Tuesday June 30 was, to the Nepalis, Ashar 15 – National Paddy Day, or Dhan Diwas in the local tongue. This is when paddy seedlings are planted and the monsoon begins.
There is a festival where people eat flattened rice and curd, known as dahi chiura and believed to bring power and good luck. Singing songs while planting rice is an intrinsic element of the festival.
What it is
Special events are staged, perhaps involving tourists. Trekkers might be greeted by the sight of government ministers and other high-ranking officials planting rice.
The occasion has been celebrated since 2004, which the United Nations declared to be International Paddy Year. Mud is associated with prosperity, so muddy water it used in the preparation of rice meals and farmers splash each other with it.
The future of rice in Nepal
It is hoped that National Paddy Day will increase productivity. Only eight percent of the 1.425 million hectares of land suited to paddy cultivation is so employed.
This year, there is a slogan of “Use of machine in paddy production, minimisation of cost of production.”
Agriculture constitutes 60 percent of Nepal’s GDP. Rice is the country’s staple crop and 20 percent of GDP, so productivity can increase or decrease GDP.
Until 1987-8, Nepal exported rice, but now the country imports about a million tons a year, mostly from India. There was drought in 2014 leading to a ban on the export of rice and the earthquake of April 25 the next year buried paddy that was stored in more than a dozen districts.
However, Hari Prasad Parajuli, the Minister for Agricultural Development, reported that Nepal will be self-sufficient in this respect within three years.
The governments of India and China have issued grants for irrigation, fertiliser, sales and distribution and technology. Lack of irrigation is the greatest hindrance to increased production.
There has been criticism that Nepal’s own government has not provided enough grants, although it has been promised that these will increase – currently, subsidies of between 25 and 50 percent are available for certain farm machinery such as crop threshers, power tillers and small irrigation machines.
Mechanisation is expanding, a very welcome thing given that machines cost a third as much as traditional methods. 22 percent of farms used tractors in the 2011-12 period compared to under 10 percent in 2001-2.
Farmers require to be educated that avoiding damage to stored crops is better than increasing production.
Hari Prasad Parajuli goes viral
Parajuli resigned as Minister of Agriculture on July 2 2015 after photographs of him hugging and groping women and attempting to kiss one on her bosom at a National Paddy Day celebration went viral.
He had been invited by local women farmers groups, who claimed he was innocent of wrongdoing. Janardan Sharma, a lawmaker from Parajuli’s own party, exclaimed, “Minister’s actions have made us bow our head in shame. He mistreated women and was involved in indecent behaviour at a public programme.”
Some lawmakers had demanded that Parajuli be prosecuted for harassing women in a public place, which carries a maximum sentence of a year in gaol.
Andrew is one of the senior writers at Mountain IQ. A native of South Africa, Andrew has hiked and climbed all over the world. His favourite destination is Nepal and his most memorable hike was to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro!