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Agriculture Development Opportunities For Diversification And Sustainable Enhancement Strategies For Nepal

 Garry de la Pomerai ,Dr.Rajendra Gautam

The Corona Virus Pandemic has created a new global landscape for the need of National sustainability  within all Nations. This will be even more crucial in Nepal as the post Covid19 strategy is to repatriate hundreds of thousands of workers from abroad, to be absorbed back into their rural communities, this time with few remittances and mostly reliant upon subsistence farming. Logistics of moving supplies in and out has become a significant challenge and in fact threatens potentially a nations sustainable recovery, resilient emergence and robustness to future pandemic threats.  Health advisors are still quantifying the outcomes and all are guessing the potential of second and third phase of the virus in the future months and years until vaccines become readily available globally.

Any nation, Nepal included, relies upon two fundamental resources for its survivability, Water and Food. Recently it has become recognised the importance of our farming productivity and indeed, that the farmer is to be an exceptionally valued part of society within the future global landscape. This article is to briefly review the potential of a post virus society within farming and how we may address enhancement and diversity of food production applying new and traditional techniques whilst respecting tradition and simultaneously minimising  commercially exploited  excessive consumables, that presently cause the significant damage to our ecosystems including causing water runoff, residual pollution into our rivers, groundwater and aquifers.

Nepal has such a wide diversity of micro climates from the Terai to the valleys, hills and Mountains. Kathmandu Valley has a unique climate of its own [Fig.1], rarely below freezing and rarely reaching 30degree, making it a perfect landscape for agriculture development and diversity.

If Nepal’s economy is to emerge with any semblance of opportunity for a robust and prosperous future, then it needs look inward to its own capabilities of and needs to build that sustainability, minimising reliance upon cheap imports, encouraging subsistence farmers to deviate from traditional resilient crops, cultivated over generations to be ideal for the micro climates within this diverse montage landscape of Nepal. Of course within any development strategy internal Politics and Geo Politics play a great part in internal sustainability.

As we write, border conflict arises, suspicion of external investment via the MCC and India’s blocking of two of Nepal’s prime agricultural exports Tea and processed Palm Oil. Geo Politics will have its part to play always, but this article is going to focus purely on agriculture components and their development opportunities. In previous ‘TheAsialive’ articles we explored policy reviews for necessary waste managementA1 strategy development and importantly for agriculture, an holistic review of water resource management enhancementA2, predominantly for the Kathmandu Valley. This agricultural appraisal will also focus on the potential within the Valley.

We first quickly review what already exists within the Kathmandu valley Fig.2. It is blessed with a fertile, black clay called kalimati, a by-product of sediment from the prehistoric lake, and is low enough in elevation to support two or even three main crops a year, enjoying its own micro climate, which rarely falls below freezing, doesn’t get regular snows, enjoys abundant river and aquifer water resources and enjoys monsoon rains during June to August surging up from the south east and south west and in fact in recent years sporadic rains from march associated with storms flowing through from the west. Consequently future consideration needs be given to crop protection, especially vegetables, salad crops and soft fruits, with the unpredictable climate change.

1Nepal is richly endowed with agro-biodiversity. Rice, maize,wheat,millet, barley and buckwheat are the major staple food crops. Similarly, oilseeds, potato, tobacco, sugarcane, jute and cotton are the important cash crops whereas lentil, gram, pigeon pea, blackgram, horsegram and soybean are the important pulse crops. Nepal is also famous for orthodox tea,coffee, large cardamom, turmeric and ginger too. Within the Valley, tomatoes , green leafy vegetables , mushrooms and carrot are dominant cash crops, with relatively ease of access to city markets.

Most Nepalese farmers grow diversified crops in order to hedge against erratic and uncertain weather and other unfavourable agronomic conditions. Nepalese agriculture is still predominantly  traditional method farming encountering a variety of challenges which hinder either productivity or indeed the wish for development. Disease and insects (jointly speaking pests) areperceived a high risk factor, followed by poor irrigation systems, degradation of soil fertility and seed quality all feature in farmers concerns plus the lack of access to transport to market.  Additionally climate change is beginning to play a part in the uncertainty of farming, generating changes that farmers need learn to adapt to. This all culminates in the low expectancy of  a farmers income and consequently created an exodus out of farming to either the cities or indeed abroad, generating a ‘man’power crisis; already many subsistence farmers are powered by women;  It is muted that Nepal Agricultural Research facilities require further development and the support for implementation of findings, which are essential if future development and diversification are to be encouraged. Lastly land holding security of tenancy and the discussed informal distribution of lands add to the uncertainty of farmers  future.

Livestock is one of the essential sources of cash income of the farm households. The cash needs of the farm families are mainly met through the cash sale of milk, yoghurt, cheese, ghee, Chhurpi, meat, eggs and live animals and poultry. Generally, farm families in mountains raise Yak or Chauri (Himalayan breed of cow) and sheep; in hills cow, buffalo, sheep, goat and rural poultry and in Terai buffalo, cow, goat and poultry. Poultry husbandry is emerging enterprise in Terai and hills with nearly self sustaining production. In addition, Nepal grows a number of fruit and vegetable cropsincluding apple, peach, pear, plum, walnut, orange, lime, lemon, mango, lichee, banana, pineapple, papaya, cucumber, lady’s finger, brinjal, pumpkin and several leafy vegetables. Fresh water fish culture is another emerging enterprise in Terai whereas rainbow trout in the hills and in the lower mountains.

2Most Kathmandu Valley farmers are tenants, and have to pay huge proportions of their harvests in rent. But their lot has improved in the past generation: land reform in the 1950s and 1960s was relatively diligently implemented initially in the valley, slowly spreading nationwide , helping to get landlords and moneylenders off the backs of small farmers, and the previous governments have also forced landowners to break up and sell off larger holdings. However, the traditional Newari system of inheritance, practiced across all Nepal, in which family property is divided up among the sons, means that landholdings footprints are actually get smaller with each generation. That presents a contrasting problem: farms that are too small to make mechanical equipment worthwhile, necessitating labour-intensive methods and keeping productivity low. All of this is heightened by fluctuating market prices within poorly managed market places, located within a valley environment of sporadic urban development , where flat or terraced  land is becoming a premium.

So let us now consider the parameters within which agricultural enhancement is possible. Traditionally farmers look to either larger cost efficient mechanisation or and chemically enhanced fertilizers. Larger tractor driven mechanisation is impractical outside of the Terai lowlands, especially  in the productive terraces of the Hills where only pedestrian hand steered machines are feasible, the smaller subsistence community farmers and indeed the small holdings of the Kathmandu valley which since land reform limits the viability of large investments.  The second, fertilizers may have a detrimental residual effect upon the soil and water resources, especially within the valley environments. Consequently within the Kathmandu valley, we will review later the essential components and alternatives to aid productivity.

As background let us understand the traditional farming derivatives.  Within the Hills, subsistence farmers had diverted away from traditional cultivars, pressured by the commercial seed industry, supported by the INGOs, looking for fast investment and quick potential returns; however the consequences have not been very encouraging long term, consequently as Samantha Day presented in her short paper in 2017

 3The success of sustainable agriculture in Nepal depends on finding a balance between the traditional and the industrial”, understanding  that the iconic image of the subsistence lifestyle is part of what makes Nepal unique. I include some relevant significant passages from Samantha’s paper as it perfectly paints a picture of the evolved crisis within Nepal’s Traditional Agriculture Landscape, setting the scene for the need to seek alternative approaches to agricultural enhancement.

 “But equally….subsistence farming,  it has been a tried and tested method, Samantha continues to explain…… that has supported generations of families, through drought and excess, and climate changes that prevailed before records began. So we need to ask, what were the farms lacking, except the desire to become economically developed, to produce excess to afford education for the children and improved lifestyle. However, the enforcement to change, to embrace foreign cultivars and increased consumable of fertilizers and pesticides, has achieved little.” Samantha identifies “ Now we are looking at a Nepal with the majority of food production coming from mechanized and intensive conventional farming in the flat and open southern Terai, producing the majority of grains and vegetables grown in the country. Urban areas display a heavy dependence on food imported from India, with imports trending upward alongside the remittance-based economy, and constituting a larger share of the market exchange than Nepal’s agricultural exports.” Land in the Terai is rapidly crowding, becoming more expensive, while land in the mid-Hills is rapidly being abandoned. A 2010 study by the researcher T. H. Aase, estimates that 60 percent of the farmland cultivated in Manang district in 1970 is out of production due to migration to cities and abroad. The number of Nepalis permanently employed in agriculture has decreased by 41 percent since the 1990s”

In Kathmandu, the consequences of chemical farming are increasingly visible in public health. The produce reaching markets, both from vegetable farms in the Kathmandu Valley and the Terai, has demonstrated a routine problem in the last several years of over-application of chemical pesticides, leading to vegetables unfit for consumption. In the rare cases of government monitoring, vegetables with intermediate levels of pesticide contamination are required to sit for three to four days until toxicity goes down, and suddenly they are “fit for consumption.” Of the pesticides commonly used in Nepal (malathion, chlorpyrifos-methyl, cypermethrin, deltametrin, among others), all are carcinogenic” ..…

 Nepal has traded a largely autonomous and self-sufficient, albeit strained, agricultural subsistence for an import-dependent, market-driven economy….but…  high input farming means high costs to someone, and if it’s not the farmer, it’s likely the government through its subsidy programs, and the NGOs that provide aid in the agricultural sector. Currently about a third of agricultural investments stem from foreign aid”…..

Along the same lines of food security is the downside, the “catch,” of the high production of conventional farming systems: low adaptability. Amongst the many concerns, cultivation with agrochemicals and hybrid seeds is potentially unsustainable. Hybrid seeds may provide higher yield, or address a pest problem, but often vary in performance year to year, incur added costs to the farmer, and require more water and fertilizer than the local variety. Undiversified, chemical- and irrigation-dependent monocultures of annual crops make it difficult for the food system to adapt to drought, flood, pest infestations, and climate change. Agrochemical used generally has detrimental impacts on the ecosystem, such as losses in pollinator populations like honey bees, groundwater contamination from pesticides, and degradation of long-term soil fertility”….. thanks .Samantha Day

Now let’s review soil management strategy our first component that might embrace existing sustainable resources  whilst minimising dependency upon high value consumables such as intensive imported fertilizers and chemicals,  that are proving detrimental to the wider environment. Nepal has the core three elements, especially within the Kathmandu Valley, where we now concentrate this article, being Water, Fertile Soil and good growing Climate, providing every opportunity, if managed correctly, to sustain longer growing seasons, a more diversified range of crops within an intensified model, whilst protecting the environment and maximising the use of small footprint farms.

Farms suffer from intermittent harsh weather, crops being unprotected; they suffer from improvised irrigation methods, often relying upon rain and unreliable bore well water qualities; and due to improper soil and fertilizer management, leaching of nutrients also reduces productivity; these challenges are intensified by limited non viable farm footprints and high costs of consumables forced upon farmers as the easy way, financed by a few well meaning commercially driven INGOs, seeking improved statistical productivity only. When this was assessed by other Nations , there has been a natural migration to one solution in similar circumstances, that being the Polytunnel industry development, protecting crops, confined crop management, controlling crop environment and extending the seasons and increasing yield and quality of produce, discussed in detail later. Now we review potential component enhancements.

 Nepal needs to ensure that food security is developed with a sustainable and diverse food production system, as this accounts for critical social, economic and environmental factors associated with food production and its distribution, which in turn  is very reliant upon the farm industry using the most appropriate technologies and best practice consumables. This will be even more crucial as the post Covid19 strategy is to repatriate hundreds of thousands of workers from abroad, to be absorbed back into their rural communities, this time with no remittances and reliance predominantly upon subsistence farming to survive.

Nepal’s plains and mountains are geologically young in pedogenic processes are associated with increased vulnerability to soil erosion due to rain, especially on  the slopes cultivated land where susceptibility of soil erosion is caused by intense rainstorms leading to the degradation of cultivated land resources. Remembering more than 80 percent of the land surface in Nepal is either hilly or mountainous.

The degradation and consequent reduction of productivity is causing a huge migration of young Nepalese workforce from hills and mountains to India and beyond seeking  employment and equally into  the  fertile Terai region, overloading its capacityand simultaneously crowding into the rapidly expanding cities.

In the current and post pandemic socio-economic context of the Nepal, agriculture is probably the most important area to absorb the huge expat labour force numbers returning from abroad whichcould eventually contribute towards much sought after food security.

Food habits of Nepalese people have significantly changed in the last two decades which has resulted in ever increasing rate of demand for imports of many fruits, nuts and berries, but as yet, these diversified popular varieties have yet to become fully established in the farmers production arsenal, even though being high value crops, with significant potential to increase farmers income and simultaneously help minimize the risk of environmental degradation through soil erosion.

Soil health is the foundation of productive, profitable, resilient and environmentally sound agricultural system. Enhancing the physical, chemical and biological fertility of a soil to its optimum for the growth of the plants is the core of soil management. Most soils in the world are limited in at least one of the many plant nutrients necessary for the optimum production of crops, consequently organic and synthetic fertilizers are the two major sources of added nutrients. Organic fertilizers generally provide complete range of  nutrition to the plants, also contributing to physical and biological health of the soil. However, this resource doesn’t have the capacity to supply the total demand of nutrients thus previously the need of synthetic fertilizers.

Some High yielding hybrid varieties are slowly gaining popularity in Nepal in the last few decades. At the same time, with the intensity of cropping especially within the  Kathmandu valley, being very high producing with at least 2 to 3 plus crops in a year, the nutrient removal from soil is highwith the high yielding varieties.

Soil acidity is another critical determinant of physical, chemical and biological fertility of the soil, thus reclamation of strongly acid soils of Nepal should be an important step to enhance the food security of the country. Within the co 2authors  specific documents he  explains this in depth. 13Evidence has shown that synthetic fertilizer are gradually contributing to soil acidity throughout the country. Repeated use of primary nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and low or no use of other nutrients can lead to mining of secondary and micronutrients from the soil.

There can be several techniques that Nepalese farmers can adopt to enhance their soil fertility using low cost and locally available materialsto minimize their reliance on imported fertilizers. Animal urine is a highly valuable nutrient source which is often let go to waste. Kathmandu valley and suburbs have lot of dairy industries. Composting manure in shaded and covered areas and soaking the manure with animal urine help to enrich the quality of prepared manure. The government of Nepal already is promoting the practice, but it needs to be facilitated and scaled up.

 It is well known that several free living and 3symbiotic microbes are capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen that is made available to crops. Some other organisms solubilise plant nutrients like phosphorus and potassium and make it available to the plants. Inoculating these beneficial organism in the soil and creating an environment where these microbes can perform their job not only utilizes free natural resource but it minimizes the dependency on chemical fertilizers.

Biological control methods are relatively inexpensive to implement and are being promoted globally. They employ methods for controlling pests using other organisms, and have very few drawbacks compared to chemicals. Species diversity amongst the landscape can provide many benefits to our home ecosystem. Several predatory and beneficial insects are drawn to the home landscape when adverse species abundance is prevalent. Growers may also apply antagonists as a foliar spray or soil drench from store-bought products. Various species of Trichoderma are commonly used in Nepal to suppress soil borne pathogens.

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Another positive practice is employing Legume based crop rotation or mixed cropping with inclusion of legumes in the production system can be important in trapping free atmospheric nitrogen by means of symbiotic relationship between legumes and bacteria.Programs that encourage farmers to enhance soil fertility through cover cropping and legume inclusion should help to farmers to minimize the dependency on chemical fertilizers and keep the soil system healthy with low cost technology.

Current agriculture policy, through the Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS), is targeting an ambitious production goal, including that of cereal crops, to be increased that the trade deficitof food grains reduced from 16% in 2015 to zero at the end of the next five years but this need questioning on how much more fertilizers will be needed to meet that goal and what will be the potential sources of fertilizers? In the context of increased population (due to returning expat workforce) and disrupted agriculture service delivery system due to covid-19, any failure to account for this issue is likely to result in an unprecedented food availability crisis.

Can we use Earths own ‘force mechanisms’ to enhance agriculture? Throughout the globe during the previous 30years, a new phenomena, has been in developed, and its been simply the earths own  agricultural enhancement mechanism. Magnetism of all water. Earths own magnetic field use to be satisfactory to maintain water molecular structure beneficially , but since the industrial revolution and intensive farming practicesplus mismanagement and neglect of water resources, Earths water enhancement process now needs help. This was understood by the Russians within the USSR in the 70 and 80s so they developed the concept of magnetic applications, in 1993 relocating to the U.A.E. to continue its promotion and demonstration globally. Since others worldwide have picked up the mantle and now thousands of farmers in every continent benefit from enhanced water through magnetism, using simple in line devices requiring no power and capacity variant, 6producing a wide range of benefits in agriculture [Fig 4] including improved seed germination; improved 5-50% reduction in seed usage gradually over 3 generations of seed production, where the 2nd and 3rd generation seeds also in fact improve their germination and yield  and resilience; significant increase in crop yield and quality of produce; with up to 50% increase in selected Vegetables, Fruit  and irrigated Crops. Reduction of vegetation maturity period between 7-15 days.Noticeable Improvement of shelf life of produce.Reduction in use of Fertilizer needs between 25-50%.Observed Reduction in blight and improved efficiency of pest control.Regular observed reduction in water needs for irrigation.Magnetised irrigation promotestired soil reclamation. 7Magnetised drinking water even benefits livestock productivity[fig 5]  and Aquaculture benefits enormouslyby magnetising the its water.8Starwberries globally and soft fruits benefit enormously by the magnetic effect upon their irrigation water.

What types of Diversification might be considered relevant to Nepal apart from enhancements?

10Aquaculture is fairly a new activity in Nepal. It began in the 1940s with pond culture of Indian major carps. Over the years, carp polyculture in ponds has developed as the most viable and popular aquaculture production system in Nepal and in 2003/2004 accounted for over 90 percent of total aquaculture production. The major part of the pond fish production takes place in the southern part of the country – the Terai plain – where 94 percent of the fish ponds are located. Cage fish culture and enclosure fish culture in lakes and reservoirs as well as rice-fish culture are popular production systems, but expansion has so far been limited. Kathmandu valley should consider small footprint intensive fish farms, using the abundance of water resources

Fish culture in Gholes – marginal irrigated agriculture land, swamps and ditches – is a recent intervention in Nepal and has been quite encouraging as a poverty focused and livelihood improving activity for the rural targeted community. It should be properly assessed and expanded as a sustainable activity in the country.

There are 182 species of fish in Nepal (Shrestha, 2001). It has been reported that a total of 185 fish species are found in various water bodies in Nepal (Shrestha, 1995). They inhabit altitudes ranging from a few hundred metres above sea level to as high as 4 000 metres. Three indigenous major carps (rohu – Labeorohita ,catla – Catlacatla and mrigal – Cirrhinusmrigala ) are already included in the country’s aquaculture production systems. Studies are also currently being carried out into the commercial production of three high-value indigenous cold water fish species: asala (Schizothorax spp.),katle (Acrossochielus spp.) and mahseer (Tor spp.) which are popular delicacies. Mahseer is also popular for sports fishing. The integrated aquaculture system combining polyculture of carp in ponds with livestock (pigs, ducks etc) and horticulture (bananas) was introduced several years ago in order to utilize optimum levels of pond productivity and waste utilization for increased production. The technique has not been successfully expanded on a larger scale due to management complexities.  The intensive culture of the high value cold-water fish rainbow trout in raceways has been an ongoing activity for some years. The system has not been expanded on a commercial scale as yet but beckons

Growing techniques using micro footprints  need be explored and promoted, following successful global development. Simple home Hydroponics Fig.7 and industrial containerised or formal greenhouse Hydroponics are proving exceptionally profitable; Aeroponic technology Fig.8 is relatively new but being promoted in Nepal too;  and Rooftop subsistence gardens are becoming popular Fig.9,  all three practices are attracting the urban population to these domestic  green solutions because of the continuously increasing vegetable price and the unsafe and poor quality of vegetables found in the market. When it comes to the future of agriculture, hydroponics is a step ahead because hydroponic facilities can be constructed nearly anywhere. This means that areas that don’t have the ability to sustain traditional farming methods now have a way of growing and harvesting fresh produce all year round, potentially using artificial light and accessible water in any location, from redundant land to peripheral sites all contained within re-locatable containers.

pioneer initiators and leaders of hydroponic farming systems in Nepal and globally enable farmers to achieve predictable and highly nutritious yields for vegetables and produce their own animal feed at limited cost of input. With hydroponics the farmer is relatively unaffected by seasons and adverse weather conditions. Innovative Hydroponic systems are one of the most sustainable and cost-effective diversified farming methods on the market. Whilst not suitable for as low budget diversification, certainly to be considered by agricultural entrepreneurs where high quality leafy greens are at a demand.

We have stated that crops suffer from intermittent harsh weather, poor or zero protection; inadequate irrigation supply, and heavy reliance upon irregular rainsor unreliable bore well water qualities, plus exacerbated by poor soil management generating leaching of nutrients,all contributing to reduced productivity; in addition increasing limited non viable small farm footprints spurned by high costs of consumables, provides only one significant solution that effectively addresses all challenges, the Polytunnel. In its various shapes and sizes, the polytunnel potentially meets every farm type criteria, providing shelter for growing crops from seedlings to fruition, protection from rains, hail, gales, frost and snow and excessive sun. The polytunnel creates a micro climategenerating earlier higher seasonal temperatures, improved  humiditycontrol, eliminating the adverse temperature fluctuations during early plant establishment, providing stable blossoming condition for pollination and better pest control  environments, using less consumables, resulting in earlier and prolonged harvesting, with improved shelf life and crop quality and increased yield, especially if combined with magnetising the irrigation water.Polytunnels11being adjustable dependent on what you intend to grow, and due to the added protection, they often can minimise pesticides for keeping the crops safe Additionally polytunnels globally contribute to extending local growing seasons and potentialincreased crop cycles. 12Polytunnels have a life span of between 5 and 10 years dependent on material used and it maintenance, providing good returns on investment..

With the uncertainty of climate change, our crops will need protection. Increased storms and harsh rains; increased heat; increased petulance…. This year alone see vast plagues of locusts in Africa and India. The Nepal Terai lays vulnerable, and we guess the future of the Valley. Thus Poly tunnel protection and its micro climate control makes practical sense, at least for a large percentage of Nepal’s agriculture needs!  Spain, Holland, Mexico, Malaysia, China, already embrace the Polytunnel.

All irrigation efficiency and water use reduction must be explored.  In Nepal the Source of open field irrigation in % is borewell Pumped water 54.28; Streams pumped extraction 28.57; &Canal is only 14.29% used  which considering the efficiency of canal targeting crops is surprisingly low usage. Borewells are less maintenance but generate very high water wastage in comparison.

However the aquifers are being over drawn, the streams are absorbing polluted runoff as are the canal systemspolluted to a lesser extent, but sparsely accessible. Positively Aquifers can be managed with formal , natural and informal recharge systems and can be hosted by solar power pumps;  the streams can be cleaned with improved quality having abundant mountain water supply; and the canals are designed direct to need  and can host free energy hydro pump irrigation, with the 2016 award winning ‘Barsha Pump System. But the by far most efficient irrigation supply and application, especially within polytunnels, are drip irrigation systems.

Within Polytunnels, irrigation needs are considerably reduced compared to open field, with drip irrigation being  precisely controlled which can also manage precise infused solublenutrient applications. Plus as an example Tomatoes [and potatoes] are prone to blight which is spread by water splashes of overhead irrigation, uncontrolled  high humidity and rain. So drip irrigation is ideal for numerous reasons and these systems can be supported by formal Rain Harvesting, considering storm rains in 2020 started in the valley as early as March; we need plan ahead and adapt positively for potential climate change.

Regardless of propagation type, the challenge of efficient pollination is essential. Within polytunnels that are poorly designed is often quoted as a significant downside problem, however with the considered design bees benefit from climate controlled tunnels, with no predatory birds and less harmful pesticides. To promote pollinators simple applications can help, such as creating a 13‘hotel for solitary bees Make your bee ‘hotel’ with lengths of bamboo garden cane, or pieces of wood with holes drilled into them.On the larger scale try to plant around tunnel access points the flower plants that will attract those useful insects and bees the most, including   Bees will be attracted most to purple flowers, because they can see that colour better than other colours. 13Good bee attracting plants include comfrey, lavender, hyssop, bee balm and chives. Try plan to have a continuous blooming of your flowers varieties during your crop blossom period. Certain bugs need be encourages such as ladybeetles who feast on aphids/ greenflies, thus ideal for tomato pepper and beans  and especially strawberries where aphids can transmit viruses between plants.This applies to open field crop cultivation too. Help nature to help you!

Simple actions such as opening polytunnel doors and specifically designed side vents is important to keep temperatures controlled as necessary, allowing pollinating insects to enter and not become trapped. Even in cloche style polytunnels, slitted and holed ventilation systems double up as pollinators access.

You might consider to keep your own bees if you find that pollinators are in short supply, you may even want to consider keeping your own honey producing hive of bees, which will simultaneously pollinate your crops. While this is not usually strictly necessary in order to pollinate polytunnel plants, you may find that this is an additional diversification with honey production.

Consequently, with the fertile land of the Kathmandu Valley , small land parcels and increasing development pressure, farms need embrace every enhancement opportunity, learn from other nations experiencing similar issues and take advantage of the valleys benefits. The poly tunnel industry is ripe for development, using size appropriate tunnels , but with training and support mechanisms, and not simply handing out Government or INGO grants, which get exploited and abused and tunnels end up keeping goats and chicken. Multiple climates and ranging economies have invested into the polytunnel option, providing them continuity of crop production regardless of exterior environments.

So we suggest a series of agriculture aid videos in Nepali for smartphones , also some simple pictorial booklets in Nepali. Enhancement and development is about education, recognising the risks of poor practice, and collaborating to explore diversification and best land management practice.

Conclusion:  Valley agriculture development opportunities requires continuous education and respect for the Farmer.They in turn need embrace  new ideas, respect traditional methods and collaborate to develop a stronger cooperative of agriculture, where each shares their successes and their failures. Post Covid19 we are now fighting for the sustainability of our nation. Diversification from simple crop production to embracing  mixed cropping and crop rotations; embracing Nepal’s rich agro-biodiversity, reaping the advantages of the Valleys generous micro climate, ample water and easy market access. Meat and livestock produce is an important ‘cash’ revenue for farmers, and needs be run In parallel to crop cultivation; we identified also that livestock excrement can play an important role in maintaining soil nutrition. Aqua culture has enormous opportunities as a intensive produce on a very small footprint, ideal for the small holdings of the valley and across Nepal.

It is essential that we work with nature and not against. Intensive imported fertilizers and pesticides are in fact potentially detriment to our water supplies, both surface and aquifer  and to our vitally important insect pollinators and follows through the food chain contaminating the market produce affecting our children’s health and communities long term immune systems, very relevant for future pandemics. We need better understand our soil management symbiotic microbe applications and organic Biological controls are fast becoming a Farmers friend, minimising consumable costs and rebuilding natures resilience, especially if we are to prepare for climate change with its as yet associated unknown challenges. Baring this in mind, the concept proven globally of poly tunnel efficiency and its highly productive  sector development is the potential to Nepal’s  agriculture sustainability and specialist produce export balance book. The poly tunnel, when managed correctly solves so many of the present challenges of climate  change uncertainty and insecure import supply chains, along with promoting positive biodiversity, and reducing the vegetation period that importantly increases crop cycles, therefore providing more seasonal crops and extended productive seasons, simultaneously managing reduced irrigation needs, thus preserving our water resources for further agricultural expansion.

So in concluding our outline appraisal of agriculture development opportunities, some might ask so what is the government doing? Apart from battling with neighbours maintaining our exports to India during this geo political turmoil atmosphere  and minimising the unfair subsidised  cheap imports crippling our own producers,the government of Nepal is in fact valuably supporting the agricultural industry by currently paying 75% of the insurance premium that the farmers had to pay for insuring their corps and animals. The insurance subsidy provided by the government is encouraging farmers to insure their agriculture enterprises which provides extra measure of protection to the farmers against crop loss or animal deaths under unfavourable environmental conditions, disease outbreaks etc. It should be an important step towards developing food security and offer the farmer and wider agriculture industry the confidence to explore environmentally beneficial diversification embracing better use of the tight smallholding  footprints..with the risk removed, Nepal has an amazing opportunity to be regional leader in Agriculture quality production generating the desperately needed national agricultural sustainability and future export profitability in a ‘win win’ format.

Authors

Garry de la Pomerai

Garry de la Pomerai:   16 years within Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy and Policy development. Working front line  within Water Resource Recovery and Maintenance applications embracing Agriculture enhancement, holistic Waste Management and Resilient Cities initiatives.                    Email: [email protected]

Dr. Rajendra Gautam:  More than 12 years of experience in the field of soil fertility and water quality research and agriculture extension in Nepal and USA. Currently leading a crop diversification program for the promotion of high value crops, especially berry crops in Nepal.  Email: [email protected]

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