March 2, 2024, Saturday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Rastriya Dhaan Diwas 2080

RETs and bio fertilisers for Food Security

The Nepal Weekly
June 27, 2023

It is widely realised that 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. Thus, the world needs a sustainable food system capable of feeding quality food to every person, every day. The prevalence of starvation and malnutrition is a critical reflection of the failure of the current food system, thus triggering food insecurity.

According to the World Food Summit (1996), the population is food secure when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Based on this definition, food security involves four pillars–availability, access, utilisation, and stability–acting as equally useful tools for food security analysis.

In Nepal food security is an agenda at policy level but yet to become a concern to all. Thus, discourses and dialogues among stakeholders must go on to churn out logical conclusions.

Food is included among the fundamental rights in the country’s constitution. According to article 36, every citizen has a right relating to food. The Right to Food and Food Sovereignty Act, 2018, says that all Nepalis have the right to be free of hunger.

Similarly, The Agricultural Development Strategy (ADS), 2015-2035, places a strong priority on competitiveness, enhancing lives, access to food, and nutrition in the commercial agriculture sector of the country. The Multi-Sector Nutrition Plan (MSNP), 2018-2022, brings together the health, education, and agriculture sectors. To provide nutrition, the WASH and agriculture sectors must work together. These acts and strategies are crucial and critical in the wake of food and nutrition security.

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 noteworthy 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 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. 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.  

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. Following are factors to be considered.

·      Developing irrigation facility

·      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

Hence, the first need is irrigation facility which enables farmers for multiple crops and more farming engagements.

The dry farms which receive water only in the rainy season can be irrigated by installing Pumping Systems operated by electricity by the national grid, mini-grid or Solar PV. This technology has been a proven benefit to the farmers. Once such system installed farmers can do 3 season crop farming. They can even generate fish farming and livestock as additional benefits.

The private sector engaged in supply, installation and provide after sales services are well experienced and efficient for supplies and service providing for any such technology.

Similarly, some private sector entrepreneurs are producing bio fertilisers in Nepal. The products can replace chemical fertilisers to some extent in the initial phase and can serve as measure fertilisers in a long run. For a rapid and effective growth of bio fertilisers, Government policies and implementing agencies should be entrepreneur friendly.

Thus, experts and professionals should share their knowledge and experience to influence policy making authorities and implementing agencies.