EDITORIAL: Boosting agriculture

The unveiled national budget has given hope that the government is serious about turning around the agricultural sector, because agriculture has received priority

The devastating earthquake of last year has had an adverse impact on almost all sectors including agriculture.

This has also affected the agricultural sector. About two-thirds of the population of Nepal depend on and are engaged in agriculture. At one time Nepal was a food exporting country but it has now become a net importer of food grain.

The challenge now is to revive the agricultural sector which has been battered by years of relative neglect and the food security needs to be increased with immediate effect. Households which now require food assistance have also escalated by 35 per cent post-earthquake compared to only one-tenth of a per cent prior to it.

The disasters caused a loss of all food stock to 80 per cent of the most food insecure households while 55 per cent of the affected lost about half of their food stock.

Apart from the disasters, too, the farm sector in the country has long needed a shot in the arm. Our agricultural products have been less competitive than in the past, and one reason for it has been the lack of proper incentives to farmers to grow more.

The fiscal budget for 2016-17 has made some important attempts to boost agriculture productivity. It has plans to do so by consolidating small holder farmers through cooperatives. This would deal with major obstacles in increasing farm productivity.

The budget aims to expand irrigation facilities that is sorely lacking, forcing Nepalese agriculture to depend mainly on the mercy of the monsoon rains. The budget has also announced providing a subsidy on the purchase of farm machinery.

The much needed quality seeds would be distributed to the farmers. The budget also envisages cheaper credit. Grants would be provided to set up cold storage facilities that are glaringly lacking at the moment.

Nepal has been advised to proceed with massive mechanization in agriculture and commercialize the farm sector in order to increase production to cope with labour shortages as well as to bring safety net policies essential for attaining food security.

There would be provisions of a resilient food system that would be efficient, inclusive, climate-sharp, providing sustainable nutrition and business friendly together with seeing to it that the citizens are healthy.

We now have to do something about the nutrition programme as Nepal was among those countries with good nutrition as far as nutrition was concerned in the 2000s.

A plus point is that the budget would initiate land use mapping within the next three years according to the nature of the land. The land would also be classified and would not be allowed to be used for purposes other than those specified.

Land would not be allowed to remain fallow and those permitting this would attract a considerable amount of fine.

Meanwhile, South Asia happens to be one of the fastest growing region in the world and it is indeed necessary to see that hunger and malnutrition is addressed through all means at our disposal.

The just unveiled national budget has given hope that the government is serious about turning around the agricultural sector, because agriculture has received high priority, as reflected in the policies, programmes and various incentives announced.

Everest Day

A record number of 400 mountaineers have been able to scale Mt. Everest during this spring season breaking a lull of no climbing for the last two consecutive years 2014 and 2015.

The Everest expedition was cancelled in 2014 after 16 high altitude guides and climbers died in a deadly avalanche and mountaineers abandoned the expedition due to the devastating earthquake in 2015.

This year, however, gave a boost to the mountaineering sector as most of the people from around the world scaled the highest peak though six of them lost their life due to altitude sickness and accidents.

Marking the International Everest Day, nine Sherpa rope fixers were felicitated in the capital. It would not have been possible for others to conquer the highest peak without their tireless efforts.

They were the first to conquer the peak. The successful ascent of Mt. Everest by many climbers has helped restore the confidence of the local Sherpas as well as the climbers from all over the world that mountaineering in Nepal is still a cherished adventure.

This shows that the Nepalese are resilient to difficult times.