have switched over to smart irrigation methods by collecting wastewater and rainwater in plastic ponds."

"Increased production means more income for the family by selling the harvest at the market," she adds. "The crops are also able to withstand fluctuations in temperature and rainfall."

The climate smart farming initiative is supported by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), an intergovernmental research organization. Through the project, farmers are provided critical information pertaining to crops through SMS notifications on their mobile phones in their own language.

They also receive information about sustainable energy usage. And a plant for biogas, produced from agricultural waste, manure and sewage, has been installed in the village so it can be used as a renewable source of energy.

Water worries

Mona Shreshtha is another farmer in Daitar. She too has succeeded in increasing her output through climate smart techniques. "We have seen that use of bio-fertilizers has had a positive impact on our yield. Our vegetable production increased after we started using bio-fertilizers, animal manure and bio-pesticide jholmol sourced from crop residue in our farm," says Shreshtha. "Now we no longer use chemical fertilizers. Thus our savings have also increased."

But the earthquake this April has increased the challenge for many smaller holder farmers. Yam Prasad Nepal no longer thinks he and his seven-member family can depend on agriculture alone. They are facing a shortage of water for farming and drinking, after water sources in the district dried up after the earthquake.

Before the earthquake the wells in the village were full of water. Now more than 100 households in the village have to fetch water from a nearby stream. "We are waiting for water," he says "We need it for everything, for agriculture, for cattle…. and also for drinking. If there is no water then we cannot survive. We don’t know what will happen to us."

The earthquake has taken its toll on almost every family in the village. Laxmi Prasad Adhikari, 45, is now looking for work as a laborer in the Gulf. His family of four is finding it hard to survive. "We suffered a lot during earthquake. My house was damaged," he explains. "I even lost two of my cows. Earlier, I used to sell 16-17 liters of milk every day. Now I am left with only 4-5 liters."

To deal with the tough times, people in the village are now expanding on their climate smart knowledge, moving toward new agriculture practices that require less water.

The Centre for Environmental and Agricultural Policy research (CEAPRED), a Nepal-based NGO, has provided a new variety of rice paddy to farmers, which uses less water and fertilizers.

Yam Prasad Nepal hopes it will be successful. "In the village we have received Charuva, a new variety of paddy, which is showing impressive results with less water," he says. "We are waiting for the final outcome. We hope to grow this variety of paddy as we are left with no water."

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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