08 July 2019, Kathmandu
Agriculture in Nepal has long been based on subsistence farming, particularly in the hilly regions where peasants derive their living from fragmented plots of land cultivated in difficult conditions. Government programs to introduce irrigation facilities and fertilizers have proved inadequate, their delivery hampered by the mountainous terrain.
Population increases and environmental degradation have ensured that the minimal gains in agricultural production, owing more to the extension of arable land than to improvements in farming practices, have been cancelled out. Once an exporter of rice, Nepal now has a food deficit.
According to the International Labour Organisation, agriculture provides livelihoods for 68 percent of Nepal’s population, accounting for 34 percent of the GDP. Nevertheless, Nepal struggles to produce an adequate supply of food for its citizens.
Government efforts to boost the agricultural economy have focused on easing dependence on weather conditions, increasing productivity, and diversifying the range of crops for local consumption, export, and industrial inputs. Solutions have included the deployment of irrigation, chemical fertilizers, and improved seed varieties, together with credit provision, technical advice, and limited mechanization.
This has had some effect. Land under irrigation increased from 6,200 hectares in 1956 to 583,000 hectares in 1990. The use of chemical fertilizers, introduced in the 1950s, climbed to about 47,000 metric tons by 1998. Still, the weather continues to determine good and bad years for the average farmer. On a national scale, while production of both food and cash crops grew annually by 2.4 percent from 1974 to 1989, population increased at a rate of 2.6 percent over the same period.
Farming in Nepal today:
In today’s world, agriculture is a concerned topic not just because it is an inevitable part of living but also because of its vital role on sustainability. The quantity is one concern whereas quality of new agricultural production is another issue. The use of science and modern technology to produce hybrid seeds, pesticides and fertilizers have increased the agricultural productivity, which is a good aspect, however, the nutrition value of such food has decreased compared to the traditionally grown crops.
The major problems are created by fertilizers and pesticides which have long term effects on fertility of soil and consumers health. Many fertilizers create disturbance in ecosystem as well. Also, the production of crops like corn, rice and wheat has increased by the introduction of bio technological advancement in seed production and growth.
The advantages are:
Scientific data & modern technology help in better agricultural inputs & outputs.
Crop protection is achieved by the use of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, as well as biotechnology products which helps to control the thousands of weed species, harmful insects and numerous plant diseases that afflict crops.
Use of modern machinery and mechanization for ploughing, leveling, winnowing, harvesting, spraying, irrigating reduces manual labor.
Soil can be made more fertile by adding soil nutrition after analysis of the soil and suitability for seeds/crop for maximum yield.
Production is lot quicker which is profitable for farmers.
Modern storage & transportation facilities help to reduce wastages.
The drawbacks are:
Unmanaged use of fertilizers kills useful insects and the crops.
Use of fertilizers & pesticides can affect the health of the workers who apply them and also the consumer of those foods.
Causes an imbalance of the natural habitat of most wild creatures and leads to soil erosion.
Tailoring farming systems specifically to each piece of land, picking and choosing techniques and crops that work, instead of the blanket approach of conventional agriculture, which in the end proves detrimental for people, place, and economy. Programs geared toward developing organic and sustainable agriculture are increasing, but reversing decades of Green Revolution teaching will take time, especially for the middle-aged generation.
Beyond agriculture, there are underlying social movements that will dictate shifts in Nepal’s future. Finding a balance between education and rural village life, between a market-driven economy and environmental protection, between crop yield and human health, between livelihood and happiness will be essential for Nepal to locate its own unique stance on each of these seeming polarities, in order to see, ultimately, where it is headed.
In Nepal, modern farming has been implemented for the development of agriculture. Previously, the farmers used to labor hard but they were not able to improve their quality of living and were compelled to lead miserable lives. For the last 35 years, Nepali farmers have started using chemical fertilizers and pesticides for producing more crops. However, still there are various places in Nepal which are beyond the reach of these chemical inputs due to lack of transportation facility.