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Effects of the Lockdown on Nepali Agriculture

By Subhash Chandra

Farmer Durga Prasad Dhakal from Rasuwa district

Last month we wrote #NoLockdowninAgriculture in Nepal. As the lockdown continues and the situation unfolds, the lockdown is badly affecting Nepali small farmers and producers obstructing the distribution and sale of their produce.

The Community Self Reliance Center organized a webinar on 15th June in collaboration with Nepal Agricultural Co-operative Federation: ‘Impact of Lock-down: Efforts and Upcoming Actions for Nepali Agriculture.’

In the webinar, small farmers and producers, local government representatives, land and agriculture activists and professionals from across the countries shared their challenges and ways forward. I was honored to participate in this forum. Below are some of the highlights on challenges and opportunities noted about the effects of the lockdown in agriculture.

Farmer Srijana Chaudhary, Gadhawa Municipality of Dang district

Farmer Binod Sunar from Gorkha district

Challenges
  • All over the country, small farmers and producers are unable to sell their products because of lack of transportation.
  • Farmers could not earn even their expenses from products. The government has not offered any support or subsidies to them either.
  • Farmers who are in debt and farming on leased land face even more hardships as they have no other income source to make their loan and rent payments.
  • On the other hand, existing business companies are importing agricultural products from India that are much cheaper because of the subsidies Indian government provides to them. This turns local produce to waste.
  • Farmers do not have their own transportation system or means to reach the market, so they do not have their voice in the market.  
  • The Federal and most of the local governments are not friendly to farmers. They allow vegetables and fruits to be imported from India but are not supporting their own local farmers to sell their produce.
  • A minimum support price for agricultural produce does not exist in Nepal. Therefore, the farmers who are able to sell part of their produce are getting a very low price.

Beshani chaudhary, Gadhawa Municipality of Dang district

Opportunities:
  • At the same time, COVID 19 has pushed many young people back to villages from the cities, who have started to plow barren land for agriculture in Nepal.
  • Millions of migrant workers will be coming back home soon where there are no other employment opportunities but agriculture.
  • Farmers are increasingly united in cooperatives, and need to become more so. There is need and opportunity for collaboration between the local governments, farmers, and the cooperatives. This can be an instrument for food security at the local level.
  • Some of the local governments are prioritizing agriculture in their plan and policies toward creating self-reliance.
  • Communal farming is a way forward for those who do not own land but would like to farm.
  • Some of the local governments have established collection centers in communities and are facilitating the distribution of agricultural products to the markets.
  • Barren land is increasingly used for agriculture, creating employment at the local level.
  • Some local governments are providing vegetable seeds to take home to the COVID quarantine migrant labor returnees.
  • There are plans and preparation by Belaka Municipality to engage returning migrant workers in agriculture. They have developed an online system to register interests while the workers are still stuck in foreign lands.
  • New cold storages and collection centers are being developed in various local communities to safeguard farmers’ products.

Farmer Ishwori Chaudhary, Gadhawa Municipality of Dang district

Some of the webinar participants.