Written by: Dinesh Panday
In some years, the government declares the subsidy on quality seed to ensure food security through increased productivity but in the whole fiscal year there is neither mechanism developed nor execution.
Similarly, with regard to access to credit, the so called Agriculture Development Bank changed its policy to invest in non-agricultural portfolio and some other commercial bank like, Mega Bank which has alternative name for plough to power (to promote small scale business), but speaking truly it’s no more than slogan.
There are several instances of such nature. Weak policy formulation, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and revision system together with inconsistency in agriculture is an important issue which has created frustration among farm families and out migration of youth from rural areas.
Agriculture in Nepal is characterized by low productivity which is mainly due to predominance of traditional farming practices, heavy reliance on weather conditions and poor infrastructure development. Agriculture has been one of the pillars of the development since I was a child. On an average, in spite of two decades of investment, there is only decimal (about 3 percent) progress in Nepalese agriculture.
Government has been developing Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS) to replace Agricultural Perspective Plan (APP) from 2015 with the concept of agricultural transformation, but the transformation process is not getting momentum due to small uneconomic farm size, resource constraints, inadequate infrastructure development, lack of alternative employment opportunities, lack of technical knowledge and business skills among farmers and inadequate policy supports.
In this regard, here I am presenting some of the major ways to transform Nepalese agriculture to achieve much higher productivity, competitiveness, inclusiveness, and sustainability while making it more resilient to climate change impacts, which is also a road map of ADS.
Public Private Partnership
Coordination is one of the widely talked word and terminology in Nepal but it has failed almost all the time. The contribution of the private sector has been grossly overlooked. Hence, there is a need to create conducive environment which promote private sector involvement in agriculture. Moreover, it needs to enhance a favorable environment for a broad and pluralistic participation and resource coordination amongst all potential service providers and beneficiaries in partnership to adapt and modify technologies to best meet its farmer’s requirement. So we need more public and private research to work hand in hand for farmers.
Value Chain Approach
High value-added agricultural products in order to have a high return help to open up new markets, and even build their own brand, and promote farm diversification. Nepal is already member of WTO and other organizations which increases the competition between domestic and foreign products and entrepreneurs to satisfy consumers from their products and services. The association of actors in agribusiness chains helps to realize economies of scale and gain market power of Nepalese agricultural products. This has been observed explicitly in poultry, dairy, tea, cardamom, ginger, and fresh vegetable sectors.
Commercialization and Competitive Advantage
Investment of resources, horizontal and vertical linkages between value chain actors, and policy supports help to commercialize certain sector of agriculture industry. The involvement of farmers and resources invested in these sectors and outputs generated from them provide competitive advantage for import substitution and export promotion. Commercialization of agriculture, being a national goal, has been receiving top priority in policies, plans, and programmes of the government. However, such efforts have been in project mode not in policy shift mode. Such projects which are currently in implementation include Project for Agricultural commercialization and Trade (PACT), High Value Agricultural Project (HVAP), etc.
Our agriculture is heavily dependent on human and animal power which constitutes 78 percent of the total farm power, while mechanical sources contribute only 22 percent, also one of the factors responsible for high cost of production. Agricultural mechanization, which includes improvement of simple farm tools and implements like sickle and hoe to use of power tillers, harvesters, planters and seed drills etc., has become the need of the day where concept of collective farming or block farming could be appropriate to make huge plots. Recently, government officials have developed Contract Farming Guideline focusing on the import of modern farming machinery, including discounts on VAT and other taxes. All of these particularly automation and use of ICTs will also add glamour to farming and attract more youth in agriculture bychanging their perception into an exciting and innovative industry.
Capacity building and Farmer Outreach
The current prevailing simple mechanistic delivery system of training is not enough to support farming. Limited numbers of experts (JTA to officers) are trying hard to teach the huge number of farmers and generate appropriate technology. In the field, one front line extension worker has to look after more than 1300 farm families. More ever, major of our technology transfer materials are outdated and more recent publication are in doner agencies preference language than in Nepali.
There is also need to have better coordination among training providing institutions. Providing agribusiness or entrepreneurship training to remittance recipient households and returnee migrants can play vital role in commercializing agriculture at faster rate. Hence, the government should develop supportive policy for development of human resources to improve farmers’ livelihoods, support resource sustainability, ensure national food security and promote agribusiness and trade.
To conclude that it would not be wrong as Nepal’s agricultural policies are made without their serious engagement which was also stressed in recently held program called ‘Nepal Economic Summit 2014 – Destination Nepal for Investment.’ It is high time for the government of Nepal to look into these issues critically and get the policies implemented properly so that Nepal can once again entrench as an agriculturally self-sufficient country where farmers feel secure and embrace farming as means of business and not merely a way of living.