Nepal: Planting the Seeds of Hope for the Future
Nepal: Planting the Seeds of Hope for the Future
CARE’s Binisha Ranjitkar recently visited Sindhupalchowk district, Nepal – one of the worst affected by the recent earthquake. Here she met Sup Yonjan who talked about the recent seed distributions by CARE and how they are helping him regain his livelihood and rebuild his life.
Taking shelter against a small wall to avoid the heat in a sunny afternoon, Sup Yonjan waits patiently for his name to be called. I met Sup Yonjan as he was waiting to receive corrugated iron sheeting from CARE. This sheeting is just one of a number of items he has received from various agencies such as CARE in the past months since the earthquakes hit including tarpaulins, rice, kitchen utensils, buckets, mosquito net, a jug and toiletries.
The two devastating earthquakes that hit Nepal in April and May this year have left many people dependent on external support (including organizations such as CARE) to help them rebuild their lives after losing everything in the quakes. The onset of monsoon season has brought mixed feelings for the people of Nepal; it marks the start of the crop-planting season, but also brings the potential landslides and floods that regularly affect many of these already devastated communities.
Agriculture accounts for more than 80 percent of Nepali people’s livelihood and this is a crucial time for people to plant their staple crop, rice. This year everything has been turned upside down as many people in the most affected areas have lost everything including crops and seeds. Sup Yonjan is among the many who lost more than just the roof above his head in the devastating earthquake. While not often thought of as the most important thing in the immediate response to an emergency, ensuring people have the opportunity to regain their livelihood and sustainable access to food is crucial. As part of its multi-sector response CARE is distributing seeds to communities such as Sup’s and is working to reach as many people as possible with seeds to plant during this small window. Not only will this help many stave off hunger in the coming months, but it will also help provide an income if they have surplus yields in the harvest.
Sup also received three kilograms of rice seeds from CARE. He tells me, with excitement, that he has already planted the seeds which have begun to grow into small saplings. “Only after the sapling is about 5 inches tall and after it starts raining, can it can be planted in the paddy field. My village is on top of a hill and we do not have irrigation canals, and they are very expensive to build, so I cannot plant before it starts raining. I plan to plant around July 30, which is the traditional planting day in Nepal.”
Sup’s fields traditionally need about 25-30 kgs of seed to produce a yield of around 450 kgs of rice. Although the seeds distributed by CARE are not enough to replant his entire field, they have gone a long way to reducing the burden of trying to rebuild his livelihood. “If I hadn’t received these seeds, I would have had to buy them,” he says. In order to plant the rest of his field he has also borrowed seeds from neighbours. When asked if the 3 kgs of paddy seeds provided by CARE made any difference to him and his family he says, “Yes, of course! With the seeds that I have borrowed, I have to return the same amount of rice back once I get my yield. But the ones that you [CARE] gave are mine. I can keep the yield and the seeds and from the three kgs of paddy seeds, and with it I will get 30 kgs of rice.” His sunburnt face lights up as he says, “I’m happy that I received those seeds; at least now I have my own seeds for this year which will yield me enough seeds for planting again next year."
Our conversation is interrupted at this point as someone yells across the crowd, “Sup, your name is being called. Go!” He looks at me apologetically and runs across the road to the open field opposite to collect his iron sheeting; the latest addition in items he will use to start piecing back together his life.
His last few sentences, speak a thousand words to me; these seeds will provide an element of continuity in his life – a life that has been completely altered by the earthquake. They will help him regain his livelihood with dignity and offer an element of hope for the future. He will use the income earned from his work as a labourer to pay back the loan needed to build back his house and the seeds provided by CARE will provide some additional money to do this.
The loss from the earthquake is incalculable and is so widespread that to me it often seems overwhelming. What CARE is doing may seem small, yet it is big enough to get Sup, and people like him, started. It is enough to give that first push to start rebuilding their lives and livelihood, and momentum going forward to regain all that was lost.