Case Study – Haat Colors

September 17, 2006 at 11:31 am Leave a comment

Haat Colors 

– Raji Dhital, MESc 2004 

Introduction

Every 75 out of 100 people in Nepal are farmers and the majority are involved in the agriculture market system. Whether in a small haat street market or as part of the greater global economy, farmers have to face the uncertainties and complexities contingent on the market system. In a politically and economically faltering nation like Nepal, what does it mean to be a small farmer? The forces that determine the lives of farmers in this tiny landlocked nation between India and China, aptly referred to as “yam between boulders,” extend well beyond its borders. How do the farmers in Nepal survive in the face of these forces, forces which they have no power to alter?

The Haat

Rangeli glows in an amalgamation of colors as the sun begins to wane in the early dusk. Rang translated into English means colors, and colors are the first thing that strike me in this small town. Rangali lies in a flat strip of plain called Terai that lines the southern border of mostly mountainous Nepal. Brilliant red, yellow, and blue saris of women, pure green color of vegetation and bright but gaudily painted shutters in Rangeli create a unique collage of colors. 

Every afternoon a small muddy street corner comes alive with hundreds of bustling locals hurrying to get their goods into the street market, called haat, at the right time. “Right time,” people say, means the “right price.” You can get everything here: from local fresh vegetables to Indian “Fair and Lovely” cosmetic cream and cheap Chinese electrical goods. Compared to my hometown, Katmandu, everything seems very cheap, especially the fresh green vegetables. But there isn’t enough of a market in Rangeli for all the vegetables produced here and people have to look beyond the haat. Biratnagar, the second biggest city, is just 22 kilometers away, but with a lot of competition it is difficult to get the “right price” there too. 

A quaint little town on the Indian border, Rangeli is not the sort of place where one goes for no apparent reason. “Why would you want to go to Rangeli,” lots of people have asked me. There was a time when Rangeli was the major trade point between India and Nepal. But after the Mahendra highway was built,(1) and Biratnagar became the trade center, Rangeli has become just a colorful town near the great city, a place where peri-urban farmers try hard to survive in the urban market. Rangeli is obscure but it is far from the most rural place in Nepal. I find it hard to describe Rangeli in superlatives: it is poor but not the poorest; it is remote but not the remotest. It just is, struggling everyday, receiving scant attention: one of those villages where poor farmers work to grow food seven days a week, twelve months a year, and sometimes cannot afford to eat what they grow.

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Entry filed under: Reports.

Land Reforms, Key to Social Harmony मधेसमा अनेरास्ववियुका चुनौती

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