The extension of the lockdown was a cause for worry and stress for Purna Gopal Rajchal. He now had to seek alternatives for paddy seed arrangement which he would have to start by May-end. As he was not able to get seeds in the market during lockdown, he had made up his mind to borrow seeds of any available rice species from his neighbour. But luckily, he received the seeds after they were delivered to his house in Ward-5 — courtesy municipality authorities.
“The lockdown is on and seeds are not available. We cannot let our cultivable land lie barren. In such a situation, we are happy with the initiation of Bhaktapur Municipality to deliver paddy seeds to the doorstep of farmers. It would have been difficult to find seeds even if the lockdown ended,” said Rajchal.
However, Rasmila Lubanjar has still not got the seeds from the municipality. “I used to buy seeds from a shop that is 20 minutes from my home. I am not sure if the shop is open. I’ve heard that we will be provided seeds by Bhaktapur Municipality. We are waiting for it. If not, it will be difficult for us to arrange for seeds this year.”
As per Raj Krishna Gora, Coordinator of Market Monitoring Committee and Agriculture Committee of Bhaktapur Municipality, though paddy plantation is usually undertaken in the monsoon from mid-June to mid-August, the work of sowing seeds for the plantation in seedbeds begins in May-June in Bhaktapur. Thus, this is the time when farmers start arranging seeds for the plantation.
“In the previous years, farmers easily availed hybrid rice seeds from China by this time. But this year, imports are halted due to the lockdown and they are unable to arrange seeds. They are worried and so, we are delivering the paddy seeds — Khumal 11 Taichin — to their doors,” informed Gora adding, “There will be a crowd creating a risk of infection if we summon farmers for seed collection. So, we decided to deliver the seeds to their homes.”
Gora said the Municipality started delivering 2.5 kg (one paathi) Chinese Taichin seeds to each house of 10 wards for free from April 24. They aim to provide seeds to around 10,000 farmers.
“One paathi seed is enough for a farm of one ropani. We had bought around 21,000 kg of the seeds from a Bhaktapur-based cooperative at Rs 100 per kg, but as there are still a few houses left in every ward, we are still buying from the cooperative. In case some farmers have not received the seeds, we are requesting them to reach respective wards with their pass.”
Gora claimed the seeds are from locally grown paddy. The cooperative’s Chairperson Punya Ram Dumaru also said they are engaging in preparing and distributing quality seeds in collaboration with Soil Science Division, Nepal Agriculture Research Council, Khumaltar, Lalitpur. Dumaru shared, “We distributed the same seeds last year too, and farmers responded positively on the production from the seeds. We are getting a high demand this year from other municipalities from the Valley too.”
The Municipality is delivering the seeds in coordination with the wards and local volunteers. Gora said there are around 50 local volunteers in each ward for the delivery. Raju Lasiwa, one of the volunteers from Ward-2, shared his team has already distributed seeds to 800 houses, with around 50 houses still left. Before the distribution, volunteers conducted a survey verifying real farmers by distributing forms to each house.
“We are using gloves, masks, sanitisers, and jackets provided by the Municipality. We distributed the seeds by calling only a member of a house mentioned in the gathered list,” said Lasiwa.