In west Nepal, a river basin is home to drought and poverty

In 2015-’16, a drought hit Nepal’s mid-west region. Farmers of Bajhang district found themselves caught in a tragedy of continuing food insecurity and poverty and were forced to migrate to Simikot, the headquarters of the neighbouring Humla district, to look for work.

According to government, the drought – the worst in 40 years – has exacerbated the region’s economic vulnerability. But there has been little attempt to understand the causes of this insecurity, and more immediately, that of the drought itself.

Far-western districts like Bajhang and Bajura and mid-western districts in the Karnali zone – Humla, Jumla, Mugu, Dolpo, Kalikot – have remained in the grip of persistent poverty. In 2011, Humla ranked highest in Nepal on the poverty index, a position it held even in 2001. According to the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2014, it was also among the lowest five districts in terms of education, and child nutrition and the overall Human Development Index.

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