By Dignity Post
KATHMANDU, MAY 18: A poor farmer of Shivraj Municipality of Kapilvastu Sita GC was earning her living as a wage-based labourer. She owns one kattha (3645 sq. ft) of land besides a small piece of non-registered land which helps feed the family of three only for three months a year. Due to the lack of essentials including manure she has estimated that her production this year will be less than half compared to previous years.
This is just a startling example of how poor families in the country are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and those families are getting poorer and falling into debt trap.
The study conducted by Sustainable and Resilient Ideas Pvt Ltd (SRI) with the financial support of IM Swedish Development Partner at Dang and Kapilvastu has revealed that various marginalized sections of the society have been largely affected by the pandemic.
The study has revealed that during the lockdown period the farmers suffered from decreased production of rice due to unavailability of enough fertilizers and seeds in a timely manner. “The relief package in agriculture was neither sufficient nor they could get it easily,” the study report stated. “In lack of transportation and market facilities, the farmer had to let the vegetables rot in the field and throw them away.”
Wage-based laborers have become more vulnerable during the lockdown– particularly those who mainly rely on wage-laboring. Since farming is the main basis of wage-laboring, the lockdown has pushed a greater number of laborers towards the agriculture sector.
The study has found that a vast majority of the respondents –74 percent reported they suffered from loss of income during lockdown in comparison to normal time.
The study has found that most of the returnee migrant workers were uncertain about their future with their loss of jobs but increase in expenditure while in quarantine and transportation to return home and therefore majority of them were involved in farming for survival.
The lockdown imposed by the government caused loss of income of Micro and Small Entrepreneurs (MSEs) because most of them had to remain closed for a long time. The smallest MSEs, particularly small-scale vegetable growers, producers and vendors were affected the most.
As many as 78 percent of MSEs were found most aware of policies and programmes (e.g. subsidy/loan, relief package, capital support and insurance) for their support. However, as most of these MSEs are traditional occupational skill-based or largely unregistered, they are not benefited by provisions of government monetary policies as well as are unable to take loans for expansion of their businesses.
The National Employment Policy and Right to Employment Act were not effective during lockdown due to restricted mobility, and limited awareness among rights holders about the program. The cash for work of the Prime Minister’s Employment Programme showed its potential to be effective in a crisis because it was focused, however, there is a problem of political biases in access and distribution. Tools of monetary policies, such as, Agriculture Bond, Kisan Credit Card, Refinancing and loan restructuring provisions were found not applicable for small and unregistered farmers.
At provincial governments, despite a comprehensive and promising outlook of the budget speech (2020-21), it was less effective because rights holders were not aware about programmes of the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperative (MoLMAC) and Ministry of Social Development.
Contract farming is not likely to be covering small farmers as it would require a lot of documentations and legal procedures whereas the rights holders are mostly unregistered groups or informal. Likewise, MoLMAC’s provisions for integration of returnee migrants with Rs 20,000 per head and 50 per cent subsidy for procurement of fishery equipment were obtained by a limited number of rights holders.
Local Government Operation Act 2017 has envisioned important economic activities for the marginalized communities for example promotion of enterprises, support in farming. However, the study revealed limited actions are taken in these regards.
Annual policies and programmes of all local levels set key economic priorities of poverty reduction, modernisation of agriculture, commercialization, employment promotion, savings and credit promotion, and leadership development.
However, these are at preliminary stage and rights holders are less aware of such provisions as well as the study pointed out discrepancies in implementation.
The study report revealed in December 2020 has made a number of recommendations to the government and the partner organisations.
To overcome the problems faced by the farmers the report has asked the government to make the Agriculture Input company Ltd situated at all levels resourceful and up to date with enough supply of fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides all the time. The government should come up with a program to engage banks and financial institutions for informal sector lending through utilization of existing skills among rights holders including returnee migrants.
For the partner organisations the report has recommended establishing and expanding strong networks with the influential actors in the field to influence and support the local levels to develop economic recovery plans and strategies.
It has also recommended them to collaborate with local levels, Banks and Financial Institutions (BFIs), and other private sector institutions for gradually registering MSEs and farmer groups; carry out awareness activities on economic policies and programs of various levels of government that can benefit the rights holders at the grassroots level.
Similarly they are also recommended to collaborate and support local levels to establish as well as update the economic database of local levels, including more importantly of the returnee migrants. further more study
Study by IM Swedish Development Partner, Nepal.