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Farmers left poorer as cattle perish in disaster

- Chahana Sigdel, KATHMANDU
Farmers left poorer as cattle perish in disaster

May 24, 2015-In Jhor, the villagers liked their location. Situated northwest of the Valley- further up from Tokha- the village is not too far from the Capital yet distant enough to boast of sprawling fields that allow plentiful plantation. While growing crops is the main source of income, women in the village– making best use of its proximity to Kathmandu- had taken up an entrepreneurial stride delivering fresh milk to their clients in Kathmandu every morning.

Chanda Shiwakoti, mother of two boys, was one of them. Shiwakoti, who lived in a joint family of 25 members, had bought two cows for herself and in two years made money to send her boys to school and buy gold for her future daughters-in-law.

But as it has been with thousands of lives, Shiwakoti’s too changed on April 25, the day of the Great Quake.

Along with her mud and stone house with thatched roof, which was reduced to rubble, she lost a cow. On May 12, when the 7.3 magnitude quake struck, she lost her other cow, and with that her source of income. “They made me independent. I didn’t have 

to beg to the men in my family for money,” she says, “Now it is gone.”

As Shiwakoti who is living under a tent tries to figure out what to do, she says it isn’t only about money and losing a source of income. They had grown to love these animals and to have lost them has left a deep impact. “They were special. They stayed with us and their loss makes the earthquake experience seem even more real,” said Shiwakoti, “Even for my boys seeing the animals in such a state was traumatic.”

Uttam Dahal, senior veterinarian and spokesperson at Directorate of Animal Health, says at least 15,850 cattle such as cows and buffaloes perished in the two quakes. The number for smaller animals such as goats and pigs is 36,000 while a staggering 450,000 poultry died. Direct loss from the death of livestock amounts to 1.35 billion rupees.

As per data received from respective districts, Sindhupalchok is the worst hit with 30 per cent of the dead big animals coming from the district. Of the dead poultry, at least one fourth is from Bhaktapur.

Animal rights activists say the loss of cattle is much more than just financial loss. Following the quake, a number of international and national organisations have been working in various districts, tending to wounded animals, carrying out what they call “mobile health camps” to provide immediate relief.  According to Manoj Gautam, president of Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN), there are currently ten teams deployed in the affected districts with each team taking up an average of 30 cases per day. They have had to amputate animals, perform surgeries and in some cases even euthanise cattle. “In the aftermath of the quake we were busy tending to people, which is understandable. But animals need care and love too. So now we have equipment to help people and animals both,” he said.

For the first five days, they were unable to mobilise volunteers but since the beginning of May, AWNN along with five major animal rights organisations such as Humane Society International and World Vets has been working to help both humans and animals. In Dolakha--the district hit hardest by the May 12 aftershock--teams were still digging out animals and human corpses from the rubble on Monday.

Gautam, who was speaking from Sindhupalchok, said only 6 of the 13 livestock centres in the district were functional but their staffers too were involved in other relief work due to shortage of manpower.

“There are technicians in the field working in livestock centres but these technicians can’t work if they don’t have the necessary equipment,” Gautam said.

At the Department of Livestock, the agriculture ministry has pledged a budget of 25 million rupees to carry out initial relief operation but Dahal said they are yet to receive the amount. “We are preparing a plan to utilise the initial budget once it comes through,” he said.

 

Published: 24-05-2015 01:00

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