Shiva Buda, who is in charge of the Jhumlawang Community Health Centre, has seen it all before. “In our village,” he says, “the destruction of one crop will bring famine, but the destruction of two staples is catastrophic.”
The last two times there were deadly famines here were in 1971 and 1977. Those who were alive then remember surviving on gruel and roots of nettles. Some farmers had to mortgage their jewellery for food.
Some of the villagers recall walking for five days on hungry stomachs to get some government relief. “We were born at a time of great pain,” said one farmer.
There was, however, a silver lining from the famine. At that time, the village panchayat had asked the residents of Kyangsi, Seema, Morawang and Jhumlawang to dig a road from Ratwamare to Kwachiwang to transport relief materials for the ‘Food for Development’ program. However, that one road was not adequate for Jhumlawang residents during periods of famine that would follow.
Ram Kumari Thapa recalls donning her doko and namlo and going as far as Dalsinge, Dhawanne, Domai and Ratwamare — as far as the limited road system allowed — in search of rice. As she travelled, Ram Kumari realised she was not alone.
“When I saw the crowds of people,” she recalls, “I realised just how many people were on the verge of starvation.”
Transportation of food has become easier ever since an unpaved road reached the village two years ago. “Now, as long as we have the money, the food can be transported right to our home,” says Ram Kumari.