Wednesday Aug 10, 2022
Wednesday Aug 10, 2022

Tackling food insecurity in Nepal: A scientific approach

Taking a dive into factors causing food insecurity and ways to overcome it

2022 Apr 20, 16:00, Nepal
Farmer in Rupandehi (Picture Credits: Neil Palmer (CIAT))

As the world population skyrockets, so does hunger. The warning sent out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) projects food insecurity to worsen in 20 countries. Although fortunately, Nepal has improved food security in recent years, it has steered far from its ability in the 1960s. Back then, Nepal was self-sufficient in food grain, with the highest cereal yield in South Asia. Now, Nepal imports a staggering 80% of the grain consumed (Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development 2019 report).

According to the 2016 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey, 4.6 million people are food insecure in Nepal (without reliable access to food). This can be attributed mainly to natural disasters, civil unrest, poor infrastructure and deforestation. Although these factors remain indomitable, integrating technology and research in agriculture can help tackle food insecurity. Since farmers have to produce more with fewer resources available, the yield must increase—and they cannot do it alone.

Terrace Farming (Picture Credits: Google Images)
Terrace Farming (Picture Credits: Google Images)

New scientific practices have already seeped into Nepali farming and have been tremendous successes. Terrace farming, a technique to cut cultivable steps out of slopes, is especially useful in hilly and mountainous areas with high food insecurity and low yield. Millions of livelihood depend on this practice of terracing since it maximises the otherwise uncultivable sloppy terrain. Vertical farming, too, has gained traction in the country in recent years. Like terrace farming, vertical farming optimises space by stacking crops in layers.

 In recent years, urban farming has grown popular in the cities. For instance, the Shree Krishi Cooperative Farm in Tikathali-5 Lalitpur, spanning over 25 acres, caters to Kathmandu and Lalitpur's urban population. In an interview with Sanjay Timilsina, the owner Puskar Acharya says, "Unfortunately, we still haven't been able to mechanise the farm. Using our bare hands makes it very difficult". In addition to our lack of machinery, he also emphasises the lack of attention given to the agricultural industry, "Agricultural production is very lucrative, but we do not realise it. However, our neighbouring countries realise this and have used it to their advantage. We must also invest in the sector and increase our exports". Acharya also stresses the importance of disseminating knowledge on optimising yield in agriculture.

A farmer operates a rice harvester during an demonstration event in celebration of the Chinese farmers' harvest festival at Hongguang Village, Changchun City of northeast China's Jilin Province, Sept. 23, 2021. Photo: Xinhua/RSS
A farmer operates a rice harvester during an demonstration event in celebration of the Chinese farmers' harvest festival at Hongguang Village, Changchun City of northeast China's Jilin Province, Sept. 23, 2021. Photo: Xinhua/RSS

In an interview with AP1 HD, agriculture farm owner Shree Krishna Adhikari says, "Looking at farmers in Israel growing on sand, I realised our privilege. Our fertile soil is precious—even a single seed thrown in the soil grows. We must take advantage of this". After his time in Israel, he was in awe about how 4% of the farming population sustained the country, despite having relatively infertile land. Further elaborating, he says, "They optimised their machinery on the desserts which makes it possible. This is where we lack, although the majority of our population is farmers, we lack the technology". Taking inspiration from his preceding years working in Israeli farms, he now owns his modern farm Shalom Agriculture, which provides training, installation services and machinery.

GPS Soil (Soil Munsell Colour Book) (Photo Credits: Jugewilson)
GPS Soil (Soil Munsell Colour Book) (Photo Credits: Jugewilson)

Adopting smart farming strategies in Nepal may be challenging but worth the investments. According to a USDA Economic Research Service study, GPS soil and yield mapping can reduce labour costs by 35% while also maximising efficiency. GPS soil utilises GPS to navigate sampling locations for crop planning while dividing the land. Yield mapping tracks the yield of a specific crop in a particular area for future reference. In addition to optimising the land and crops that already exist, we must also think of new emerging problems like climate change. Unpredictable weather patterns call for research on climate-resistant crops to sustain the population.

Whether it be through researched farming methods like terrace farming, vertical farming, or modern technology like GPS to counteract food insecurity, it is time to address these limitations.


farming nepal smart farm GPS soil Yield mapping terrace farming urban farming
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