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Event Details

Drought event report

Category: Drought
Observation: 28.08.2009
Continent: Asia
Country: Nepal
Area: Statewide
Severity: Hight
Event details
The dry winters and unpredictable monsoons Nepal has experienced in recent years had hit crop production on the couple's land plot in the foothills of the Himalayas, forcing them to look for other ways to feed their family. For the past two years, their crop has failed entirely and Shahi now buys rice on credit from a local shopkeeper while she waits for her husband to return to their village with his earnings. ‘My husband stopped farming because this place is not good for growing crops. We needed to earn money to feed the children,’ Shahi, 35, told AFP in the remote village of Bhattegaun in mid-western Nepal. ‘There is not enough rainfall for the crops to grow well and we have to walk for two or three hours every day to get water.’ International aid agency Oxfam says Nepal's changing weather patterns are threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of desperately poor communities already struggling to produce enough food to survive. In a new report released Friday, 100 days before a conference in Copenhagen aimed at sealing an international accord on fighting climate change, Oxfam warns of the potentially devastating effects on people in the Himalayan nation. ‘The majority of Nepal's population are poor farmers reliant on rainfall and occupying small parcels of land that can barely produce enough food for the family,’ it said. ‘They often live in areas most at risk to floods and landslides and are more reliant on local natural resources such as forests and water.’ ‘Even small changes to rainfall patterns can have devastating consequences on their crops,’ said the report, based on interviews conducted in rural communities across Nepal in February and March this year. Almost a third of Nepal's 28 million people live below the poverty line and the UN's World Food Programme said recently there had been a ‘sharp and sustained decline in food security’ in recent years. It blamed a rise in food prices and a series of unusually dry winters. This year Nepal's winter rains failed altogether, leading to severe water shortages and power cuts of up to 18 hours a day in the capital as hydro-electric projects struggled to meet demand. There is no firm scientific evidence linking the winter droughts to climate change, and rapid population growth and a lack of development during the 10-year civil war have contributed to Nepal's rising food shortages. But low winter rainfall and the late onset of the monsoons are in line with what climate change scientists have predicted for the region, and Oxfam says Nepal must act now to help its citizens adapt. ‘There is no time to waste and nothing to lose,’ country director Wayne Gum told AFP. ‘The government needs to do more to support local communities. Even if we're wrong about climate change — and I don't think we are — people will always benefit from better water management systems.’ The residents of Bhattegaun, a settlement of around 150 mud huts deep in the forest, know little about the science behind climate change. But they say changing weather patterns are already forcing them to change their way of life. ‘These days, the weather is getting much hotter and the rains don't fall when they are supposed to,’ said 59-year-old Ram Bahadur Himal. ‘Landslides washed away our last plot of land so we moved here and settled in the forest. We ploughed the land, but since we moved here, there has been no regular rainfall.’ Most men of working age have left to seek casual work, leaving the back-breaking tasks of fetching water and firewood to the women. Padam Bahadur Sunar works in India for between five and eight months of the year, earning up to 25,000 rupees (330 dollars) a month which he sends home to feed his parents and eight siblings. The 31-year-old recently got married, but he will soon be forced to leave his new bride behind when he returns to his work as a driver on Indian construction sites. ‘There has been less rainfall over the years and there is no irrigation for the farmland,’ he said. ‘Without going to India I wouldn't be able to feed my family.’
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