Playing and planting: Nepal celebrates paddy day


Tokha (Nepal) (AFP)

Splashing mud and drinking local rice beer, Nepali farmers this week celebrated National Paddy Day to mark the beginning of the rice-planting season, despite some coronavirus lockdown measures still in place.

Traditional farming songs and laughter echoed in the air as farmers waded into waterlogged fields to sow green paddy.

"It is an important day for us. Our family and friends all came together in the fields to plant and have fun," farmer Ramesh Dongol, 35, told AFP.

Nepali farmers across the country mark the 15th of the Nepali month of Asar every year with celebrations.

Standing on fields flooded by the onset of monsoon, the farmers dance and sling mud on each other as they plant the seedlings.

Locals also feast on curd and beaten rice, traditionally eaten on the day.

A staple food, rice accounts for almost half of cereal production in Nepal.

The country produced over five million tonnes of paddy last year, according to the agriculture ministry.

Government data shows that early 70 percent of Nepal's population depends directly on agriculture, and the sector contributes to about a third of the country's GDP.

This year, lockdown measures against coronavirus have disrupted farm supplies, creating shortages of seeds and fertilisers, prompting worries for the country's agricultural production.