Category Archives: Articles by Dinesh

Youth and Agricultural Biotechnologies

corn-soybean-farm_-dinesh-pandayAgriculture, Biotechnology and Youth

In the 1850’s, Louis Pasteur discovered fermentation process which implicates involvement of microbes, this is called the initiation of biotechnology in soil microbiology. Later when direct extraction and characterization of microbial DNA from environmental sample became possible around time period of 1900’s-2000’s, then the concept of soil has been changing which include not only unconsolidated material present on Earth surface but also ‘dynamic’ natural body.

Soil, water and its biological environment is a critical component of sustainable agriculture. The increasing human population is placing greater pressure on these resources and threatening our ability to produce sufficient food, feed, fiber and fuel. However, the beauty of sustainable agriculture, which takes advantage of traditional agricultural techniques, as well as the most recent technological advances.

The current global trends of young generations are not being integrated in to agriculture and farming, leaving food production in the hands of elderly. But, it is vital that these younger leaders and future decision makers understand the critical role of agricultural science innovation in addressing the world’s most pressing problems. They can be attracted by sharing of promising practices and strategies that can engage agriculture and biotechnology.

Role of Global Communities for Agricultural Biotechnologies

The question arises that how can prepare those young professionals for active roles of leadership and service to address critical needs and ensure the sustainability of agriculture? Broadly, it needs changes or improvement on educational curriculum, global continuum experiences, and diverse set of partners, coordination, collaboration and outreach.

Researchers at agricultural universities are constantly exploring better ways to raise food. There is compelling evidence that modern biotechnology applications such as tissue culture can greatly enhance productivity by generating large quantities of disease-free, clean planting material. Youth with a first degree in agriculture or biological sciences should be encouraged and facilitated to establish such some low-cost tissue-culture business facilities at community level.

The global community (like, YPARD) can impact on understanding the knowledge level of agriculture and biotechnology among the students/ researchers by organizing webinar, seminar through the use of presentations, discussions and hands-on activities. In addition, agriculture needs young professional who have an understanding of international agriculture issues and an enthusiasm for engaging in these issues on a global scale and hence by joining such a global community is always advantage.

Policy needed for Better Inclusion of Agricultural Biotechnologies

Biotechnology companies are investing billions of dollars in consolidations to ensure access to these rapidly growing markets, and in further research and development. However, the world of the rural poor, of small-scale, resource poor subsistence farmers in developing countries are still out of circles from the world of biotechnology. Hence, governments, scientists, non-governmental organizations, donors will have to consider the development of innovative mechanisms for the transfer of biotechnologies in developing country agriculture. At the students (young professionals) level, there is need of education, empowerment and motivation for young people to lead agricultural activities for improved and sustainable food production. It must focus on preparing the next generation scientists by enhancing youth development.

Personal Views of Dinesh Panday, PhD scholar in Soil Fertility at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, e-mail: dpanday2@unl.edu  

Transforming Agriculture in Nepal

agriculture in nepal

Photo Credit: Sanot Adhikari

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.

Agricultural Mechanization

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.

Support Farmers’

Farming community from Dhankuta district, Nepal Picture: Dinesh Panday

Farming community from Dhankuta district, Nepal
Picture: Dinesh Panday

Agriculture started at least 10,000 years ago, but no one knows for sure how old it is. Wheat and barley are some of the first crops people grew. People may have started farming because the weather and soil began to change and farming had a possibility that can feed many more people than gathering on the same amount of land.

Many people live by doing what is called subsistence agriculture; on a small farm and mostly poor countries are following. This is good in the short term, but can be bad for the country and the surrounding environment over many years. However, in rich countries, farms are often much larger and intensive agriculture is mostly done. It uses pesticides, machinery, chemical fertilizers. Only farmers can grow the food and we all need to survive since agriculture is what powers our economies, the developing world’s single biggest employer and the agrifood sector will certainly grow in the foreseeable future for food, feed, fuel and fibers.

According to Farming First, there will be an additional 1.7 billion mouths to feed by 2030 mainly in developing countries. To cope with this reality the world’s farmers need to double or even triple food production. However, farming policies have neglected the critical role which smallholders and women farmers must play in making sustainable development a reality. These rose questions with why development support for farmers plunged from 17 percent to 3 percent of global spend and why is farm productivity in the least developed countries (LCDs) is 10 percent of the developed world levels?

Fear is a powerful marketing tool, especially when properly financed. But so is hope. In that spirit, we can support the farmer locally and globally to increase farm productivity. Farmers’, they grow our crops; manage our land and safe guard biodiversity for our future. Here are six ways that is for their future and ours. The plan builds on existing knowledge and it works like this.

  1. 1.      Save natural resources

We are enormously rich in terms of biodiversity or natural resources. Report shows that farmers of Lekhnath village of Kaski district were managing more than sixty local landraces of important crops and medicinal plants for their livelihoods. Exchange of seed, based on co-operation and reciprocity, among the local farmers has been the basis of maintaining bio-diversity as well as food security. So we need more earth saving ideas like this since farmers are still the principal managers of plant genetic resources.

  1. 2.      Share knowledge

Although indigenous knowledge is not based on scientific facts, they are formulated on the basis of past observations and experience and have proven to be closely matched with scientific reality as indigenous measures do enable adaptation to harsh environment in many cases. In these days, tharu farmers in the Terai of Nepal are replacing rice crops with sugarcane and till to cope with uncertain rainfall which practices are helpful to promote the concept of food security. Thus we need to share more ideas and information like such, since indigenous knowledge, traditional practices and local resources including soil, water, genetic material, and skills can be used in research and technology development in sustainable way.

  1. 3.      Build local access

Although the road network has expanded significantly, many roads are of poor quality and are impassable during the rainy season. Thus access to roads infrastructure has major implications for food security, because while most of the surplus production takes place in Terai, the majority of households in the rest of Nepal are net buyers of cereals. One-fourth of the country’s area is still more than a four-hour walk from a road head. Similarly only less than 10 percent population in rural areas has access to electricity and they use it mostly for lights. Less than 40 percent of cultivable land is irrigated (only 17 percent year-round), while there is potential to reach two-thirds; thus overall factors limiting crop productivity. So we need more and better infrastructure to increase our agricultural productivity.

  1. 4.      Protect harvests

In Nepal, losses in horticultural produce vary between 15 and 35 percent and in food grains up to 9 percent at the different stages along the chain from harvesting to marketing. Normally storage loss is 15 to 30 percent ranging with storage techniques. However, there are significant opportunities to move smallholder farmers from subsistence to commercial agriculture through the support of improved post-harvest technology and value chain development. So we need better facilities and better techniques to preserve what farmers grow. In fact, these are helpful for contributing to food security through decreasing post-harvest loss.

  1. 5.      Access markets

There have been improvements in agricultural infrastructures in the recent years. The information and communication technology (ICT) sector is booming propelled by the rapidly growing usage of mobile phone and internet services. Mobile phones can help in agriculture and rural development by providing information to farmers about market demand and supply, about market opportunities and much more. Radios, televisions, printed media, websites/ social media are also working for price information by improving market information transparent and fair.

  1. 6.      Priorities research imperatives

In developing countries including Nepal, agriculture development is still considered the public sector responsibilities. However, to make Nepalese agriculture competitive there is a need to substantially increase investment on agriculture in general and research in particular to meet the present challenges of agriculture research for development so that research, extension, and teaching should work hands in hands.  Moreover it needs to enhance a favorable environment for a broad and pluralistic participation and resource co-ordination 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.

To come up with conclusion, these 6 actions can help preserve vital resources, can help feed growing population and can help confront global warming. At their center is farming, we should proud with farming and share our supports to the farmers.

Youth Engagement: Agribusiness Innovation Center (AIC) model for Nepal

Youth are playing Careem board on their  leisure time from Taplejung, Nepal

Youth are playing Careem board on their leisure time from Taplejung, Nepal
Photo: Dinesh Panday

Youth, defined in Nepal’s National Youth Policy as those aged 16-40, make up 39 percent of total population, and 38.8 percent of them are either unemployed or underemployed.  These young people are not necessarily idle, but report themselves as “unemployed” because they are waiting for what they consider “appropriate” jobs while they are engaged in odd jobs. This not only shows how badly human potential is wasted, but also highlights the irrationality in the economic and political structures that we live in.

Globally, organizations like ILO, UN Millennium Development Goal, etc. have raised the issue of youth unemployment, but neither these institutions, nor other development agencies and national governments have any idea how to generate decent and productive work for youth on the required scale.

Youth are the key part of a country’s national, socio-economic and political life. Youth engagement in developmental work is meant to empower young people to play an assertive and constructive role. In recent times, the information and communication technology (ICT) sector is booming propelled by the rapidly growing usage of mobile phone and internet services.

In recent years, there have been improvements in agricultural infrastructures in Nepal. Nepal has achieved a 24.51 percent internet penetration, according to the latest figures released by the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA). Around 90 percent of the country’s data customers are mobile GPRS users. Mobile phones are helping in agriculture and rural development by providing information to farmers about market demand and supply, about market opportunities and much more.

One of the biggest advantages being technology adopter means we can replicate successful development models. Similarly our generation can help introduce new technologies whilst also learning from traditional methods, holding the potential to offer the perfect fusion of new and traditional solutions to some of the biggest challenges. Several global organizations like World Bank, e-agriculture, CTA etc. are working on ICTs to innovation and entrepreneurship support, designing new tools to help start-ups drive growth, tackle development challenges from several years.

Technological progress is a considerable driving force behind economic growth. ICT infrastructure in particular has attracted much investment, and generated significant fiscal revenues and employment opportunities in developing countries. In this regards, Agribusiness Innovation Center (AIC) model is a successful model of global leading organizations in countries like Tanzania, Senegal, etc. and now under practice in Nepal.

Agribusiness development comprises supporting a number of components including Small and Medium Enterprises incubation, and value-chain development through support to farms (of varying sizes) and large-scale investments. It seeks to test a variety of models for providing pioneering agro-processing entrepreneurs with a holistic financial and nonfinancial service offering that enables innovation and facilitates access to markets, and thus accelerates the growth of the enterprises.

It’s a one-stop shop where a range of service offerings are provided to new, budding and established entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are able to access training, mentoring and coaching services, facilities, market research and linkages, financing and government, industry and donor networks. infoDev is now aiming to make the AIC a reality for Nepal.

Agricultural professionals are more and more concerned with the potential uses of ICT for rural development, while these tools also continue to be popular among young people and it can also help deter young people away from stereotypes of traditional farming and help change their perceptions on agriculture by helping them to view it as an exciting and innovative industry.

To conclude, ICTs have a great role to play in agricultural development, food security and rural development. ICTs will allow farmers to show with globalization (E-trade, e-selling, e-learning, e-education).  To achieve these goals, youth have to be implicated because there are those concerned by economic growth, social security and political stability, because youth represents more than 60% of handwork in all sector notably agriculture, more than 80% are students, and they are those who will lead the world tomorrow and ICTs is an essential key.

Focusing on the youth therefore, in programs that stimulate sustainable agricultural development, is necessary. For developing countries like Nepal, it was recommended that a robust relationship between agencies interested and government of Nepal to encourage youth involvement in agriculture by supporting and promoting rural infrastructure and equal access to the use of ICTs among women and men is critical. Similarly, involvement of Public-Private Partnerships and investment of private banking sectors can brings these models into real in very short period of incubation. In fact, this will enhance youth involvement and can act as catalyst in agricultural development.

Agriculture seeks Glamour

Last year, during the World Bank’s Open Forum organized to address the world’s food crisis, we brainstormed for ideas on how to provide food for almost one billion people who go to bed hungry every day. Many solutions were offered, but one of the ideas from the World Bank’s Facebook page made an impression on me. Julius Ayi wrote: “I believe governments must also encourage youth to work in agriculture.”

Ask a young person what they wish for their future, and very few will mention agriculture. Youth are not interested in the agriculture sector, which is perceived as unglamorous and without much profit. This of course raises the question: who will grow the crops to feed the world?

People do not realize how important agriculture is, what it is, and what it means to society. You could say that it is the very first business, but most people think of it as some redneck mowing a field. In fact, agriculture is hard work, and the whole nation depends on it. It affects the life of every individual.

The non-availability of qualified manpower, flawed government policies, public aversion to farming, unviable and conventional farming methods, and inadequate agricultural education are the major handicaps of Nepali farming. Educated youth consider agriculture a less than glamorous job. However, this should not be taken for granted; we need to encourage more people to take it up as a career. We need to interact with people, both in farming and non-farming sectors, and identify innovative and enterprising people who can make farming more attractive and profitable.

Swikriti Pandey“Farming is dirty and messy. If truth be told, most of the time it’s rather grimy. It is incapable of tackling the bigger concerns of economic boost, self-employment, entrepreneurship, sustainability and societal well-being. The world ‘culture’ actually has no place in agri-culture,” said Swikriti Pandey, a student of agriculture at Nepal Agriculture and Forestry University. No doubt, instead of culture, it is time to add innovative terms to the word ‘Agri’, such as Agri-enterprise, Agri-business, Agri-tourism, and so on.

Every agriculture planner, scientist and expert agrees that there should be a balance between education, research and implementation in agriculture. But in Nepal, the relationship between these three pillars is given very little weight. Academic institutions do not know what kind of graduate and post graduate students they should produce, research institutions are not aware of the kind of technical products they should develop, and the big problems of agriculture are ineffectively addressed.

To make Nepali agriculture competitive, there is a need to substantially increase investment, in agriculture in general, and in research in particular. In order to meet the challenges of agriculture, agricultural universities should focus their curricula on relevant researches on agriculture and forest sectors. In recent times, information technology sector is booming, propelled by the rapidly growing usage of mobile phones and internet services. Mobile phones can help in agriculture and rural development by providing information to farmers about supply and demand, market opportunities, and much more. Agriculture professionals are more and more interested in the potential uses of ICT for rural development, while these tools also continue to be popular among young people.

With a click of a mouse, a farmer in Kathmandu can upload and share pictures of maize planting practices to thousands of followers worldwide. A farmer from another corner of the world can comment on that picture and ask why he planted his crops the way he did. Over a period, each farmer has the knowledge to help him plant a better crop the next time. Meanwhile, thousands of agriculture students across the world are watching this conversation unfold, and learning from both these farmers.

I agree with, Eugene F Ware that “The farmer works the soil. The agriculturalist works the farmer.” It means, if farmer fails, all agriculturists fail. One of the things missing in today’s agriculture is imagination. Today’s generation of farmers, teachers, agricultural scientists, policymakers, and also the media have collectively failed to trigger the imagination of the youth. Yes, there are major challenges. Farming is not an easy or glamorous option, but there are ways of doing agriculture in a sustainable and rewarding manner.

The author (Dinesh Panday) is Nepal Representative to Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD)

ypardnepal@gmail.com

This article was originally published on REPUBLICA Daily of 6, June 2013 http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=55725

Agriculture Needs Your Voice!

In the early time, agricultural information exchange has been dominated by industrial media such as newspapers, radios, television, and magazines. Over the time period due to scientific and technological developments in recent years, however, technology awareness and computer literacy are increasing across all demographics and various forms of social media are being used more and more by people looking for news, education, and other information related to agriculture.

There is not an industry or area of the world that social media has not touched. Even in rural areas, social media is reaching farmers and agriculture students. Both the old and the young are finding ways to connect. The internet, smartphones, tablets and the related apps and social media experience are evolving as a major extension tool for the present and future. New channels are developing to obtain information and market agricultural products, but what does this all really mean?

Social media is all about people and can be defined as internet based applications that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. It is a way to build relationships, share information, and connect with diverse audience of people you may never meet in real life. It is a culture changer, not a fad. Because of this new paradigm shift, we are now used to a global, online community.

If you have a one to one conversation about an issue, only the person you are talking to benefits from the information you deliver. But if you share that information using social media, there is the potential to reach millions of other growers asking the same questions or facing similar problems. So, interacting on social media allows you to develop a community and share your story in a way that was never possible before now.

Agriculture and social media has attuned together. Social media is the platform of engagement and agriculture is the content. The marriage of agriculture and social media likely conjures up images of crop seeding on Farmville, but socially savvy agribusinesses are proving that the connection runs much and much deeper than the popular Zynga game.

While making a single click of a mouse, a farmer in Kathmandu can upload and share pictures of maize planting practices to thousands of followers worldwide. Then a farmer from another corner of world can make a comment on that picture and ask why that farmer planted his crops that way? Over a period discussion breaks out, growing knowledge is traded and each farmer leaves with knowledge that will help him plant a better crop in next time. Meanwhile, thousands of agriculture students across the world are watching this conversation unfold and are learning from both of these farmers.

There are many different forms of social media and its components including forums, blogs, micro-blogs, audio and video podcasts, and p2p file sharing sites. The easiest way to get started on social media is to choose one way to participate at first. Consider what your objectives are. Once you choose the tool that works best for you, do not feel like you need to be active on every network. Here are a few of the most popular social media tools:

Facebook is great for connecting with people; it has more than 900 million active users. You can post updates about activity on your farm, share pictures, and see what friends, organizations, and groups are up to. Facebook is a great place to start a positive conversation about agriculture, connect with the younger generation, and get people excited about farming.

Twitter is a micro blogging service option that allows you to 140 character updates and connects with people from around the world. In fact, twitter has its own ecosystem and economy, twitterverse. You can share news links, pictures from your farm. It allows you to connect with people who you have never met but share like-minded interests.

Linkedin is geared toward the professional community. It allows you to network with work colleagues and is a powerful for brands and job seekers. It can be used to spread positive messages of agriculture through group forums. It is a great way to connect with like-minded people and start deeper conversations about animal agriculture.

Pinterest is currently the fastest growing social media platform. It is an online pinboard where users share pictures, interests, and hobbies. It is a great tool to share pictures from the farm, your favorite agriculture fact, etc. and it focuses on visual sharing.

YouTube is another visual social media tool that is user- friendly and reaches a large population. Video can be a very powerful tool for agribusinesses of any size, but YouTube‘s free-to-use model, ease of use and mass market audience means it’s a great channel for small agribusinesses.

Blogging can communicate positive messages about agriculture through longer posts. Visitors want to be entertained visually. Adding images to your content will certainly make a difference in the experience of your audience where consistency is the key in blogging.agriculture nepal

There are many other popular forms of social media like Google Maps and Google Earth help you to plot your land, Flicker albums take your farm and allow it to be dynamic, etc.  In order to continue utilizing advanced technologies in the field, agriculturalists will first need to harness the power of social media technology. The impact of that technology will be huge, and I am excited to see just how powerful this technology can be for agriculture.

Social media for youth empowerment

cropped-blog-header-finalToday’s generation of young people is the largest in history. More than 60 percent of the world’s rural population is made of youth for example, population of 16-40 age group in Nepal accounts for 38.8 percent of the total population. Given that the youth is backbone of the nation from both qualitative and quantitative perspectives, it is necessary to make overall development of the youth and include their capacity in the mainstream of national development.

Nowadays, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) has been a key platform for the knowledge sharing and networking as development through empowerment to the youth for global change significantly. Though definition of social media depends upon the perception of individual differently, I agreed with that it is forms of electronic communication (as websites for social networking and micro blogging) through which users can create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other contents. The power of social media is enormous; they have the ability to multiply seeding numbers by 1000s.

YPARD Awareness Campaign @ Paklihawa Campus, Nepal ©2012

Since the time of undergraduate level, I am using my personal blog to write posts and it’s near to ten months ago, when I knew about YPARD and e-agriculture, then I started to write up blog posts on these websites. After getting training on social media from GCARD2, I am using social media more comfortably. When I became YPARD Nepal representative, I have successfully completed YPARD Awareness Campaign  in Nepalese agricultural universities including training on social media session. I am still remembering comments made by Dwarika Bhattarai from Lamjung campus, “I’m feeling good on social media session so I will be able to make contribution as blog post.”

Youth can use their creativity and also increase their capacity for their future work life. Material is published via web by the youth helping them collaborate across local communalities, country boundaries and influence decision makers in different parts of the world. I believe, young people constitute an important and significant part of the population; yet this is not reflected in their level of involvement in decision-making processes and public debates. In this regards, social media has become most powerful tools to sensitize issues and  to give pressure to the concerned stakeholders.

Rampur Campus

Technical Knowledge Sharing for Undergraduates in Rampur Campus, Nepal ©2011

Short video documentaries, photos and stories produced by the youth are an excellent way to create a positive social change in their communities. Youth can thus tell about matters close to them and try to create sustainable changes in the society as well as create awareness e.g. on gender inequality. So there is growing momentum on youth participation in social media within the development community.  Governments around the world are increasingly supporting youth ministries, youth policies and youth programmes, and there is now greater recognition that young people are the future of their countries’ development.

Yes! I’m a graduated: 38th convocation of Tribhuvan University

The 38th convocation ceremony of Tribhuvan University (TU) was held at Dasharath stadium, Tripureshwor Kathmandu on Wednesday (January 09, 2013) and around 5,394 students from various stream including humanities and social sciences, education, science and technology, agriculture, forestry, included in the grace list participation.

Agriculture Graduates from Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science, TU, NepalBatch: 2007-2011

Agriculture Graduates from Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS), TU, Nepal
Batch: 2007-2011

The convocation ceremony was held for the first time out of the TU premises, considering the participation by a large number of students. The TU has removed the provision of wearing the formal national dress in its convocation ceremony this year onwards. However, the wearing of the gown and scarf provided by TU is compulsory.

Addressing the 38th Convocation Ceremony of Tribhuvan University at Dashrath Stadium in the Capital, PM Bhattarai  said, “Wheel of history moves either forward or backward, role of youth is important in this process.” Prime minister is also the chancellor of Tribhuvan University.

Rector Professor of Bargain University of Bargain Sigmund Gromo, Tribhuvan University Vice Chancellor Hira Lal Maharjan, and Education Minister Dinanath Sharma, among others were present at the programme.

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Persons in picture

Top (from Left to right) Akash Koirala, Santosh Sanjel, Anil Adhikari, Vivek Shrestha, Devendra Paudel and  Dinesh Panday

Middle (from Left to right) Dipti Rai, Binita Shrestha, Abiskar Gyawali and Krishna Ghimire

Front (from Left to right) Radhika Bartaula, Pratibha Acharya, Ambika Pandey, Ranjita Adhikari and Pragya Adhikari

Reap what you sow

On the US Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook website, the page dedicated to Nepal offers a summary of the country: the population, the terrain, the economy, and so forth. It goes on to explain that the “mainstay” of the economy is agriculture, accounting for one-third of the GDP. Not surprising. The Factbook website is just one example of a source which establishes the fact that Nepal relies on agriculture to survive. But take a walk into the country’s premier (and only) Institute of Agriculture and Animal Sciences (IAAS), and you’ll see the destitution of its students. While a few lucky graduates take up jobs within the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC), they only make up a small fraction. More than 6,000 students have thus far taken some course from the institute and, considering the dearth of working agro-specialists in the country, it’s shocking to learn that most of these graduates are not engaged in any agro-related activity whatsoever. In fact, last year, 173 students graduated from the institute, and more than 85 of them are preparing to go abroad.

Dipti Rai, a recent IAAS graduate, blames political instability. “It’s not that we don’t have the talent, but there’s no encouragement,” she says. Educating students on agricultural innovation and sustainable farming methods is of little use when there’s no outlet for them to demonstrate these acquired skills. This is why most students with solid Nepal-specific knowledge on the ins and outs of the agricultural economy turn to wealthy countries where technological advancements in agriculture are already in place, and where they can actually use their skills.

Graduates, post graduates, experienced and skilled professionals are simply not getting enough opportunities to succeed in Nepal, and are consequently turning to the West. Just in the US, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors’ 2010 report, Nepal ranks 11 among international students. There were 11,581 students from Nepal in the US, a 30 percent increase from the previous year. Compare this to 1990, when there were only about 600 students from Nepal. Cumulatively, foreign students are estimated to inject US $20 billion into the American economy annually. Among Nepali students in the US, around two percent undertake agriculture and give back to the American economy accordingly. But technically, the scope for agriculture students and practitioners should be higher in a country like Nepal.

IAAS was developed precisely with that in mind. With financial assistance from USAID, it began its first phase of development in 1975. The second phase, focusing on human resources, began in 1984 and the World Bank involved itself in the infrastructure development aspect. IAAS has, since then, had no external assistance. But it’s also had very little government assistance, which has taken a huge toll on the institution. By now, political instability has seeped into every government office, affiliate, wing and association, and education has taken a huge hit. IAAS, like every other government campus in the country, has instead become a playground for the political elites. The Israeli student exchange programme, a highlight of the institute, which brought in foreign students to the campus, was revoked altogether. And the cumulative effect is simply that students want out of the institute, and ultimately, the country.

Professor Sundar Man Shrestha is in his fourth year as Dean of the institute. “It’s been 12 years since I started writing recommendations for students to get out of here,” he says. He writes an average of 80-100 recommendations a year. Similarly, Professor Shree Chandra Shah, the most senior faculty at IAAS with more than 37 years of teaching experience, can’t even count how many recommendations he writes. “I have even written recommendations for students I haven’t taught, or those with no interest in soil sciences. They say that they will study even that if it means they get to go abroad.”

More than 80 research papers are submitted each year as part of the post graduate programme, and yet, the professors tell of how the number of quality researches among these can be counted on a single hand. The remaining is the kind of research that is done to simply get the degree.

Sonisha Sharma, a 2008 graduate from IAAS, is currently pursuing a post-graduate degree on Remote Sensing Applications in Crop Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She says the differences are not just a matter of “the West is rich and we are poor.” More knowledge and more interaction with people from different parts of the world “makes us able to apply our skills everywhere in the world” after the completion of study, she says. But here in Nepal, the few international exchange programmes that were running have already come to a close.

Sixty-six percent of the Nepali population is involved in agriculture, contributing 36 percent to the GDP, and although agriculture is prioritised at the planning level of every policy, in terms of budget allocation, less than four percent is actually allocated to the sector in the national budget. The most well-known and productive body for agricultural research in the country, the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), has also seen a huge dip in funding, rendering almost all research into the agriculture sector obsolete since 2005. NARC leadership has made it clear that its budget is substantially less than the amount the government allocates for ‘farmer training’, and ‘district development’. But it’s a wonder how both are possible without substantial research into the sector.

Another cause for concern is that the demand for agricultural scientists far outweighs availability and capacity. A significant number have retired in the past 10 years or will be retiring within the next three to five years. NARC was able to hire only 90 scientists in the past year against a reported 300 vacancies. A joint report by Michigan State University and USAID published in 2010 clearly states that “NARC scientists need additional training. To minimise brain-drain, scientists should be trained at home country institutions, especially at the masters level, rather than sending them to the United States or the United Kingdom.” The need for efficient and sustainable agricultural methods is perhaps the most significant in Nepal’s economic development, and yet the tools which could make this possible are lacking, from the government, to education, and beyond.

One initial and efficient way to limit this agro-brain-drain phenomenon would be to seek its conversion to ‘brain exchange’. This would require the intensification of scientific cooperation with universities, laboratories and research institutions in Western Europe and North America. Another alternative would be to seek membership of international institutions such as AGORA, CABI, CEI, COST, ESF, EUREKA, HINARI, OARE etc. Additionally, the IAAS Alumni Association and NRN could launch initiatives on awareness and implementation of agriculture as an attractive business. The possibilities are endless, but ultimately, it all boils down to who’s listening. But few at the decision-making level tend to pay attention to ground-realities until it’s too late.

Author: Dinesh Panday; Panday has a BSC in Agriculture and is an Alltech Young Scientist 2010, 2011, 2012

Note: This article was published in The Kathmandu Post, 21 April 2012. For this post, text and picture were taken from http://www.ekantipur.com/2012/04/21/saturday-features/reap-what-you-sow/352706/

Impact on Agriculture Ecology in Nepal

Photo: Dinesh Panday

Climate change is a phenomenon due to emissions of greenhouse gases from fuel combustion, deforestation, urbanization and industrialization (Upreti 1999) resulting variations in solar energy, temperature and precipitation. It is a real threat to the lives in the world that largely affects water resources, agriculture, coastal regions, freshwater habitats, vegetation and forests, snow cover and melting and geological processes such as landslide, desertification and floods, and has long-term effects on food security as well as in human health.

In Nepal, majority of the population are small land holding farmers. The nature of agriculture is subsistence and depends on natural climate. Once the climate is disturbed, the whole agriculture system is affected. As the farmers cannot predict the weather that they were accustomed to, the adverse impact of climate change in agriculture is highly significant. The impacts are multiplied by the fact that there a lack of awareness on climate change at different levels, and lack of capacity to cope with adverse impacts of climate change.

The impacts of climate change on agriculture are both direct and indirect. Rise in temperature and temporal and spatial change in rainfall pattern have direct impacts while disturbances in water resources for irrigation and incidences of pests and diseases are the indirect impacts of climate change on agriculture. The rainfall is becoming more and more unpredictable which has negatively affected in the agriculture production since the farmers are planting and harvesting crops within certain dates of the year. The yield and cultural practices depend on timely rainfall. When the sowing and planting activities are not done on time, the crop fails, leading to fallowing of land for season. The farmers are not prepared to cope with such weather uncertainties because they still believe that rainfall will occur on certain dates of the year.

The annual mean temperature trend over Nepal ranged from -0.04 to 0.06⁰ C in far western, 0.02 to 0.04⁰ C in mid western, 0.02 to 0.08⁰ C in western, -0.04 to 0.08⁰ C in central and  -0.06 to 0.09⁰ C in eastern region during period showing a range of variations in the temperature trend (Practical Action 2009).  Nevertheless, the temperature trends on Nepal are high when compared to global average temperature rise of 0.74⁰ C in the last 100 years (1906 to 2005) and 0.13⁰ C per decade in the last 50 years (1956 to 2005) (IPCC 2007).

Baidhya et al (2008) found a general increasing trend in the extreme events with a consistent higher magnitude in the mountains than in the plains.  The study has reflected that both days and night are becoming warmer with less frequent cold days and cold nights. It may be due to solar radiation absorbed by glacial lakes as well as radiation absorbed by land because of snow melting in the Himalayan region.

In Nepal there is more erratic pattern of precipitation in the country. Rainfall was recorded minimum in the year 1972, 1977, 1992 and 2005 and maximum in the year 1975, 1985 and 1998 respectively. However, a clear decreasing trend has been seen in the number of annual rainy days during the last four decades (APN 2007). Erratic rainfall events (i.e. higher intensity of rains but less number of rainy days and unusual rain) with no decrease in total amount of annual precipitation have been experienced. Such events increase possibility of climatic extremes like irregular monsoon pattern, droughts and floods. For example, there were rain deficit in eastern terai and western regions, normal rain in far western region and heavy rain in the mid western region creating flood, landslide and inundation. The average annual precipitation trend ranged from -10 to 20 mm in the eastern region, -40 to 20 mm in the central region, -30 to 40 mm in the western, -20 to 10 mm in the mid western and -10 to 20 mm in the far western region between 1976 to 2005 (Practical Action 2009).

These are some statistical data showing that contributing to the changing climate and climate change is a global issue and every country trying to adapt or mitigate in vulnerability on climate change. Knowingly or unknowingly, Nepal also made efforts to mitigate the effect of climate change. To mitigate the effect of climate change, forest management practice is one of them.  I think adaptation is more important aspect in case of Nepal than mitigation due to our physiographical situation. Same-wise farmers perceive more problem of change in rainfall than change in temperature which was shown by our recent survey on “Ecological impact of climate change on agriculture and livelihoods in the Giruwari catchment, Nawalparasi, Nepal”.

The declining trends of river discharge have direct adverse impacts on agriculture mainly with inadequate water for irrigation. Moreover, the water availability for irrigation has also been affected by landslides and debris flow which have washed away the irrigation channels and sub ducted the water under the debris making it inaccessible for use. This problem is becoming severe in the foothills of Churiya ranges of Makawanpur, Chitwan, Nawalparasi, the soil erosion and landslides have also increased on the slope land cultivated areas (Practical Action 2009).

In high mountains the small glaciers are disappearing resulting into drying up of water for irrigation. However, in the higher altitude areas, there are some positive impacts of increase in temperature through increase in growing seasons for the crops. Farmers in the hills are now able to grow crops that used to grow in lower altitudes earlier, but there are emergence of new pests and diseases in higher altitudes and local people perceive the climate warming as the cause.

Climate change is real and underway, so there is a need of impact identification and adoption to cope with vulnerabilities in agricultural sector. Nepal being a least developed country, it is moving towards vulnerable situation due to climate change. As it is known, its effects cannot be completely controlled but effective planning and change in human habit towards a low carbon economy can slower down possible disasters. Enriched CO2 has shown positive impact on yield of major crops in all geographical zones. However, some research findings from other countries showed reduction in grain and food quality. Increase in temperature and CO2 levels is also threatening to bring hidden-hunger problem in human by lowering essential nutrients contents in food crops. It is concluded that overall impact of climate change in agricultural sectors will have negative impacts in the long run.

References:

APN. 2007. Enhancement of national capacities in the application of simulation models for the assessment of climate change and its impacts on water resources and food, and agricultural production. Final Report of APN Capable Project, 2005-CRP1CMY-Khan.

Baidhya, SK. Shrestha, ML. and Sheikh, MM. 2008. Trends in daily climatic extremes of temperature and precipitation in Nepal. Vol 5 (1), Journal of Hydrology and Meterology, Society of Hydrologists and Meterologists, Nepal.

Bajracharya, et al. 2007. Impact of climate on Himalayan glaciers and glacial lakes. ICIMOD/ UNEP,

IPCC. 2007. Climate change 2007: Climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability: Summary for Policy makers. A report of the Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report. pp7-19.

Practical Action Nepal Office. 2009. Climate change and adaptation in Nepal. A field report submitted by Small Earth Nepal (SEN) to Practical Action Nepal Office.

Upreti, D.C. 1999. Rising Atmospheric CO and crop response. SASCOM Scientific Report, pp1-8.

Note: This concept was shared by author (Dinesh Panday) as participant in e-Conference on Sustainable Mountain Development in the Southeast Asia, June 1-30, 2011.