In Salyan agriculture grants do not reach farmersWhile the budget allocated to them is being misused, most farmers in the district remain unaware of the grants meant for them.
When the goat keepers of Sharada Municipality in Salyan formed a farmers’ group some four years ago, they were supported by the then District Livestock Services Office.
Within two months of formation, the goat keepers, registered as Radhika Goat Farmers’ Group, secured a grant of Rs 1 million from the livestock office. With the money, the group decided to construct sheds to operate a community goat farm. But none of the group members used the newly built sheds to keep their goats. Many of them converted their goat sheds into storage space to keep firewood.
The chairman of the Radhika Goat Garm Group, Uttara Bista, said that she had been out of the district for about a year and that a group meeting would soon be convened to run the farm effectively.
"We have built the sheds but the farm is yet to come into operation due to a lack of manpower," Bista said.
Every year, the Agriculture Development Office, Livestock Services Office, Cottage and Small Scale Development Committee release millions in grants to support farmers and businesses, but these grants are seldom put to the intended use.
There are several instances of farmers misusing the grants issued by the government, according to Purna Bahadur Budhathoki, a resident of Bangad Kupinde Municipality.
“Most grants go to those people with political connections. The farmers who are in real need of financial support hardly get anything from the government offices,” he added.
In the last fiscal year, the provincial government distributed around Rs 40 million as grants for various agriculture and animal husbandry programmes in Salyan. The amount was nearly doubled to Rs 70 million this fiscal year.
A large portion of the grant money was issued to non-farming people, according to Hari Prakash Budhathoki, the vice-chairman of District Coordination Committee.
“Those who aren’t even farmers had applied for grants. They used forged documents to take grants meant for needy farmers,” he said.
“We have found many cases like that and we have also found that the local units have been distributing such grants to party workers under different headings."
Most farmers in the district are unaware of the grants.
Tej Bahadur Thapa, a local of Kapurkot Rural Municipality, who set up a juice plant four years ago, said that he was yet to get a grant for his enterprise.
“Most of the information is only published on the office’s notice board. The information about how to avail of the grant never reach us,” he said.
Rup Singh Rai, chief officer of Livestock Services Office in Salyan, agrees that a lack of proper dissemination of information has made the grant programme ineffective. “We have started to disseminate information through different media after reading reports of how farmers are unaware of the grant extended by the government,” said Rai.
Purna Bahadur Budhathoki, a resident of Bangad Kupinde Municipality, who runs a spice factory echoes Thapa’s sentiments.
“My grant proposal for a spice processing plant to the provincial government was turned down last year. I don’t know why my proposal was rejected,” he said.
Having been rejected, Purna Bahadur no longer believes that the government agencies help the needy farmers and enterprising people.
“The grants are issued on the basis of one’s political connections. And once the grants are issued, the concerned authorities do not even bother to monitor how the money is being utilised,” he said.
Agriculture Development Office in Salyan claimed the office had been carrying out regular inspection and monitoring of enterprises running on government grants following complaints of irregularities and fund misuse.
“We have intensified technical monitoring before and after distributing grants to prevent the misuse of grants meant for farmers,” said Resham Bahadur Basnet, information officer of the Agriculture Development Office. “We have become more vigilant after reports of misuse of grants in several municipalities”