Rickshaw Driver Struggles With High Food Prices

Binod Majhi remembers the days -- not so long ago -- when he earned more and food was cheaper.

Copyright: WFP/Deepesh Shrestha

Rising food prices around the world have hit Nepal particularly hard, with the price of staples soaring and no respite in sight. For Nepalese rickshaw driver Binod Majhi, the price hikes have hurt his business and his ability to feed his family.

KATHMANDU, Nepal -- Binod Majhi, 26, has been a rickshaw driver on the narrow streets of Kathmandu for the past eight years. He has struggled to feed his family since 2008 when staple food prices jumped drastically.

Now it appears that continued food price hikes are also starting to affect his business.

"On average, I earn around Npr. 150 (US $ 2) a day, some days I don't have any income at all," Majhi told WFP. "With that money, I have to pay rent to my landlord and buy food for my family. My life is full of stress and hardships and rising food prices are making it worse"

Across this rugged Asian nation people are struggling to cope with the high cost of basic commodities. The world food price crisis hit Nepal hard in 2008, with the price of staples such as rice, wheat and maize soaring by 30-70 percent in a matter of months.

But while other countries have experienced some respite over the past two years, Nepal has been hit by double-digit inflation. In the past year alone, the price of vegetables in the capital has doubled. Rice costs 30 percent more than in 2008 and lentils 20 percent more.

"A few years back food was a lot cheaper," Majhi said. "For the same price I now get half the rice I could buy two years ago."

Fewer clients

Majhi used to earn as much as NPRs.300 (US $ 4) per day as a rickshaw driver but these days his income is generally much less. He also blames the income drop on rising food prices.

"Because everyone is paying more for food everything is more expensive. Now fewer people are using rickshaws -- people would rather walk long distances than pay 10 rupees (13 cents) for my rickshaw," he said.

Majhi is hungrier as a result. "These days I have been eating less because I don't earn enough to buy the food my family needs. The price of food has become so dear that on some nights I sleep with an empty stomach," he said.

"Sometimes I feel like I don't have energy to pull the rickshaw," he added, "but I have to. Otherwise I won't survive."