Sunday 24th June
Last Sunday was the official start of monsoon. We could tell monsoon had started because the clouds and the air had changed. But it didn’t actually rain (much) for the first few days. Just minor showers, mostly at night.
Then this weekend Monsoon STARTED. From Friday night till Sunday lunchtime we had regular downpours. Each lasting from half an hour to several hours and depositing more rain onto Kathmandu in 36 hours than we’ve had in the last 6 months (estimate!). Saturday was an in-doors day, but we did venture out this morning to church, with the kids safely cocooned in the buggy with the “monsoon” rain-cover.
|Planting in the fields|
But while it is a mild in convenience for us, it’s wonderful news for most Nepali’s. Monsoon rains are vital for their crops, as most Nepali’s, are subsistence farmers and rice is their main crop. The rains mean their fields will now flood and they can start planting their rice.
Of course it’s a delicate balance. Too much rain, especially heavy rain, can damage the rice plants, particularly later in monsoon when the crops will be getting bigger and the heads of rice will start to show. The other main concern with monsoon is landslides. As you’ll be aware, Nepal is far from flat, but every available inch of potential land is farmed, and the hills are full of terraces. Some “fields” will be only a few square metres, but all this man made changes to the land and the deforestation of trees for firewood means that landslides are very common. There are many stories of entire villages being wiped off the side of the hill by landslides during monsoon.
As so often when people live close to the limit in life there are risks that need to be taken. And for many Nepalis who live close to the survival limit these are risks that need to be taken to ensure that they will be able to eat over the next year.
Sunday 1st July
One week on and things aren’t looking so good. After last weekend’s rain we’ve had a week with hardly any rain at all. After last weekend’s rain many people rushed to plant their rice, as monsoon had been late arriving anyway. But one week on they need more rain. I’ve been out walking through a village this weekend and the fields are looking dry.
|Monsoon clouds over the hills. Not evident this week.|
They start to grow rice before monsoon and then plant the shoots in the fields as soon as monsoon arrives. But the lack of rain this week means that in some of the fields the shoots are going yellow already. In others the water level is lower than it should be at this stage. The fields need more rain, and soon, otherwise they will all dry out.
If we don’t get more rain soon we could be faced with a massive crop failure and a significant food shortage. Our Nepali friend I was with this weekend was saying it feels like monsoon has passed, a 3 month event shortened to just one weekend? We pray not, but as articulated above. Nepal needs rain. And it needs rain now.