Farmers in Kailali worry about losing their ready-to-harvest wheat cropsWith the possibility of empty granaries looming large, some farmers in the district have started working in the fields despite the nationwide lockdown.
With harvesting of wheat on the anvil, farmers in Kailali are worried about losing their ready-to-harvest wheat crops. The risk of contracting novel coronavirus has kept them indoors and away from their fields, and the lockdown has created a shortage of hired workers to work in the fields.
In Kailali district, wheat is cultivated in over around 40,000 hectares of land and the crops are ready for harvest in most fields in the district. Hari Narayan Chaudhary of Dhangadi, says his crops are ready to be harvested but, “the crops will soon scatter and wither away,” he said. “But what else can we do but let them die? It’s not safe to go outside given the current situation.”
Shivaraj Bhatta, another farmer in Kailali, said most of the labourers have returned to their native villages due to the lockdown. “There is no one to work in the fields now. Also, even if we could hire help, it wouldn’t be very wise,” said Bhatta.
Ganga Chaudhary, a farmer in Thapapur, said farmers in Thapapur, Joshipur, Bhajani, Hasuliya and some villages use combine harvester machines to harvest wheat. “But there’s no diesel or machine operators available to run the machines. We only have about a week’s time before the crops wither. We will be compelled to go out in the fields next week or else we won’t have any food grains for next year.”
According to Ganga Chaudhary, those who have cultivated wheat in around 10 to 12 bighas of land need labourers and machines to harvest the crop. “Harvesting crops need manpower. It’s not possible to harvest wheat (cultivated in a large area) with limited family members,” he said.
With worry about facing empty granaries next year, some farmers in the district have started working in the fields despite the nationwide lockdown. “We will have nothing left if we don’t harvest now. We have started to cut the crop ourselves; we don’t have outsiders working in our fields,” said Narad Rana from a Bela village. Rana, who owns 10 Kattha of land and has 10 family members. Like Rana, some of the families have started to store their ready-to-harvest winter crops including red lentils and wheat.
Khagendra Prasad Sharma, spokesperson at the Ministry of Agriculture in Sudurpaschim Province, said it’s already late to harvest wheat and other winter crops in Kailali. “Farmers are facing a shortage of labourers and diesel for the combine harvester machines due to the lockdown,” said Sharma, adding that the ministry has been making efforts to find ways to help farmers in these difficult times. He said, “If they do not start harvest soon, they will lose everything.”