Agricultural sector: Local climate impacts

The challenge now is that despite having the mandate to lead local adaptation efforts, both the capacity and resources of local governments for planning and implementing climate-smart agricultural practices are low

Agriculture in Nepal is highly dependent on the monsoon and production fluctuates with the weather. Such fluctuations have been observed in different years and that has resulted from variations in rainfall and temperatures and the lack of adequate irrigation facilities, low access to improved seeds, fertilizers, and technology.

Being a sector that employs a large proportion of the workforce, climate-impacts on agriculture sector can affect the overall economic growth and wellbeing of the people.

Nepal has adopted National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) and prepared the National Framework on Local Adaptation Plan of Action (LAPA) to implement NAPA priorities. Nepal anticipates contributing towards avoiding or reducing the climate change impacts to ensure the wellbeing of climate-vulnerable communities through the NAPA framework. The LAPA process integrates climate change in development planning and implementation. In Nepal, the Ministry of Agriculture Development, in partnership with UNDP, FAO and German Government, has been supporting to integrate the agriculture sector into the National Adaptation Plan, which is expected to make Nepal’s poor and vulnerable farmers more resilient to the impact of climate change.

For effectively integrating Nepal’s efforts to deal with the climate change-related issues and for localizing climate change policies, the government introduced the Environment Friendly Local Governance Framework (EFLG) in 2013. This framework aims to enhance the adaptive capacity of poor and climate change-vulnerable communities including women to cope with climate-induced disasters by adopting integrated environment, climate and disaster resilient planning and budgeting at local level. Nepal has already begun undertaking various climate-smart agricultural initiatives such as organic farming, home gardens, rainwater harvesting, water source conservation, agro-forestry, and planting of drought resistant crop varieties under the EFLG framework.

The Constitution has provisions for allowing local governments to implement agriculture related-programs. Additionally, they are also empowered with authority to formulate rules and regulations to suit the local context. Once the local governments and regulations for operationalizing the constitutional provisions are in place, the federal government’s role will be supportive -- such as making necessary arrangements to place agricultural technicians and providing federal funds for agriculture. The local governments also have authority to generate resources for implementing local-level activities.

Because climate impacts are more visible locally, the local governments will have to focus more on adaptation measures. This would require them to include climate-resilient activities to support livelihoods of vulnerable communities. Such activities could include, i) promotion of organisations for commercial use, ii)increased participation of agribusiness, cooperatives and industry in agriculture, iii) reform of the land use policy to support commercial agriculture, iv) rainwater harvesting and water conservation for agriculture, v) promotion of social forestry, reforestation and bio-resources conservation, climate-resilient agriculture such as crop diversification, introduction of drought-tolerant crop varieties and farming practices, and vi) introduction of new technologies in water management.

The role of the local governments would also include policy intervention, based on data and context-specific peculiarities. This is where the local adaptation plans can help as they can provide a basis for the interventions. The local governments would also have to encourage continuous participatory research and involvement of community in local planning as these can assist farmers identify appropriate adaptation strategies and actions in agriculture.

The integration of adaptation practices in agriculture sector will include adjustments that have to be made by households, firms and institutions. These comprise activities such as managing natural resources for supporting local agricultural produce, input mixes in production, and changing laws, programs, and policies to incentivise adaptation practices for farmers, communities and firms. The challenge now is that despite having the mandate to lead local adaptation efforts, both the capacity and resources of local governments for planning and implementing climate-smart agricultural practices are low. Therefore, there is a need to build awareness about climate risk at local level alongside efforts to invest on capacity enhancement of front line extension employees and communities.

The local efforts can be complemented and supported by the federal government and development partners to promote climate change-adaptive new technologies, innovation and knowledge production at the local level. Good practices of demand-based programs in small irrigation, co-operative and family farming that have proven their effectiveness also need to be up-scaled.

Lastly, documenting and disseminating successful initiatives in climate change adaptation and environment-friendly development can help promote effective implementation of climate-smart agriculture by integrating it in the local development plans.