Costly neglect

The Agricultural Engineering Division of the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) is reeling under acute shortage of funds and manpower. As a result, development works on new equipment and machines that are so integral to modern agriculture have been stalled. The shortfall is so acute that the division is unable to spend even meagre sums on R&D. Government grants, grants from national and international donors and funds generated from in-house research and consultancy services are major income sources for NARC. In recent times, money flowing in from all three sources has dried up.

Disproportionate security expenditure ate into government funds set aside for agriculture during the period of insurgency and political upheaval and the government’s failure to utilise foreign grants productively deterred international donors. The country is now relatively peaceful. The CPN-Maoist, which has emerged the single largest political party in Nepal, has made agriculture its pivotal sector for overall economic development. This bodes well for hundreds of thousands of subsistence farmers toiling away in their fields day and night. But if the culture of corruption, impunity and neglect of rural outposts cannot be discontinued, farmers as well as the country will have to pay a very high price at a time food shortage has hit every region in the world.