In the report, ‘Even the Himalayas Have Stopped Smiling: Climate Change, Poverty and Adaptation in Nepal, farmers told Oxfam that changing weather patterns had dramatically affected crop production, leaving them unable to properly feed themselves and pushing them into debt.
Oxfam called the situation ‘deeply worrying.
The report paints a troubling picture of what life in the mountainous country will look like if temperatures continue to rise.
Rural Nepalese already living in poverty are expected to face more intense rainfall, leading to landslides and floods; failed winter wheat crops due to warmer, drier winters; widespread food shortages caused by changes in monsoon rains and disrupted planting seasons; diminished hydro-electric supply; increased prevalence of malaria, leischmaniasis, cholera and typhoid; and mass migration of rural farmers searching for work to feed their families.
‘Communities told us crop production is roughly half that of previous years. Some said that while they used to grow enough food for three to six months of the year, last year many could only grow enough for one month’s consumption, said Oxfam’s Nepal country director, Wayne Gum. ‘Poor farmers rely on rainfall. They farm small areas of land which, at the best of times, can barely produce enough food for the family.
Nepal is extremely vulnerable to climate change yet has one of the lowest emissions in the world just 0.025 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
The melting of the Himalayan glaciers will also be felt well beyond Nepal’s borders. Scientists warn that if the Himalayan glaciers disappear with some predicting this could happen within 30 years the impact would be felt by more than one billion people across Asia.
The impact on riverine communities would be catastrophic and could affect up to 500 million in South Asia alone.
Oxfam is calling on the world’s richest countries, those most responsible for global emissions, to do more to help poor countries like Nepal better adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change when they meet to discuss a global climate treaty in Copenhagen in December.
Currently, more than 3.4 million people in Nepal are estimated to require food assistance, due to a combination of natural disasters, including last year’s winter drought – one of the worst in the country’s history.
Some of the heaviest burdens have fallen on women who are on the frontline of climate change. They have to travel further distances to fetch water and take on the responsibility for feeding the family as men in many poor households migrate seasonally to seek work.
Nepal is one of the world’s poorest nations, with 31 per cent of its 28 million population living below the poverty line, many in rural areas most at risk to disasters such as floods and landslides.