Download Got Rice? Subsistence Rice farming in Rural Nepal
Got Rice? Subsistence Rice farming in Rural Nepal
Got Rice? Subsistence Rice farming in Rural Nepal
For the Dhaniram Family in the rural village of Nayrangpur, Nepal, Rice planting is an important yearly event, as it is in much of Asia. This extended family consists of some forty members living t...
For the Dhaniram Family in the rural village of Nayrangpur, Nepal, Rice planting is an important yearly event, as it is in much of Asia. This extended family consists of some forty members living together as a unit managing the same farm land and sharing the sustenance it yields. At the beginning of the monsoon season each year the family devotes about three weeks of intensive collective-effort to plant the rice that they will rely on for an entire year. They use no tractor, in fact there is nothing motorized at all on their farm. The planting and harvesting of rice is, along with the blessing of fertile soil, sun and rain, accomplished entirely by hand and animal power. The subsistent agrarian activities that this family carries out are common across nepal and related in degrees of similarity to those found across Asia, they represent an instance of the present day state of an ancient cultivating tradition that has been passed on for many generations. One that has departed very little from it's origins, even as technology and machine production have brought dramatic and rapid changes to so many traditions around the world.

As summer begins so does the wet season in Nepal. Parched land and dry irrigation channels fill with water once again as the monsoon commences. When water levels rise enough to flood the partitioned fields know as patties it is time to begin planting rice. First however the patties must be prepared by tilling and leveling to create a soft mud for the seed to grow in. Also the patty perimeter walls of packed soil must be maintained to control the irrigation and assure consistent soil elevation in each patty.

Seed rice is spread thickly in designated patties covering just a small percentage of the total area to be planted in rice. There it sprouts for two to three weeks reaching an ideal height of 7 to 10 inches, at which point it is ready to be uprooted, bundled and then transferred to the other patties to be replanted with proper spacing of about 4" between plants.




This process of planting rice however simple to describe, requires a great coordinated effort by the family. The "labor" of uprooting and replanting the rice shoots requires considerable motor coordination as well as physical endurance to be completed efficiently. It is truly a skill that must be developed just as the strength, flexibility and coordination required in various athletics must be. Likewise the preparation of the patties involves the skilled use of the "Patuwar" the "Nepali Hoe" which is something of a cross between the western hoe and a cutter mattock. It's use is versatile enough to eliminate the presence of the shovel on this farm.

Preparation of the patties also relies on knowledge of animal husbandry, fodder gathered by hand with a sickle, and of course the technology of the plow which is fashioned by hand with simple carpentry tools to the specifications of time honored tradition. Furthermore protection from the environmental elements of intense heat, and sun as well heavy rains relies on the use of the "chatri" an umbrella (minus the handle) made from two layers of woven bamboo slats with leaves carefully layer in-between.
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