Nepal earthquake: Planting the seeds of hope

Villages on the way to Sindupalchowk from Kathmandu that were largely destroyed in the earthquake

Three months after the worst earthquakes to hit Nepal in 80 years, CARE has helped over 90,000 people. We've concentrated our response in the four worst affected districts - Gorkha, Dhading, Sindhupalchowk and Lamjung, getting help to where it's needed most. This has included shelter, water and sanitation, food, reproductive health services, creation of female friendly spaces and safe demolition assistance.

There is still a lot more to do, particularly as the three-month-long monsoon season has just begun, making many areas inaccessible and causing landslides which have already claimed lives. 

Kabir Ekramul, a food security advisor for CARE in Nepal, writes:

People often ask me, what is the best way to help people in a situation of extreme crisis? My experience shows that enabling people to take control over their own lives is the best way to help them.

It is important to help people at the time of crisis, but it is just as important to ensure that people do not depend on us completely in the future. For example, the months of June and July are the planting periods in Nepal, and if the farmers are not planting then the people who depend on this produce will suffer in the future.

At the moment Nepal relies on rice as its staple crop, but it is also important to grow alternative crops.

When disasters strike – such as this earthquake – people can lose all their rice fields and their entire livelihood.

They find themselves unable to grow any alternative crops because they lack the necessary knowledge to do so. As a result, they are in very real danger of facing food shortages. Therefore, intercropping (where different varieties of crops can be grown in the same field) becomes crucial.

CARE is providing different varieties of vegetable seeds, millet seeds and paddy (rice) seeds to the people of Nepal so that they are encouraged to adopt this practice of intercropping and varying crop production. CARE has also introduced a ‘cash for work’ programme which supports farmers with cash and technical support to allow them to start rebuilding their livelihoods themselves – as they are the ones who know best how to do so.

CARE’s Binita Ranjitkar, who recently visited Sindhupalchowk district, one of the areas most affected by the earthquakes, writes:

Sup Yonjan is among the many who lost more than just the roof above his head in the devastating earthquake. While not often thought of as the most important thing in the immediate response to an emergency, ensuring people have the opportunity to regain their livelihood and sustainable access to food is crucial.

Sup Yonjan who recently received three kilograms of rice seeds from CARE
Sup Yonjan who recently received three kilograms of rice seeds from CARE

CARE is distributing seeds to communities such as Sup’s and is working to reach as many people as possible with seeds to plant during this small window. Not only will this help many stave off hunger in the coming months, but it will also help provide some income if they have surplus yields in the harvest.

Sup recently received three kilogrammes of rice seeds from CARE. He tells me, with excitement, that he has already planted the seeds which have begun to grow into small saplings. “Only after the sapling is about 5 inches tall can it be planted in the paddy field,” he said. “I plan to plant around the 30 July, which is the traditional planting day in Nepal.” 

Although the seeds distributed by CARE are not enough to replant his entire field, they have gone a long way to reducing the burden of trying to rebuild his livelihood. He told me:

I’m happy that I received those seeds; at least now I have my own seeds for this year which will yield me enough seeds for planting again next year.

Our conversation is interrupted at this point as someone yells across the crowd, “Sup, your name is being called – go!” He looks at me apologetically and runs across the road to the open field opposite to collect his iron sheeting which is being distributed to villagers by CARE – another contribution to what Sup, and others like him, need to start piecing back together their lives.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.