Nepal | October 21, 2020

EDITORIAL: Farmers’ survey

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We need to switch to large-scale and commercial farming to ensure food security and price stabilisation in the local market

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) is all set to conduct a farmers’ survey to ascertain the exact population engaged in farming. It also aims to distribute Farmer Identity Cards so that they can be provided with the needed assistance by the government. This is the second time the ministry is conducting such a survey since 1976 when the first such survey was carried out. At that time, more than 90 per cent of the people were found to be engaged in agriculture. No such survey has been carried out so far entirely focussing on the farmers. Since then, there has been sea change with regard to the pattern of farming, and lesser number of people, around 60 per cent, seem to be engaged in the labour intensive sector, whose contribution to the Gross Domestic Production now stands at around 27 per cent, with paddy topping the list, contributing around 20 per cent of the total agricultural product. The main objective of the survey is to identify the real farmers and find out their actual economic status. The survey will be conducted across the country with the help of local governments.

A letter to this effect has already been dispatched to all the local levels.

As per the plan, the survey will collect details of their financial and business status — farmers’ produce and production, loans and grants, and the facilities provided by the government. Through the survey, the ministry expects to come up with new policies and programmes for the overall development of the agriculture sector.

The ministry has geared up for conducting such kind of survey at a time when it has received flak from all sides for not even being able to supply chemical fertilisers during the paddy plantation season. Collecting scientific data about the real farmers and issuing them identity cards can be instrumental in executing the government policies and programmes at the grassroots level. With the help of scientific data and ID cards, the government can distribute grants and subsidies to the real ones who need basic help.

On the basis of the database, the ministry also aims to classify them into different categories. The database and classification of the farmers may help determine the kind of government support they are after.

However, conducting the farmers’ survey and distributing the ID cards alone will not serve the purpose of increasing agricultural production. The sole objective of the government should be on promoting large-scale commercial farming, which will not only ensure food security and price stabilisation in the local markets, but also create job opportunities for youths in the rural areas. Unless we switch to modern and commercial farming, subsistence agriculture, which we have been practising for decades, will not lead the country towards prosperity. The ministry’s slogan of achieving the goal of Samrakchhit Krishi, Sunischit Bachat (Protected agriculture, guaranteed saving) will not become a reality unless we break ties with the old practice of farming. We need to encourage large-scale farming that uses modern technology and equipment that will help reduce the cost of human labour.

Have a good press

It’s good to know that construction of the necessary infrastructure for setting up the much-hyped security printing press has begun at the Information Technology Park at Banepa in Kavre. The security printing press will cost a whopping Rs 33 billion and will print passports, bank notes, driving licenses, smart cards, postage stamps and SIM cards, among others. Since the security press will save the country Rs 10 billion annually in getting these printed abroad, the government must see to it that the national pride project is completed at the earliest without a hitch.

However, this is unlikely. The project has already witnessed some goings-on, which cost the former minister for Communications and Information Technology his post for allegedly trying to negotiate kickbacks during the awarding of the contract for the printing press. Can the government assure the people that this will not repeat in the future? Also the project is said to employ 1,000 workers, including 200 technicians. The Security Printing Press Centre might as well start hiring and training the technicians abroad now so that they can handle the press immediately upon completion. And let the hiring be based on competence not on party lines.


A version of this article appears in print on October 09, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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