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Organic Agriculture in Nepal, Opportunities and Challenges

Agriculture being Nepal’s principle economic activity, employing more than 65% of total population, contributed 26.98% of total GDP of Nepal in FY 2018/19. Nepal Government has always emphasized this sector for dealing with key issues of poverty alleviation and economic development. Its support however is inclined towards conventional agriculture rather than organic farming.

Organic Agriculture is the production system that enhances the health of soil, ecosystem and people and minimize adverse effects on natural resources by prohibiting the use of synthetic chemicals. Nepal’s organic agricultural production has a relatively short history. Organic Agriculture was included as one of the priority sectors in Nepalese agriculture since the 10th Five Year Plan (2059/060-2063/064). Organic Agriculture is still at its preliminary stages, growth is sluggish and is mainly focused only on export oriented commodities such as apiculture, coffee, tea, large cardamom, ginger, etc.

Opportunities :

Due to exclusion of costly agrochemicals, ecological diversities and higher labour availability in farming sector, organic farming holds a lot of potential in Nepal. Besides, it tackles with the issues of climate change, food insecurity and since negative impacts of Conventional Farming has started to be realized in the areas where large amount of chemicals is used, people have started realizing its importance over modern conventional farming techniques. At present times, people have started adopting the measures of sustainable development in response to declining soil health and degrading ecosystem. One of the most accepted and adopted approaches of sustainable agriculture is organic farming. People are becoming aware of the health hazards that the food they consume might bring. They have started realizing that consumption of organic food is the best remedy to prevent such numerous health hazards.

It has been several months since the outbreak of Covid-19, the global pandemic, that has led to the massive downfall of the economy of the entire world. Several months of lockdown in almost all the countries in the world that still continues in some, has compelled the countries to cutoff export of food commodities and other essential goods to smoothen distribution within the country. Even though, Nepal’s main economic activity is agriculture, our country is not self-sufficient and has to rely upon India for the import of food, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and several other essential commodities. At these sensitive times, when the country is struggling to be self-sufficient in terms of food and the import of insecticides and chemical fertilizers has reduced to great extent, farmers are forced to rely upon compost and FYMs to nourish their crops and had to find organic alternative to tackle the problems of weeds and insects. It won’t be long when people will begin realizing the benefits of organic farming over conventional farming techniques. Several employment generating sectors are not in operation at present, providing with enough labour for organic farming which is a labour-intensive production system and requires high labour.

Challenges :

Even though, people have started realizing its importance, lack of adequate and integrated research, extension, manpower and other support on organic farming production, marketing and input supply has hindered the development of organic farming in Nepal. Although the market has experienced exceptionally high growth in organic foods, yet market shares of organic foods remain quite small. Organic food fetches higher price. Nepal being a developing country, majority of the consumers are not well-off and thus, not all can afford these organic foods in daily basis. Due to lack of poor extension system and since adopting completely different form of farming than conventional farming, is difficult, farmers start producing organically on a “trial and error” basis and adjust their farming methods every season until they reach an acceptable and stable level of output. This results less yield than expectations. Organic Certification is another major challenge of organic farming. There is third party certification which is very costly and lengthy paper work and out of reach of economically poor and illiterate farmers. Thus, only a handful of farmers are organically certified. This is the reason small and medium sized producers of organic food cannot access proper market and international platforms.

Despite the challenges, organic farming has very high potential to flourish in Nepal. Government of Nepal could promote organic farming by providing enough subsidy, incentives, reliable insurance schemes and certification procedures and taking initiatives for adequate and integrated research and extension system in the field of organic agriculture. Nepal’s organic honey, tea, coffee, cardamom, ginger, etc. have already occupied a fair portion of international market fetching high price. Promotion of organic farming could help other organic products gain similar reputations in international markets.krishipatrika/from, २६ कार्तिक, २०७७

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