After the earthquakes in Nepal

Jul 2015

Nepal’s steep, terraced mountains are extraordinarily beautiful. They can also be extremely dangerous. The recent earthquakes hit hardest in some of the country’s mountainous farming areas in the north, near the China border. One of these districts—Sindhupalchowk— accounted for four out of ten of the more than 8 700 people killed in the disaster.

Stores of food and seeds were buried and livestock killed or injured in collapsed homes. Vital small-scale irrigation infrastructure was damaged and vegetable gardens, tools and fertilizer also lost. With two-thirds of Nepalis dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, including many subsistence farmers, food insecurity is rising. Many households are already limiting the size or number of their meals.

Now thousands of landslides have already been recorded in the worst-affected districts. Farmers are anxiously watching the hills, fearing the heavy monsoon rains will trigger more severe landslides and threaten lives, crops, irrigation channels and roads.

FAO has provided rice seeds, vegetable seeds, animal feed supplements and airtight grain storage bags to the most vulnerable farmers. In the months ahead, FAO will expand its support to farmers who need it most, providing more vegetable seeds and animal feed supplements. It will also provide wheat seeds for winter, corrugated iron for livestock shelter and plastic tunnels for women’s groups to produce vegetables year-round.

Nepal is prone to natural disasters, so in addition to this urgent humanitarian assistance, FAO is working to help farmers rebuild resilient livelihoods and cope better with future crises. As part of early recovery, FAO plans to stabilize and prevent landslides and establish early warning systems for major landslides. It also plans to help farmers to rebuild irrigation systems.

For now, many farming families are living under tarpaulins, in plastic tunnels normally used for growing tomatoes, or in animal sheds with their livestock. They are bracing for a difficult and dangerous few months, until the monsoon passes. As one district agricultural officer in the mountains said: “Now is not even the hardest time for farmers – that will come in the months ahead.”

Author: FAO/Nepal