By Purna N. Ranjitkar
Nepal was a country to export food grains especially rice to neighbouring countries for a long many years in the past. Since around two decades it started buying food grains, vegetables, fruits and finished products paying a large portion of its GDP.
Experts mention that population expansion, lack of labouring manpower, market system and farmer-unfriendly financial provisions are the reasons that the farmers lost their willpower. This is to note in this context that around 60% of population is having agriculture as their occupation where the entire occupation contributes to nearly 28% to the nation’s GDP. The country has a total area of 147,181 square kilo meters and out of the total area 3,091,000 hectors is arable whereas 1,030,000 hectors is recorded as uncultivated.
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 the capacity while opportunities are captured by lenders and brokers whether institutions or individuals.
As a matter of fact, the state should support for sustainable agriculture keeping in mind the thought pattern where farmers’ occupation is 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 affordable by their income. However, experiences show that the supports provided by the government in different names and programmes could not uplift the farmers’ status. Consequently 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 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.
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.”
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 noteworthy is the 1996 World Summit on Food Security declared that “food should not be used as an instrument for political and economic pressure”.
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.
As mentioned above, farmers are the working people but they always loss in their business. Therefore they are needed to back farm with confidence and willpower which support them to uplift the living style and improve think pattern. This will result for improve production of food materials in the country and contribute to reduce import of food items.
There are a number of challenges to rid over for farmers to take their traditional occupation as a trade. (1) Irrigation facility, (2) 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. (3) Mechanisation of tools and improvising methods, (4) Developing of preserving and storing facilities with value additions to the products, (5) Financing facilities including subsidy, credit at low rate of interest and insurance, (6) Guaranteed sales of products at profitable rates, (7) Access to consumers with less involvement of brokers, (8) Capacity building to farmers and local level authorities, (9) Skill development for utilising non-farming season to make productive, and (10) Social supporting factors in the farmers’ vicinity. Some other factors may be added with wider and in-depth consultations of experts. The government, therefore, need to consider seriously on effectiveness and result oriented implementation methodologies. The policies and programmes so far formulated also may be reviewed to make practicable so as real farmers will receive supports for benefits from their inputs.