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Agriculture and food production of Nepal under COVID-19

Nepal is a country where the economy is dominated by agriculture. Out of its total population, around 60% are engaged in agriculture (NPC, 2017). Farming in Nepal is mostly subsistence where agricultural crops and livestock are integrated. Even though both organic and inorganic practices of farming are widely followed in Nepal, inorganic farming is predominant.

The Government of Nepal has enforced lockdown since the last week of March 2020 to prevent spreading of the disease due to the current situation of the COVID-19. The pandemic has led to a drastic change in the economy of the country, affecting the lifestyle of people, health, education, markets, industries and tourism sector. 

The agriculture sector has faced the utmost effect with the unavailability of agricultural inputs like seed, fertilizers, pesticides, machineries, agricultural tools and lack of adequate labour management. Similarly, due to disturbance in the transportation system, harvested food products in some rural areas are going to waste due to a shortage of proper market facilities.

Nepal mainly depends upon imports from foreign countries to meet the demands of agricultural products. For instance, import of cereals stood at 13,343 tons in the first week of lockdown which has nearly doubled to 24,365 tons as of the eighth week of the lockdown. For the reduction of trade deficit situation, Nepal can primarily focus on the agriculture sector by moving towards food self-sufficiency which is defined as the extent to which a country can satisfy its own food needs from its domestic production without buying or importing.

Food self-sufficiency can be achieved from different level including individual level to the local level and then to the national level. Farmers from an individual level can make remarkable contributions to maintain the food self-sufficiency by adopting innovative techniques to increase production. Farmers can adopt climate-resilient agriculture, mechanized agriculture, permaculture, system of rice intensification (SRI) for increasing yield of rice production with fewer inputs, rainwater harvest and smart method of irrigation like drip irrigation in places where there is a scarcity of water. Bio-intensive agriculture can be followed which is an organic agricultural system that focuses on achieving maximum yield while increasing biodiversity and maintaining the fertility of the soil.

In the urban areas, where there is a shortage of cultivable land, terrace farming, rooftop farming, container farming, vertical farming, soil-less agriculture like hydroponics can be adopted to be self-sufficient in food production. Urban farming techniques have a variety of health, environment and economic benefits. Fresh, organic and nutritious food can be obtained all-round the season.

Meanwhile, in rural areas, there should be a focus on the cultivation of locally available seed varieties and promotion of under-exploited fruits and vegetables. The local cultivars thrive well under the local environment ensuring optimum food production and utilization of available resources. The under-exploited and indigenous fruits, vegetables like kurilo (Asparagus), ghar tarul (Purple yam), sajiwan (Drumstick), sisnu (Nettle leaf), latte (Amaranthus leaf), aiselu (Raspberry), kaphal (Bayberry), lapsi (Nepali hog plum) have high nutritious value and they should be promoted for commercial cultivation. In addition, organic agriculture can aid to the maintenance of food self-sufficiency in both urban and rural areas of the country.

To summarize, everyone has a right to access healthy and nutritious food but currently, the Coronavirus has caused an intrusion in food production and supply chain throughout the country. Interruption in the import situations due to the lockdown has arisen a need for the country to be self-sufficient in providing food for all the citizens.

This can be taken as an opportunity to uplift the production potential by executing suitable forms of agriculture, enhancing the food production through the mobilization of available resources and ultimately leading the country to be food self-sufficient by adequate food production.

 

Photo credit: Organic Farm House, Kapan