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Rukum and Rolpa Under Acute Food Shortage!

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Where People's war began but now a need of a war against poverty

A girl in Rolpa. Photos: Smita

Kathmandu, October 8, 2008- Everyday, Rambahadur Budha Magar looks at his field of dying maize plants and with a sigh, wonders how they are going to survive this year.

“If the government will not take any immediate steps for sorting out the acute food shortage in our area then we will die of hunger; it is for sure,” says Magar, a farmer from Jhumlabang village of Rukum.

This year, Rukum and Rolpa districts of Mid-Western Region are reeling under acute food shortage. Due to the drought in the last winter season, the wheat and barley production hugely suffered. This caused many families and youths from these areas to leave for India to make a living.

In these districts nearly 95% of the population depend on agriculture and substantial farming. Geographically complex areas, infertile land and total dependence on rain-water for two season farming is only enough to feed them for 6 to 8 months of every year.

“In winter our wheat and barley production suffered from drought. Now, due to heavy rainfall and harmful insects, our maize plants are also dying and we can do nothing about it,” says Magar.

Rishi Roka Magar, president of Nepal Magar Association, Rolpa confirms the mass exodus of people for Kathmandu valley to work in brick factories and some to India as a wage labourer for their survival from famine.

Villages in Rukum.

“Some people have even sold their utensils to buy food from the district office of Nepal Food Corporation (NFC) but it is still not enough,” informs Roka Magar.

He urged the government to distribute enough food grains that are healthy but also cheaper to starvation-hit people for an immediate solution of food shortage. However, for long-term solution, he emphasizes that the government needs to introduce modern technology for better agricultural production.

Shyam Regmi, the branch officer of NFC, Rolpa says they are distributing food grains twice a week. “Nearly 300 people from several villages come to get food grains each time. But, due to lack of petroleum products for vehicles and disturbances in the roads it is difficult to distribute adequate food grains to people,” he said.

He informed that they are selling ‘Aruwa Moto’ rice Rs. 23 per Kg while ‘Japani rice’ costs Rs. 25 per kg.

Poor wheat farming in Rukum. Photos: Smita

In Rukum, the godown has been closed for months. The officer of NFC could not be reached even after several attempts for the comment.

The local of Jumli Khalanga, Dilip Budha Magar said the food crisis emerged after the Rukum office of NFC failed to distribute food grains to locals. It locked its godown a month ago as it ran out of stock of rice.

“It is said that the transportation of food grains via road was delayed due to the shortage of petroleum products. Later, landslides hampered transportation. Therefore, they said they had to close the godown,” said Budha Magar.

Now CPN-Maoists are heading the government so Rishi Roka Magar hopes that they will act quickly on these problems in line with their promises to the public for a Green Revolution through land reform and introduction of scientific systems in agriculture.

-Smita Magar in Kathmandu. She traveled to Rukum and Rolpa in earlier month. Rukum is Smita's home district.
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