Regional Conference on Mountain Agriculture Kicks Off

KATHMANDU: A three-day regional conference on mountain agriculture with focus on bee pollination services, agri-extension, and market linkages began in Godavari, Lalitpur on Wednesday.

The conference is organised by the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD), and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

Giving a keynote speech, Minister of Agricultural Development Ram Krishna Yadav said, "The findings of the action research on agri-extension will inform the agriculture extension policy and programmes of Nepal, which are a precondition to transforming agriculture in Nepal."

Similarly, newly appointed Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commission (NPC), Swarnim Wagle admitted that Nepal's agriculture sector was mired in classic problems such as young people leaving agriculture for jobs abroad due to lack of employment opportunities at home, overdependence on rain-fed agriculture, and lack of access to agri-extension services, technologies and agricultural inputs. He said, "The future of agriculture lies in exploring new modes of production to take advantage of the economies of scale and commercial, even precision farming that continuously internalises new policy-relevant, evidence-based findings."

ICIMOD Director General David Molden called on a gathering of some 60 people from the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) to make the most of the opportunity the conference would provide to deliberate on the findings of the action research and pilot activities of the EU-funded Support to Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change in the Himalaya (Himalica) initiative to draw out lessons for uptake at the national and regional levels.

The participants are government officials, agri-extensionists, progressive farmers, and agriculture scientists.

"Some messages coming out of the Himalica experience are very clear. Improving farmers', especially women farmers', access to agri-extension services, recognising the importance of indigenous honeybees and pollination services for enhancing crop productivity and food security, and promoting market linkages for mountain products are absolutely critical for improving agriculture-based livelihoods of poor and vulnerable mountain communities of the HKH," he underscored.

Since 2013, the Himalica initiative of ICIMOD has carried out action research activities on bee pollination services in Chitral in Pakistan and Himachal Pradesh in India and randomised control trial (RCT) studies on improving agri-extension services in 10 mid-hill districts of Nepal.

In addition, it has worked on developing climate-resilient value chains of mountain products such as vegetables and goat in Bhutan, community-based ecotourism in Bangladesh, ginger and bamboo in Myanmar, large cardamom and vegetables in Nepal, and yak and sea buckthorn in Pakistan.