Stepping Back in Time
During my recent trekking trip to northern Nepal we found ourselves well off the beaten track in a world largely untouched by electricity and completely free from mechanized agriculture. Fields are cultivated, sown and harvested using only human or animal power. It’s early 19th century farming alive and well in 2012.
Goats, sheep, oxen, buffalo, yaks, mules and horses are all plentiful. Animals are rarely slaughtered for meat since they are far more valuable as sources for dairy products and to help in the fields.
Rice is an extremely important crop even in the steep and hilly valleys. Over successive generations the land has been terraced to allow for maximum planting.
We were walking through the country during a harvest period. Rice and other crops are cut down by hand with whole families pitching in. Very little is wasted as the rice stalks will be dried and used for fodder for farm animals over the winter.
Corn dries in a crib alongside the trail. It is elevated to keep pests away. The corn could be used as feed but is also valuable as it can be ground into meal.
Here a young lady is grinding corn into meal. She uses two flat rocks, one on top of another, with the top one having a hole in the center and a wooden handle for turning. Dried corn kernels from the pan are dropped into the hole and the spinning of the handle crushes the kernels between the stones. Meal spills out the sides onto the woven mat.
In the background six buffalo are tightly yoked together and are being driven around a pole. Their collective weight threshes the rice. A pile of un-winnowed rice is visible in the center as two men hold winnowing mats. They toss the rice into the air, the chaff floats away and at their feet is harvested rice. On the right, a team takes the threshings and hands them down to a man who is building a stack which will serve as winter animal fodder.
An immaculate field ready for the coming season with rice stalks stacked. (Note fields in far background.)
Marijuana grows in the wild; this field stretched for miles. No one seemed to be tending it though the buffalo were especially content.