Tag Archives: agriculture nepal

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.

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.

Call for Participation: Adaptation Fund Photos Contest 2012

The Adaptation Fund invites submissions of powerful images depicting the various ways in which individuals and communities in developing countries are adapting to climate change in the food and agricultural sectors.

Photographers should aim to capture cooperation and innovation in activities that are clearly tied to improving human resilience to climate change. The most compelling and relevant photos will be eligible to receive prizes. The Fund will also feature the top photos and photographers on its website and in its publications.

Eligibility of Entrants

Employees, independent contractors, officers, and officials of the Adaptation Fund, advertising, promotion and fulfillment agencies, and legal advisors, and their immediate family members and persons living in the same household of such persons, are not eligible to participate in the contest.

Submissions and Key Dates

The Adaptation Fund Photo Competition commences on September 4, 2012, and the submission deadline is October 26, 2012. All entries must be received by 11:59pm (Washington, DC time) on October 26, 2012, via email to secretariat@adaptation-fund.org. An entry is considered timely only if received (and not sent) by this time. All entries require an entry form. Entrants will receive a confirmation email when their completed submission has been received.

For more details, click here


Note: This post was made based on email received from Alpha Oumar Kaloga, Adaptation to Climate Change/ International Climate Policy Team.

Call for Application: South Asian Youth Conference 2012

SAYC was born when a group of South Asian youth came together at the 5th World Youth Congress in Turkey. They felt the deep connection of shared culture and history between them. But they also found several unresolved issues, incomplete conversations and possibilities of partnership.

Hence, this SAYC 2012 will witness the birth of the South Asian Youth Coalition – a group of youth organizations committed to building a stronger region. The SAYC thus becomes a focal point for these highly influential change makers to connect, collaborate and build connections.

120 Future Leaders From 8 South Asian Countries . Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri lanka, Maldives, Bhutan & Nepal.
Youth leaders from these countries are encouraged to apply. Though there are no specific participant categories
Potential change makers: those who show potential to create a change

Young activists: current leaders of social change movements

Educators: Involved directly in education

Journalists: Young media professionals

Management Students

Local Heroes: Those already honored and recognized in their own countries for their work


Young people who have done things; those who have the most interesting action project, and those who have the most interesting, do-able ideas for action projects; those with exceptional motivational skills – who can inspire us to do effective, cutting edge action projects. All delegates must have a working knowledge of English; if there are facilitators who offer to do skills workshops in other languages, and delegates who sign up to do them in those languages; this will be allowed to happen. Applications will only be accepted in English from participants.

By 15th August – You fill in your application forms and submit it to us
By 28th August – Your applications are evaluated by an international panel comprising of several high level change makers. Your references will be checked. You may be contacted for additional information
By 31st August– The first shortlist and waitlist of participants will be released on the site
By 6th September – You will provide a confirmation of your participation in the conference. You will be issued a welcome letter immediately and your visa process will begin
Call for workshops and plenaries will also be opened
By 25th September – You will receive a finalized schedule including results of your workshop selections
By 5th October – Your air tickets and arrival details have to be submitted to us

Application form available at http://sayc2012.org/why-apply/application-form/


This application announcement is taken here from SAYC’s website with an intention of disseminating the information to a wider audience. Further details can be found in the original source link below. Read more about at http://sayc2012.org/.

The Explorers Club: Youth Activity Fund- Grant 2013

The Explorers Club offers grants to students conducting individual scientific or exploration research projects through their respective schools with a supervising instructor. Your instructor must write a letter of support. We do not provide general scholarships for tuition.

Youth Activity Fund for high school students and college undergraduates, fosters a new generation of explorers dedicated to the advancement of scientific knowledge of the world. Our awards typically range from $500-1500 US for both funds. A few awards may be granted up to a $5000 award level.

Exploration Fund, for graduate, post-graduate, doctorate and early career post-doctoral students, provides grants in support of exploration and field research for those who are just beginning their research careers. Our awards typically range from $500-1500 US for both funds. A few awards may be granted up to a $5000 award level.

Incomplete applications or those made to the wrong program will be automatically disqualified without notification or comment. Please read the application directions carefully.

All required documents must be submitted at one time, including your letter of support and current student ID or proof of enrollment. Required materials will not be accepted separately. If submitting your application electronically, please submit all required documents as one PDF or Microsoft Word File.

The deadline for receiving 2013 applications is November 1st, 2012 and awards will be issued in April of 2013.

Click here to download application form.

For more details: http://www.explorers.org/index.php

Call for Paper: 2nd International Conference on Food and Environment, 2013 Hungary

The aim of the conference is to emphasize the effects of modern food production processes on the environment and human health, and to initiate discussion on the best ways to provide food of required quality, sufficient quantities and in a sustainable way i.e, held in 22 – 24 April, 2013 Budapest, Hungary.

Conference Topics

a)      Impact of food production and food processing on the environment

b)      Contamination of food

c)       Food processing issues

d)      Food production and climate change

e)      Transportation problems

f)       Traceability

g)      Food characterisation

h)      Pharmaceuticals in food

i)        Pesticides and nutrients

j)        Food and fecundity

k)      Temperature control, freezing and thawing

l)        Policies and regulations

m)    Consumer risk and safety issues
Conference Secretariat
Irene Moreno Millan
Wessex Institute of Technology, Ashurst Lodge, Ashurst, Southampton, SO40 7AA
Telephone: 44 (0) 238 029 3223 Fax: 44 (0) 238 029 2853
Email: imoreno@wessex.ac.uk

Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted as soon as possible.

For more details: http://www.wessex.ac.uk/13-conferences/food-and-environment-2013.ht

UNESCO International Literacy Prizes 2012 on “Literacy and Peace”

UNESCO has launched the call for nominations for the 2012 UNESCO International Literacy Prizes 2012 on the theme of “Literacy and Peace.”

Every year, the UNESCO International Literacy Prizes reward excellence and innovation in the field of literacy throughout the world. By honouring the work of institutions, organizations and individuals through these Prizes, UNESCO seeks to support effective literacy practices and encourages the promotion of dynamic literate societies.

The UNESCO International Literacy Prizes are:

UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize (2) Supporting literacy in multilingual contexts
UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy (2) Supporting literacy in rural areas, rural adults and out-of school youth, particularly women and girls
The candidatures must be submitted to the Director-General of UNESCO either by Member States, in consultation with their National Commissions for UNESCO, or by International NonGovernmental Organizations maintaining official relations with UNESCO. Each nomination must be accompanied by a written recommendation. A self-nomination cannot be considered. Each Government or International NGO is entitled to nominate only two candidates per year. The files must be in English or French only.

Institutions, organizations or individuals promoting literacy through effective and innovative programmes or projects are eligible to be nominated.

The deadline to submit nominations is 20 June 2012.

For more information, visit this link http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002163/216302E.pdf

What is Climate-Smart Agriculture?

Climate-smart agriculture addresses the impacts of a changing climate on agriculture and presents solutions to both mitigate the contribution of agriculture to greenhouse gas emissions and to feed an ever-increasing global population. Particular practices, such as incorporating trees into farms, water capture technologies, inter-cropping, and integrated livestock-crop systems, increase resilience to climatic stress, building soil organic matter, and storing carbon. The World Bank has produced a video on climate-smart agriculture, presenting the “triple win” scenario. Examples from the field help explain different practices considered to fall under the climate-smart category.

These various components of a climate-smart agricultural landscape are addressed in the video. However, the definition of climate-smart agriculture goes further to recognize that an integrated approach to planning for agriculture, forests, fisheries, and water is necessary to ensure the synergies between these systems are realized. Moreover, it implicates the need to continue producing food within the landscape to feed communities, and protect the livelihoods of the local people, all in a sustainable manner. A post on the Landscapes Blog back in April tackles this notion of “climate-smart landscapes” and the steps to take en-route implementation.

Watch the video online.


[Note: This post was taken from http://blog.ecoagriculture.org/2012/05/30/climate-smart-agriculture-video/]

2012 Alltech Young Scientist Global Scholarship Winners

Alltech announced the winners of their Young Scientist competition during Alltech Symposium 2012. In addition to regional winners there are two global winners (graduate and undergraduate). Altogether there were 8,000 entries in the competition! Presenting the awards were Dr. Mark Lyons and Dr. Inge Russell.

The Global Undergraduate winner is Gisele Greghi, Universidade Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Global Graduate winner is Qian Wang, University of California-Davis, USA.


The Alltech Young Scientist Award brings together the world’s brightest scientific thinkers from colleges and universities across the globe. To compete for the top prizes, undergraduate and graduate students are asked to register and submit a scientific paper on an agricultural topic such as veterinary science, animal feed technology, agricultural developments or agriculture management.

Note: Text and photo taken from http://agwired.com/2012/05/22/alltech-young-scientist-global-scholarship-winners/

What Climate Change means for Farmers in Asia ?

A farmer ploughs through hardened soil on a rain-dependent rice field in a rural Ciampea, a district West of Bogor regency. Photo by Danumurthi Mahendra.By C. (Kees) J. Stigter and Yunita T. Winarto 

( This post was taken from http://www.earthzine.org/2012/04/04/what-climate-change-means-for-farmers-in-asia/)


After an introduction from recent literature on how climate change influences the livelihood of rural people, we discuss and illustrate what climate change really means for farmers in Asia, including global warming, increasing climate variability, more and more severe climate extremes, and contributions from agriculture in diminishing greenhouse gases.


Vulnerable communities across the world are already feeling the effects of a changing climate. These communities are urgently in need of assistance aimed at building resilience, and at undertaking climate change adaptation efforts as a matter of survival and in order to maintain livelihoods (e.g. [1, 2]). They are in need of an urgent rural response to climate change. The reality of climate change calls for a need to understand how it might affect a range of natural and social systems, and to identify and evaluate options to respond to these effects (e.g. [3]). This should lead to an in-depth investigation of vulnerabilities and adaptations to climate change, which have become central to climate science, policy and practice. The capacity, however, to conduct vulnerability and adaptation assessments is still limited [4].

For example, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society [5] indicates to use a science-based approach to enhance society’s capability to understand, anticipate and cope with the impacts of climate in order to improve human welfare and the environment. We want to extend this approach to the rural communities of Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia. The basis of our approach is listening to concerned farmers to better understand their vulnerabilities and needs the way they see them. In a “farmer first” paradigm, or a participatory approach, we will be able to generate support with them and for them in facing the consequences of increased climate variability and climate change in their livelihoods [6].

However, applied scientists cannot do that alone[7]. They should be the connection between applied science and the actual production environment. To that end, they in fact would be most useful to back up well-educated extension intermediaries. The latter must train, on an almost daily basis, farmers, farmer facilitators and ultimately farmer trainers and farmer communities. Unfortunately, extension services are often absent. Where they still do exist, they are poorly trained and have received little or no upgrading about the fast changes occurring in the agricultural production environment, and about the actual crises in the livelihood of farmers [8].

For an agricultural economy, astronomical knowledge as a regulator of the agricultural calendar was of prime importance [9]. He who could give a calendar to the people would become their leader. More specifically, this was true for an agricultural economy that depended so largely upon artificial irrigation. It was necessary to be forewarned (…) of the beginning of the rainy monsoon season [9]. These remarks were valid for several millennia in China and also apply for example to India and Indonesia, to rain fed and irrigated agriculture. Farmers, supported by scientists, still use such astronomical approaches of the rainy season (e.g. [10, 11, 12]). However, it must be sorted out how well such approaches can still hold, or can be adapted under the present conditions of a changing climate, in comparison to a response farming approach [13, 14].

We have indeed encouraged some of the farmers we work with in Indonesia, a majority of whom are older, that still believe in possibilities to try to adapt their local cosmology (pranata mangsa) to new conditions. They better find out for themselves the new limits of this traditional approach. We can help, for example, using simple climate predictions as these days they are generally available (e.g. [15]). Traditional knowledge and indigenous technologies should always be taken seriously and they should always be tried out in a participatory approach to find new limitations under changing conditions [4, 16]. Conducting local experiments together is also often a good way to create a rapport with the local farmers, and to come together to compare traditional and modern scientific approaches [6].

As financing for climate change adaptation in developing countries begins to flow, it is essential the governance of funding at the global and country level be shaped so the needs of the most vulnerable can be met [2]. The core issue is country-level ownership of adaptation finance. Providers of adaptation finance must put developing countries in the driver’s seat, while the countries themselves must exercise leadership and respond to the needs of those most affected by climate change. Most importantly, civil society and vulnerable communities must be able to steer and hold accountable the way in which adaptation finance is used [2]. The latter issue is even more important in Indonesia, the most corrupt country of Asia, at the levels of central and local authorities.

While it is relatively easy to define technical messages that can be communicated, we have to look beyond “adaptation to current climate variability” and target the basic vulnerability factors of communities.

Communication aims also at improving the learning process, and creates capacity to cope with climate variability [17]. Measuring rainfall and observing the agronomical consequences by farmers in their plots have been a great start for such communications.

In this introduction we have brought up some points that guided our work with farmers in Indonesia. Below, we will start to exemplify what the most important consequences Indonesian and other Asian farmers face because of increasing climate variability and climate change. In a second paper we will discuss our initial approach to make farmers more aware of what is happening around them on a daily basis, and also our initial attempts to answer their many questions related to these issues.


The discussion of whether climate change exists does not need to be taken up here as the evidence is rather clear (see below), and the discussion on the causes of climate change is mostly irrelevant for those suffering the consequences. Even if we were able to reduce apparent sources of climate change, or find other geophysical ways to reduce global warming, it would continue to take place and only at a reduced speed.

The problem we face is the experts on climate variability and climate change do not really know what information the grassroots need in the short- and medium-term [13, 19], and the people working with vulnerable communities do not know what science is available [19]. The main issue we cannot leave out here regarding what the agricultural sector could do to mitigate climate change, in a win-win situation, is that of large scale agroforestry with food security components [20, 21].

Let’s first look at the main issues behind a changing climate for Asian farmers, and at some of the consequences.

II.A. Global warming

Many tropical regions in Africa, Asia and South America could see the permanent emergence of unprecedented heat in the next two decades. According to projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest warmer seasons will be hotter than the hottest seasons of the past 50 years [22]. Historical data from weather stations around the world was also analyzed to see if the projected emergence of unprecedented heat had already begun. When we look back at temperature records, we find extreme heat emergence is already occurring, and that climate models represent the historical patterns remarkably well [22]. This dramatic shift in seasonal temperatures could have severe consequences for human health, agricultural production and ecosystem productivity.

Below we will come back to consequences of temperatures too high for rice production in Asia. Here, we want to note only that part of the poverty-alleviation rationale for participatory rice research is that improved rice production will give farmers greater flexibility in their use of land and labor. This outcome would be made possible by varieties that yield better, mature earlier, or tolerate drought and much more difficult heat, or by the new System of Rice Intensification, or SRI [23, 24]. This, in turn, will allow them to more easily diversify into higher-value crops without completely losing the food security provided by rice. The economic arguments for the diversification of agricultural production in Indonesia are now joined by climatological arguments [25].

II.B. Increasing climate variability

Agricultural production in Indonesia is strongly influenced by the annual cycle of precipitation and year-to-year variations in the annual cycle caused by El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) dynamics. The combined forces of ENSO and global warming are likely to have dramatic, and currently unforeseen, effects on agriculture production and food security in Indonesia and other tropical countries [26]. To date, climate models have been developed with little knowledge of agricultural systems dynamics; while agricultural policy analysis has been conducted with little knowledge of climate dynamics. Integration proposed of what we know of climate dynamics and has been collected in agricultural systems models will permit an assessment of climate-related uncertainty associated with global warming and ENSO dynamics. In such integration, detailed crop dynamics models can be run with climate model forcing (e.g. [27, 28]). This integration ultimately will also demonstrate how the treatment of uncertainty affects the choice and consequences of agricultural policies [26].

During El Niño events, Indonesia’s production of rice, the country’s primary food staple, is affected in two important ways: First, delayed rainfall causes the rice crop to be planted later in the monsoon season, thus extending the ‘‘hungry season’’ (paceklik, the season of scarcity) before the main rice harvest; and second, delayed planting of the main wet-season crop may not be compensated by increased planting later in the crop year, leaving Indonesia with a reduced rice area and a larger-than-normal annual rice deficit [29]. The ENSO actually can swing beyond the “normal” state to a state opposite that of El Niño, with the trade winds amplified and the eastern Pacific colder than normal. This phenomenon is often referred to as La Niña. In a La Niña year, or when a La Niña period occurs, many Asian regions inclined toward drought during an El Niño, such as Indonesia, are instead prone to more rain.

Both El Niños and La Niñas vary in intensity from weak to strong. The intervals at which El Niños return are not exactly regular, but have historically varied from two to seven years. Now, an El Niño can subside into a “normal” pattern. At other times it gives way to a La Niña. In many ways, the ENSO cold phase is simply the opposite of the warm phase. This often holds true also for the climate impacts of the two. El Niño, or warm phase, tends to bring drought to countries like Indonesia and Australia, at the west end of the Pacific, while La Niña, or cold phase, tends to bring more rain than normal [30]. Now, it appears the frequency of these phenomena, and how they follow each other, has changed in recent times. However, we are not able to simulate these actual changes with the models that summarize our understanding, which at this moment is still very insufficient [31].

As a direct consequence of this capricious behavior of climate in Indonesia, the adaptation of Indonesian farmers has lagged behind enormously [32, 33]. Still, there are other reasons Indonesian farmers have been slow to adapt. First, the Integrated Pest Management Farmer Field Schools (IPM FFSs) experiments, started in Indonesia at the very end of the eighties to eradicate particularly Brown Plant Hopper (Nilaparvata lugens Stål) epidemics, were never sufficiently institutionalized and remained of too small a size and depth to cause much community scale absorption of the technology. The weakness of this capability in most farming communities is itself an important problem; one which has often been exacerbated by earlier agricultural development programs that fostered a dependency on external sources of expertise [34]. Some experts claim the principles of IPM are too complex for small farmers to master [34], and this may be one of the reasons the movement slowly decayed and was not able to prevent new serious BPH epidemics such as in 1998-1999 and 2010-2011 [35]. Another serious reason Indonesian farmers are lagging is the persisting government policy to achieve high productivity, and to allow the prophylactic use of pesticides to continue, supported by intensive chemical promotion strategies by corporations in Indonesia. The second issue is the apparent failure of the presently relatively large-scale Climate Field Schools approach in Indonesia, including the absence of any systematical use of seasonal climate predictions by farmers [33, 36].

II. C. More (and more severe) climate extremes

Environmental catastrophes and the forces of nature they unleash are something to behold, fear and respect [37]. The kind of havoc they cause to the lives of mankind and the planet as a whole are nothing new. But the ferocity, frequency and magnitude of such extreme weather conditions seem to be on the rise in the last few decades, and are gathering speed with each passing year. Alone, these incidents seem to be just another environmental disaster, having local or countrywide consequences, but when one takes in the big picture, the enormity of it all hits, and they appear downright frightening [37] [Fig. 1].

China is a case in point. Weather took an about-turn in China in the first week of June 2011, when, only a week after the northern provinces faced the worst drought in the last 60 years, the central and southwest regions of China were hit by heavy flooding triggered by excessive and continuous torrential rains. Ironically, while the deadly flooding continued, a persistent drought was still plaguing five provinces in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Though floods are annual events in these areas of China, the extent to which these 2011 floods hit and affected people had not been witnessed in the last 20 years [37]. In such a huge country, newspapers report on damages from severe weather and climate on a daily basis. Even covered cropping systems in China suffer from various disasters [38]. In Indonesia, the newspapers report almost daily on landslides and their victims, the landslides always due to heavy rainfall. Agroforestry may have a protective function, as it was already used traditionally in the tropics [39].

Forest fires ravaged Indonesia during the 1997-98 El Niño drought episode. But that country’s officials feared torrential La Niña rains on Indonesia’s charred and de-vegetated lands could produce flash floods, serious soil erosion and an ashy brew of runoff toxic enough to kill fish and damage ecosystems [30]. At the beginning of a more recent El-Niño period in 2009 and 2010, severe drought delayed the planting season. Farmers applied some adaptation strategies such as practicing dry-nursery instead of wet-nursery seedbeds, selecting rice varieties with more suitable lengths of their growing season and building ground-water ponds, which all proved to be beneficial [40, 41]. In the meantime, in April 2010, the El Niño situation made place for a recurring La Niña situation that overtook the prevalent El Niño with an unprecedented speed. But, we were not aware of that from any existing forecasts. This situation was worsened by a climate induced Brown Plant Hopper attack, locally known as wereng cokelat [18, 35]. Farmers face ever-increasing problems from such extreme events.
Farmer organizations in Indonesia are blaming the local and central governments for being too slow in educating farmers on how to adapt to extreme weather shifts. We should generate and support a rural response to climate change.

II.D. Contributions from agriculture in diminishing greenhouse gases

Stigter summarized this subject [42] partly as follows: The total Green House Gas (GHG) emission from agriculture was estimated to increase globally by about 50 percent from 2000 to 2030. Early in this period, agricultural expansion was by far the leading cause at a global scale, whether through forest conversion for permanent cropping, cattle ranching, shifting cultivation or colonization agriculture. Most prominent underlying causes of deforestation and degradation are economic factors, weak institutions and inadequate national policies. Mitigation techniques such as improved feed quality, improved manure management, improved fertilizer use and greater applied nitrogen efficiency, as well as improved water management in rice paddies, all have to be considered in order to minimize the impact of agriculture on climate in win-win situations. We mention here only such win-win situations because it seems unfair to overly pressure farmers to compensate for the larger sources in the same country.

The agricultural sector was once a major contributor to GHG emissions, but it has been superseded by the energy and transportation sectors, also in Indonesia [43]. However, all sectors have a role to play, and all must be mobilized in the collective efforts to mitigate global climate change. Significantly, agriculture has an important role because of the large land areas involved, and because there are already many available technologies and opportunities in agriculture to contribute to the global mitigation effort, many of which can be implemented with minimal or no cost. Soil carbon sequestration has a higher mitigation potential than emission reductions in agriculture, although both are important. These are best achieved under management systems with higher carbon density, as well as improved soil conservation [42, 44]. Of course, in Indonesia the contributions to emissions of land use change and forestry together with peat fires are much more important than all other sources of emissions together [43], and it is here that serious changes have to be made.

The lack of an effective carbon price is currently one of the most significant detriments to collective global action. There are some strong trends in the expansion of global carbon trading, and some initiatives to promote carbon taxes. These are positive, since ultimately they will promote a realistic price on carbon. However, some key constraints still need to be overcome, namely how to mobilize the large and highly diverse global farm populations, and how to certify sequestered carbon and GHG emission reductions given the high variability inherent in agricultural production environments.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) rules should encourage the participation of small farmers and community forest and agroforestry producers. Such rules should protect against major livelihood risks, while still meeting investor needs and rigorously ensured carbon offset goals. Agroforestry, assisted natural regeneration, forest rehabilitation, forest gardens, and improved forest fallow projects should all be eligible under CDM [20] because they offer low-cost approaches to carbon sequestration, while offering fewer social risks and significant community and biodiversity benefits. Short-duration tree growing activities should be permitted, with suitable discounting. Unfairly favoring large plantations should be avoided. The successful promotion of livelihood enhancing CDM sequestration projects will require investment in capacity-building and advisory services for potential investors, project designers and managers, national policy makers, and leaders of local organizations and federations [20, 42].


Above we summarized what climate change means for farmers in Asia, particularly in Indonesia. In a companion paper we will report on our work in Indonesia to try to build from the bottom up a rural response to climate change. In practice, particularly for Indonesia, this means a response to global warming and the related changing ENSO frequencies and occurrences. The approach started with meetings to answer farmers’ questions on climate change and its consequences and it proceeded with advocating and guiding simple field measurements by farmers in their plots, and increased observations and analyses of their agro-ecosystems [33]. We advocate for this approach to be used elsewhere in Asia.



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