EDITORIAL: Downward trend

Both the plans, programmes and policies for the agricultural sector have been defective and their implementation has been disappointing

Over the years, the contribution of agriculture to the country’s composition of the gross domestic product (GDP) has been going down. Government statistics, as included in the latest Economic Survey Report, show the constant downward trend of agriculture’s contribution to GDP, particularly over the past seven years (2010-11). In this period, agriculture has fallen behind by 6.12 percent. According to the report, the farm sector’s share in the GDP would remain at 28.9 percent in 2016-17 compared with 31 per cent the year before. Seven years ago, agriculture contributed 35.02 per cent to GDP. Government officials claim that this declining trend is a positive sign that the country is developing. Therefore, they argue that this trend is not a matter for worry as the overall farm output has been increasing. For example, the annual turnover of the agricultural sector in the current year amounts to about Rs.750 billion, whereas the figure was Rs.600 billion two years ago. Indeed, generally, in developed countries, the share of agriculture to the GDP is quite low compared with the contributions of other sectors, such as manufacturing and services.

But this argument is only partly true. In Nepal’s case, it is true that the share of the farm sector to the GDP has been decreasing. But unlike in developed countries, the numbers of people still dependent on agriculture, wholly or partly, have not been coming down in a similar ratio. Moreover, there still exists the chronic problem of farm underemployment. The fact that the share of agriculture to GDP and the percentage of the population dependent on agriculture are not going down together in similar ratios indicates the continued poor performance of the agricultural sector. Still, 68 per cent of the population is engaged in agriculture. In certain agricultural products Nepal used to be self-sufficient in the past, and was even able to export surplus output – for example, in rice — it is now a net importer. All this tends to support the criticism that agriculture has not received the priority it deserves. Moreover, both the plans, programmes and policies for the agricultural sector have been defective and their implementation has been disappointing.

Even after six decades of planned development efforts, the country’s agriculture still depends mainly on the unpredictable monsoons; favourable monsoons boost farm output, pushing up GDP, and the unfavourable weather does the opposite. This situation has not changed over the years. The figures of the value of output produced in absolute terms are not that helpful in analyzing the situation, as several factors, particularly inflation, tend to distort the picture those figures paint. Our industrial and manufacturing sectors over decades have not registered impressive performance. Positive signs would emerge only if the development of other sectors such as services and manufacturing move on at a rapid pace while the percentage of the population engaged in agriculture goes down, but by increasing agricultural output. The failure to absorb the excessive manpower in agriculture into other new sectors sufficiently is a problem that needs to be addressed effectively.

Badi’s concerns

Although the new constitution has guaranteed that a citizenship certificate can also be issued in mother’s name, many children born to Badi women continue to be deprived of their birth and citizenship certificates because of the local administration’s non-cooperation. The Badi community predominantly residing in the plain districts of the mid-

western region have abandoned their traditional occupation and are leading a normal life, but this community, particularly women and their children, still face bureaucratic hurdles to obtain citizenship certificates.

As the local level elections are going to be held in the mid-western districts the elected officials must take up this issue seriously and address their concerns so that they may not be traumatized simply because the children of the Badi women failed to identify their biological fathers. The Badi women should be provided with legal support and counseling from the local level government so that their children can acquire the citizenship certificate even in mother’s name even if identity of the biological father is not ascertained. No one can continue with education and business without acquiring this paper.