There has been very little rainfall in the region over the last three years. The drought of 2016 was the worst in the last three decades, but there was sufficient rainfall this year. “Rain was sufficient this year, so the paddy was good,” adds Fadera, whose harvest only feeds his family for six months in a good year.
From Fader’s farm, the Karnali can be seen at the bottom of a deep gorge, and there is no way to bring any of that water up for irrigation. Most of the villages along the river depend on monsoon rains. When the food runs out, mule trains bring supplies from elsewhere in the country, but that doesn’t really help much. People in this region have the lowest purchasing capacity in Nepal. Malnutrition is common, and only 0.9% of the land in Humla is arable. Most men migrate to cities or India to work to supplement their income.
Dirgha Shahi was hurrying to Kermi in Upper Humla to get some flour transported from Tibet’s Burang county. The only way to get food from the southern plains of Nepal is via air, and that is expensive. The abundant rainfall in 2018 brought only misery to Shahi.
“It was continuous from July and August. Too much water destroyed our vegetables, especially beans,” he says.