The Nepal Weekly ~ June 29, 2021
By Purna N. Ranjitkar
Nepalese farmers and others celebrate Asaar 15 (the 15th day in the month of Asaar which falls around the end of June) as a festive occasion to celebrate rice plantation. People take this season as laborious, but enjoy it celebrating as a festival keeping busy in planting rice in the farms. Also it is worth to mention that rice is the main food material for almost all Nepalese.
The festival usually starts with people making a parade in their village before entering the rice fields. The people splash each other and play in the mud, plant rice seedlings, eat the traditional dish of curd and flattenrice, and sing folk songs. The food menu many be different by cultural norms in different places. The government and non-government sector started this day celebrating as the National Paddy Plantation Day, a day for farmers.
Food security is a measure of the availability of food and individuals’ ability to access it. The final report of the 1996 World Food Summit states that food security “exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
This is also an occasion to mention that the Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. The 17 Goals are all interconnected, and in order to leave no one behind, it is important that we achieve them all by 2030. Among 17 Goals as driving forces, Goal 2 emphasizes on ‘zero hunger’ and SDG Goal 7 has emphasizes on ‘affordable clean energy’.
Household food security exists when all members, at all times, have access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Individuals who are food secure do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. Food security incorporates a measure of resilience to future disruption or unavailability of critical food supply due to various risk factors including droughts, shipping disruptions, fuel shortages, economic instability, and wars. In the years 2011-2013, an estimated 842 million people were suffering from chronic hunger. The United Nations (UN) recognized the Right to Food in the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and has since said that it is vital for the enjoyment of all other rights. Also note worthy is the 1996 World Summit on Food Security declared that “food should not be used as an instrument for political and economic pressure”.
Nepal was a country to export food grains especially rice to neighbouring countries for a long many years in the past. Since a decade or more it started buying food grains, vegetables, fruits and finished products paying a large portion of its GDP. The reasons, experts mention that population expansion, lack of labouring manpower, market system and farmer-unfriendly financial provisions. The government sector has been extending support for seeds, fertilizers, machines and tools and insuring crops and livestock. But real farmers at grassroots could not have been benefitted appropriately. Thus, most of the farmers are finding agriculture is a sinking business. They lost capacity to feed the family well and also health, education facilities have been beyond capacity while opportunities are captured by lenders and brokers whether they are institutions or individuals.
Experts are advocating that supporting factors for sustainable agriculture should be adopted in the thought pattern where farmers’ occupation should be socially dignified. That means the farmers small or big should be well off in terms of profitable income by sales of products and education, healthcare, social activism should be well accessible and affordable. However, the supports provided by the government coffer could not uplift the farmers’ status. As the result, youths from farmer families preferred to alternative jobs, migrating to urban areas and seeking jobs abroad as well to earn better in exchange of life-risk jobs.
The Government of Nepal had formulated plans to rescue people contributing in agriculture with facilities and supports which include easy available of inputs including seeds, fertilisers and pestides, irrigation facility even by pumping up, credit at low rate of interest, easy access to market escaping multi-tier brokerage and so on which all may make farmers’ living a dignified one. But, the farmers find that the facilities provided by the Government is not accessible to them because flaws in the implementation modalities.
The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is damaging economies of almost all countries of the world where Nepal also has been facing a huge loss. Million or more Nepalese working abroad also have lost their jobs and coming back to homeland. The government has taken this as an additional challenge to create employment opportunities to them and manage food as well. Thus, politicians, planners and professionals find the agriculture is the most viable option to engage youth human capital to produce more food to feed more. Whatever mentioned above, food security is simply to be able to produce more to feed all. But there are a number of challenges to rid over so as farmers take it as a trade. Factors to be considered are : developing irrigation facility extensively, managing supply chain of inputs such as quality and suitable seeds, fertiliser on time and using bio-fertiliser in lieu of chemical fertiliser as far as possible, mechanisation of tools and improvising methods, developing of preserving and storing facilities with value additions, financing facilities including subsidy, credit at low rate of interest and insurance, guaranteed sales of products at profitable rates, access to consumers with less involvement of brokers, capacity building to farmers and local level authorities, social supporting factors in the farmers’ vicinity.