Protect paddy farmersEase of access to compensation makes all the difference for the farmers hit by the deluge.
The end of the monsoon usually gives way to pristine blue skies and warmer sunny days. Yet, now, almost three weeks after the official announcement of the end of the monsoon, Nepal is still reeling from uncertain weather conditions. The warmer, drier conditions after the monsoons allow farmers to harvest their crops. But this year’s post-monsoon season is something that will, in all probability, remain etched in our memory for some time to come due to the fury of the unseasonal rains. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development has estimated the cost of the damage to the paddy crops at Rs8.26 billion.
We can unconditionally classify Nepal as an agro-based economy. The agriculture sector employs about 66 percent of the population and contributes approximately 36 percent to the gross domestic product. And yet, the policies and practices related to agriculture are still quite rudimentary. The people that toil come rain or shine and expose themselves to harsh elements for a meagre return, and bear the burden to provide sustenance for an entire nation, have been entirely ignored by the authorities. There is a stench of apathy even when they declare relief schemes for the affected farmers.
Token relief measures do nothing to cover the damage suffered by those wholly dependent on agriculture as a means of livelihood. It is often a case of too little too late, as those aware of the bureaucratic hurdles know. What should, in fact, be aggressively encouraged is the adoption of crop insurance which would provide a safety net in case of such unforeseen disasters as we have witnessed this year. Providing help with the payment of premium is one thing, but it is the ease of access to compensation that makes all the difference for the farmers. Such provisions of providing coverage to paddy crops should be encouraged, especially in remote areas of Nepal, where farmers remain unaware of changes that may provide some relief.
What Nepal currently lacks is a concerted effort to focus on our strengths. For far too long, little heed has been paid to developing storage and transport facilities. Access to water is pivotal in aiding crop rotation, and, in a country where there should be no shortage of water, the farmers still rely on the monsoon for a bumper harvest. And if drought strikes, the lack of water ironically would be a cause for concern for the farmers. Over-reliance on external factors has exposed us to risks that affect our self-dependency in an area that is often considered our mainstay.
With Covid-19 unwilling to ease its stranglehold on the economy, the current disaster heaped on the hapless farmers is a significant setback for Nepal’s economy. To succeed in protecting a sector that creates jobs and supports other sectors, we need to change our approach by incorporating mechanisms that will enable us to deliver in current times. It would be of no use to man or beast if the policies brought out by the government, however effective they seem on paper, fail to touch the lives of the people that they intend to serve.