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Bajhang and Baitadi reel under acute food insecurity

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Experts say droughts, poor transportation facilities and lack of irrigation facility and access to market are behind the continuing food insecurity.

Tripti Shahi

The hilly districts in the Sudurpaschim Province are reeling under food insecurity. Data from the Agriculture Knowledge Centre Baitadi shows around 40 local units in Bajhang and Baitadi are most vulnerable to a food crisis, owing to a dip in production and lack of employment opportunities and transportation facilities.

“Food insecurity is rife in villages that are not connected to road networks,” said Karna Bahadur Chand, acting chief of the Centre. “Villages with road access, however, are importing goods and are not threatened by a food crisis.”

Rural villages in Baitadi district such as Sigaas and Pancheshwore are among the most vulnerable settlements to food insecurity.

Baitadi, a district with 252,116 people, has a requirement of 50,000 metric ton food per year at 201 kg food per person. But currently, Baitadi produces 43,300 metric ton of consumable food, with a shortfall of about 7,000 metric ton. In the last fiscal year 2017/18, the district suffered a shortfall of 7,332 metric ton, a rise from 5023 metric ton in the fiscal 2016/17.

Meanwhile, in Bajhang, an average of 39,200 metric ton of food is consumed yearly. The district suffers a shortfall of about 3,000 metric ton. Many in the rural belts even endure starvation, said Ram Lal Joshi, a technician with the district’s Agriculture Knowledge Centre.

Experts say droughts, poor transportation facilities and lack of irrigation facility and access to market are behind the continuing food insecurity in the districts.

Bibek Sunar, an agriculture official with the Centre, said that another significant reason behind the insecurity is the increase in the number of outmigrants, which has created a labour shortage in agriculture.

“This has led to a dip in the production of food crops such as paddy, maize, barley, and wheat,” Sunar said. “Moreover, the practice of cultivating vegetables and crops such as beans and buckwheat has almost died down, pushing the districts on the brink of crisis.”

Basanta Pratap Singh contributed reporting from Bajhang.