Is Nepal Still an Agricultural Country?

Nepal is known for many things amongst culture and history. It has seen a progression of change throughout the years, slowly but surely it is on the path of development. 

New opportunities and upgrades rise across various sectors like telecommunication, e-commerce, etc. However, is Nepal still an agricultural country everyone thinks it is? 

With farming being one of the common income sources of many people we do believe so, but this may not be true. The agricultural state of Nepal is not as one may expect it and here is why. 

Current Agriculture State

Agriculture in Nepal still employs 61% of its entire population serving as one of the largest income sources for the people. In 2020, agriculture contributed to 26.5% of Nepal’s GDP. 

Despite agriculture being a major part of the economy, Nepal still has to import a lot of food products especially the most basic ones like our staple food, rice.

The import expense for such products is quite high. Nrs 19 billion on importing rice just in the 8 months of the new fiscal year just passed. The expensive import is not only of rice but also vegetables and other grains that are homegrown. Nepal imported Nrs 33 billion worth of vegetables from India. 

As we can see Nepal is having a high dependence on imported goods instead of exporting products or being self-dependent. The question of why this is happening is expected and the answer may be something we already know. 

Also Read: Crippling Nepal’s Economy Vs Nepal Bandha

Why is this happening?

Some major factors are affecting this decrease in our agricultural harvest and the high import quantity of foods by an agricultural country like Nepal.

High Population

The case of production not being able to meet the demand is what has caused this situation. The growth in rice productivity from 1980 to 2016 is about 1.5%whereas the growth of population from the same years is 2.3%. This is bound to create a gap that needs to be filled to avoid a rice shortage, hence import is essential.

Farmers

There is a lack of farmers in the country since the current youth are not interested in becoming farmers. Everybody wants to send their children abroad to study and earn or get a good job which is a valid aim for parents as well as children. This creates a lack of farmers since many adults also want to go abroad as labor workers.

Technology

These rural farmers are not being able to implement new technology and research on their farming work because firstly, they are not aware of them. The internet is only used by 70% of the population. And secondly, even if they are aware they cannot afford it nor have access to it. This brings us to the 4th factor which also has a heavy impact. 

Poor economic state

The maximum number of farmers and farms are obviously in the rural area outside the city. The major reason why agriculture is not enough to feed the country is that the maximum amount of farmers are subsistence farmers. They have to take loans for their production, interest rates are high and they are in debt. This also leads to yielding gaps. The productivity of farms and livestock is very low from their potential. 

The environment

The environment around the world is declining and degrading and it is having an impact on the agriculture sector. Deforestation, landslides, soil erosion are real problems towards the fertility and water management of these farm soil. Excessive mining of lands, overgrazing, and improper land and forest management contribute to this crisis. The recent wildfires have destroyed a lot of land and soil which is going to have a heavy impact. 

An example of another factor that is affecting farmers, is the unfair treatment they go through. Recently in December of 2020, many sugarcane farmers resorted to protesting in hopes of getting the attention of the government. These hard-working farmers whose only income source was the sugarcanes were not being paid by the factory owners since they had invested the money elsewhere. Farmers go through these kinds of unfair treatment frequently than we expect. People who are of such great importance to the people should be treated far better than this. 

sugarcane farmers

Solutions that can be adopted.

There is also some good news that has arrived due to the implementation of such solutions such as:

The government and donors have invested heavily in subsidizing chemical fertilizers, improved seeds, irrigation, and farming methods. As a result, paddy productivity did increase from 2,400 kg per hectare to 3,800 kg per hectare in the past 30 years. Maize productivity has also increased, but the productivity of millet in the mountains has not gone up. However, the increase does keep pace with the rise in demand for grains.

Infrastructure development can also help in the storage of crops. Technology development and access is also a very crucial thing to achieve to help this situation. Experience shows that commercialization of agro-based industry should be supported by investment in technology and infrastructure such as research and chemical fertilizers that can help. 

Some further measures that can improve the agricultural state of Nepal are providing agro training for farmers, running breeding programs for livestock and animals that can contribute positively towards farming. 

Farmers should also be provided with micro-credits and low-interest rates to ease their situation. There should be more agro-based industries and improved irrigation facilities. Most important of all is to increase research and technology, make it more affordable and accessible for these farmers as technology remains one of the most fundamental assets. 

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