Tika Devi Poudel in Sainamaina, Rupandehi used to sell vegetables at the market for a living. But in 2020, she lost her job when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, including Nepal, causing significant social and economic disruption globally.
Life was difficult for Poudel with a family of six, as she had no land to cultivate or property to put as collateral for a loan to start her own business. Without any source of income, she struggled to make ends meet.
But Poudel’s fortunes have changed.
Poudel now grows vegetables on the bank of the Ghamah river in Deupar. She planted bottle squash, pumpkin, beans, black beans, bitter gourd, watermelon and chili on the farm, thanks to the Municipality of Sainamaina. The municipality has rented the barren lands by the river for people who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19.
Nepal’s vast riverbeds, especially in the Tarai region, remain submerged in muddy water during the rainy season, and dry and desolate the rest of the year. These unused river beds have enormous potential to be used for poverty alleviation of thousands of landless families, according to reports.
“After I lost my job, I was looking for work because it was difficult to manage my daily household expenses,” Poudel said. “Now I cultivate the crops that the municipality has rented from us and with the income I can cover the household expenses. “
The municipality has rented four bigha and 6 kattha of land to people who have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sixteen families have benefited from the device. Each family received 5 katthas of land and all the land in the area was cultivated.
Meena Kadel de Deupar also cultivates crops in the area. Her family returned from India in April after losing their job. “We [our family] were unemployed for two months and since mid-July we have started growing vegetables.
“Initially, I was wondering about farming on barren land. It’s better than I thought,” she said.
The crop that started last year has started to produce seasonal vegetables. Once barren land, according to farmers, it has now become a source of income for many.
Chitra Bahadur Karki, mayor of Sainamaina municipality, said the land was leased to people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, to migrant workers who returned and to others who had no source of income.
The municipality provided the land for free for 15 years. The municipality also provided a free drill for the irrigation system of their fields and provided families with modern farming tools to grow crops.
Agricultural technicians have also been deployed to tend crops and teach modern agriculture. Technicians imparted knowledge to farmers to prevent diseases and pests.
The farmers are not worried about the market as the municipality has also made arrangements for the sale of vegetables. “When all possibilities for making money were closed, we got an opportunity through farming. Now we have enough income to cover household expenses,” said Gopal Chhetri, one of the beneficiaries of the program.
Tens of thousands of Nepalese have lost their jobs after the government imposed a four-month lockdown on March 24, 2020 due to the escalating coronavirus crisis.
The Nepalese economy has faced headwinds, technically entering an economic recession for the first time in nearly 40 years, as the country has experienced negative growth rates for two consecutive quarters due to the shock of supply and the demand induced by the pandemic on the economy.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year 2019-2020, ending in mid-July, the country’s economic growth rate, or output of gross domestic product, plunged 15.4 percent from same period in 2018. -19, which translated into a negative growth rate of 1.99% year-on-year.
This is the first negative annual growth rate since 1982-1983 when Nepal’s economic growth rate plunged to -2.97%, according to the World Bank.
The negative growth rate continued in the first quarter of the current 2020-21 fiscal year.
The second wave of Covid-19 began at the end of April this year.
According to Mayor Karki, more than 3 million rupees have been spent to turn barren land into productive agricultural land. The program was also partly supported by the United Nations Development Program with the coordination of the Child Development Service of Seto Gurans, Karki said.
“We mobilized the money for the unemployed to become self-employed,” he said. This type of project can have repercussions on other shores, which are also often considered drylands.
“We thought it was wiser to spend the money provided by development partners on a productive area rather than organizing trainings and seminars.”