Climate change hits apple output in Mustang

Tara Chapagain

Tara Chapagain

Climate change hits apple output in Mustang

Farmers in the so-called apple region of the district such as Lete, Taklung, Dhampu, and Kowang are moving towards different crops

Apple production in Mustang has been dwindling massively in recent years. Local farmers blame the unpredictable weather for it.  Dipak Hirachan has been in the apple farming business for the last 20 years, and he says the fruit production has dropped massively over this period.

“There is a massive difference both in terms of the apple’s quantity and quality.” Hirachan owns apple orchards in Tukuche village. It is an area where rainfall rarely occurred until a couple of years ago. Mustang’s dry weather is one reason why apples from there, though tiny in size, are sweet and why people love them. But the region has been receiving excessive amounts of rain in recent years. As a result, apple farmers are facing problems of pest infestation and plant root decomposition due to excessive moisture in soil.

It is extremely difficult to grow apples in lower Mustang these days.

“There is a serious pest problem here, but we have no way to combat them. This is a direct result of climate change in these mountain areas,” says Bikal Sherchan, an apple farmer in Kuwang village.

Experts say the overall crop output of Mustang has been hit due to changing climate.

Achyut Tiwari of Central Department of Botany, Tribhuvan University, says a study conducted in Mustang shows that apple production in Mustang has dropped sharply as a result of excessive rainfall.

“Many farmers in the so-called apple region of the district such as Lete, Taklung, Dhampu, and Kowang are moving towards different crops.”

Tiwari adds some places in the upper region of Mustang, where apple production was hard until a couple of years back, meanwhile, are seeing improved production. “This is because these areas haven’t been receiving as much snowfall as they used to. Apples and other crops that prefer dry climates are moving further up because of changing weather patterns.”

Prakash Bastakoti, chief of Agriculture Knowledge Center, Mustang, says the effects of climate change can be observed particularly in lower altitude regions of the district, but there hasn’t been many conclusive and comprehensive studies.

“The use of pesticide has also increased significantly because the apple farmers have been witnessing various crop diseases.”   There are around 3,700 households in Mustang and nearly 1,500 of them are involved in apple farming. Of late, some of these households have been migrating to upper Mustang, where they can grow apples without fears of rainfall or pests.

Subas Adhikari, an environment expert, bemoans the fact that the government doesn’t have strong data to measure the effects of climate change and to prepare a robust action plan.  “There have been a few studies but they are not enough. Climate change research should be a matter of priority for all three tiers of government.”