“Yes,” she replies, almost under her breath. She looked at her fields, within weeks of being ready to harvest. “Too much like 2010.”
The weather became more instable and from 29 August the rains did not stop in Hanu. On 5 September they turned heavy and did not let up. The harvest lay in neat rows in the fields or in small “haystacks” ready to be threshed. I pulled out one stalk. The barley kernels already had mold on them. For over 400 households in this valley, this is their main food source.
Worse, the apricots, representing their only cash income, were already rotting. Spread on rocks, roofs and burlap as far as the eye can see in every village from Achinathang to Batalik, they had fermented and now were only fit for the flies to lay eggs in.
We dug up a few potatoes. The soils have been saturated and freezing for 10 days now. Also rotting. Grasses cut for winter fodder rotting at the edges of fields. And the wheat, the last to harvest is lodged in fields.
Unlike Leh, which only received one day of heavy rains, and unlike the people of Leh, who have access to income from tourism, the people in our partner villages are farmers, with annual incomes 1/30th of the Leh-pa (or less). Lately, they have been using cash income to build a “glass room” for winter warmth and to send their children to private schools. If they had just lost one year of their crops, they would be fine. But houses are collapsing, the roads are littered with rock and landslides and canals and field terraces destroyed. Almost every house I entered had significant water damage – mattresses can’t be hauled outside to dry because outside is not dry. And there isn’t enough savings to rebuild and eat.
Rightly so, the focus needs to remain on the people of the Vale of Kashmir, who desperately need help and will need long-term support to rebuild. But our project partners, who invest their time, money and skills in all our work, are also stressed. Ladakh’s Revenue personnel will also do assessment and there should be relief for some agricultural losses and rebuilding of government infrastructure.
Just as in 2010, the villagers will let us know exactly how we can help – rebuilding “village owned” infrastructure that is not covered by the government or supporting social services not available in these remote areas.
Ama Yangchen and I look at her rotting stacks of peas – the household’s main protein source for winter. We’ll have thukpa (soup) without peas for supper tonight.