Agriculture in the Himalayas of Nepal
According to some estimates, as much as 90% of Nepal's population relies on agriculture for its sustenance. The significant climactic variations between Nepal's sub-tropical Terai region, hills region, and Himalayan mountain region lead to a variety of different agricultural models. Within the northern Himalayan region, additional variations in agricultural style exist because of changes in the qualities of available soil and quantities of moisture at different altitudes. Some researchers remark that it is even possible to anticipate the ethnicity of a group in a rural Himalayan village by glancing at an altimeter, as the traditional lifestyles maintained by the Nepali-speaking caste Hindus and sub-Tibetan peoples require the climactic conditions present at certain altitudes. This paper will introduce a variety of agricultural systems and practices found in the Himalayas, and it will also explore the relationships that the Himalayas' Nepali inhabitants have with weather conditions and the climate.
In his article ÒEcology, Economy, and Social System in the Nepal HimalayasÓ, Dr. Shigeru Ijima identifies several altitude zones in the central Nepal Himalayas and the lifestyles associated with them. Up to 2,000 meters above sea level, agriculture typically focuses on rice production, although farmers also produce maize and millet. Slightly higher, between 2,000 to 2,500 meters, barley, wheat, and buckwheat can also be found with regularity. The Hindu peoples that inhabit both of these zones have sedentary agriculture communities where rainfall and mild temperatures allow the growth of two crops during the year. Many of the people in these regions come from lower castes, and they believe that maintaining the vegetarian diet followed by Brahmans can give them status closer to that of the elites. As they rely heavily on their crops to sustain themselves, they tend to remain in areas where agriculture can continue throughout the year.
In midland mountainous regions from 2,500 to 3,200 meters above sea level, sub-Tibetan groups (or groups of Tibetan ethnicity and culture) grow one crop of wheat or barley per winter and one crop of buckwheat during the summer. The climate in this region is cool and dry, and the dry-field agriculture used requires less labor than rice cultivation. This allows them to raise cattle, water buffalo and goats to supplement their diet.At even higher altitudes, where low levels of moisture permit only a single crop of wheat or barley, yak, which are well suited for high altitudes, become a major component of the lifestyle. In the northern areas of Nepal, Tibetan pastoralists travel to altitudes reaching up to 5,200 meters as they seek out pasture for their animals during the summer monsoon season, although few permanent habitations can be found above 4,000 meters. Where possible, these groups make up for shortages in grain and other goods by trading wool,...