HUMLA - Sukaram Thapa is a 40-year-old farmer and the sole breadwinner for his family of five. He hails from the Saya Village in Humla district, which is a five-day walk from the nearest motorable road in a mountainous northwestern Nepal.
Even at the best of times, the agricultural produce from his small farm meets the family food needs for barely six months. In order to provide food for his wife and three children, he also works as a porter.
In mid-2008, Sukaram worked in a terrace improvement project implemented by WFP under a Food-For-Assets project in the village. In exchange for his labour, he received four kilograms of rice and half-a-kilo of lentils for a period of 40 days to meet the immediate food needs of his family.
“I was so happy when WFP distributed rice and lentils in the village,” said Sukaram, recalling the first time he received food. “Not having enough food has always been a bitter fact of our life. Besides, I never had enough money to buy from the market. During the lean season we (me and my wife) always skipped meals to make sure that our children don’t go completely hungry in bed.”
Before WFP introduced its programme, the village had also been hit by successive droughts. Sukaram said the changing weather conditions were making their already miserable life even worse.
“When I was young, we used to have knee-deep snowfall during winter and good rain during the monsoons. But now, when we are expecting rain it doesn’t come. The area has become dry and we can no longer rely on rain for planting crops,” said Sukaram. “People say this is happening because of climate change but I don’t know what that means. Most of the time, the land remained barren as there were no irrigation facilities.
“After WFP started the terrace improvement and irrigation canal project, we are no longer entirely dependent on the rain-gods. Over the past two years we have harvested rice, wheat and millet from the land and it all became possible because of WFP’s support.”
“Without WFP’s assistance, I would have faced many difficulties providing food for my family. WFP has helped me to keep that pressure at bay to certain extent,” said the father-of-three.
The terrace improvement scheme, which started in mid-2008 in Saya village, was completed in 2009, followed by the construction of a 1.2 kilometre irrigation canal in 2010. Under the Food-For-Assets project, the local villagers cleared rocks and sand on three hectares of slopy terraced land. They used hammers and pickaxes to break the rock, dug the ground using hoes and shovels, and fenced it with rocks making it fit for cultivation.
Under the cooperative farming system, the local farmers have harvested rice, wheat and millet for the past two years, which was shared equally among the community.
In 2010, the community harvested about 14 quintals of wheat and 30 quintals of paddy and millet from the land. Similarly in 2011, the harvest of wheat and paddy was about 60 quintals. WFP’s interventions have reduced the vulnerability of the 47 households in this hard-to-reach mountain community in the northwestern Nepal.