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Nepal’s unescapable trap of migration, farming and climate change

“WE DON’T GET rain on time anymore,” said Purna Rana, a 51-year-old farmer in Sathikola village in mid-western Nepal. It was the middle of November 2023 and the winter chill was beginning to set in. “The summers are hotter and winters are colder each year,” he continued. “Last winter, I lost my tomatoes to a combination of mosaic virus, white flies and extreme cold.” Rana has been fighting all these threats even as extreme weather conditions exacerbate farming risks every year.

Rana was not always a farmer. He went to India to find work in 1991, when he was just 19. He trained as a radio repairman and electrician and shuttled for work between Shimla, Mumbai, Delhi and numerous small towns between these cities. After 21 years as a migrant, he returned to Nepal in 2012. He first planned to use his experience as a radio repairman to provide for his family, which included two school-going children. He made the hopeful but ill-considered move of opening a radio repair shop in his village. “How many radios do you think this village had?” he asked. Even the handful it had were soon made redundant by cheap mobile phones that doubled as radios.