DR GOPAL DATT BHATTA
The global population is increasing at an alarming pace, and it is now 7 billion. It is predicted that the population would go up to 9 billion in the next three decades. Food is a fundamental right. The additional food demand must be met through existing land resources. Agricultural lands are strictly scarce, and it is almost certain that horizontal expansion in agriculture is not possible. The big challenge the global community would have to face in the days to come is how to meet the food demands for the additional two billion people considering the current technological and production stagnation in agriculture. The magnitude of food demands would be higher mostly in the developing countries, including Nepal, because of rapid population growth and urbanization. A common trend in many South Asian countries, including Nepal, is that the younger generation is getting out of agriculture leading to aging in agriculture. South Asian countries, on the other hand, are facing acute shortages of food and have pervasive poverty. The per cent of urban population in Nepal has grown from 4% in 1971 to almost 14% in 2001, and currently it is almost more than double that of 2001.
There has been a substantial increment in per capita income of people recently, leading to a growing demand for non-traditional foods such as meat and fast foods. The cities are growing at a faster rate in Nepal, and many satellite towns are being developed with huge population densities in the major urban centers. The urban areas don’t produce any food, in general, but the demand for food in the cities is huge. The question is how to meet the food demand of the growing population. The green revolution of the 1960s was able to feed millions of hungry people, in India for instance.
Agriculture these days has to face the challenge of global warming, and also associated risk of climate change and climate variability. Nepal is marked by high sensitivity to climate change and has relatively low adaptive capacity. The country has also been hit by various extreme weather events in the last few decades. It has been noticed that the temperature has increased now than before, across the globe, and Nepal can no longer remain aloof to this trend.
It is noticed that the temperature is increasing by 0.06 degree centrigade each year in Nepal and the magnitude is higher in the mountain region. Although overall rainfall remains almost the same, the variability is very high these days, and there has been several drought and heat stress events in Nepal. These variations along with increasing temperature have put the whole agriculture system at risk. In Nepalese agriculture, where mostly women and the senior people are involved, climate change would worsen their livelihoods.
Now, a sustainable transformation in agriculture is needed by promoting climate smart agriculture (CSA). CSA has the potency to enhance productivity of food crops, increase resilience of the production systems and mitigate the effects of climate change. There are six basic smart pillars of CSA viz., weather smart, water smart, carbon smart, fertilizer smart, knowledge smart and energy smart. Once farmers are made smart in these pillars, this would open a good road map to agricultural intensification.
Although there has been equal implication of all six pillars to make agriculture climate smart, the weather part always stands first. Sound weather forecasts aided by agro-advisories based on daily and seasonal weather information is the key for fine tuning production practices under changing weather pattern. Agro-advisories developed should be finally brought to the farmers through ICT based determination such as mobile phones, FM radios, TV channels etc. Crop yield forecasting in advance of harvesting time is equally important that needs the government to prioritize food security plans for a particular year or season and farmers to search for alternative action quite in advance. Another equally important element of weather smart pillar is index based insurance which differs from that of traditional crop and livestock insurance, because it correlates production with that of weather pattern.
Most of the CSA technologies have been already tested in the research stations and farmers’ fields and have shown outstanding results, however, prioritization of technologies is still needed. For promotion of CSA pillars, concerted efforts are needed from every sector: research, extension, policy, politics and education. CSA should also find space in the potential discourse. Political parties should also include climate change as a major issue to be discussed internally and externally. Every political party should incorporate climate change and food insecurities into their party agenda and should raise these issues in every discussion. If every actor in all sectors takes the climate change and food security, an important agenda and act accordingly, there is no doubt that CSA would bring sustainable intensification in agriculture and promote food security in Nepal.
Dr. Bhatta is Social
Scientist in CGIAR Program on Climate Change,
Agriculture and Food
Security in South Asia