EDITORIAL: Well conceived

The four types of consolidated land will receive government support according to their need

In the recently announced National Budget for the coming fiscal year, 2016/17, certain measures have been announced to raise agricultural output and encourage farmers to that end.

But it will take modernization of the agricultural sector to achieve this objective, introducing commercial farming largely replacing subsistence farming. But all this means large-scale farming which in turn requires a large area of land.

Starting with the implementation of a land reforms programme half a century ago, the process of land fragmentation has continued unabated, with more divisions of ancestral land as well as with the conflicts between owners and tenants.

To add to the problem, serious encroachments upon much fertile land have taken place for non-agricultural purposes, leading to the emergence of a very large number of smallholdings.

Therefore, without finding a way to bring a number of plots belonging to different owners together, it will not be possible to mechanize and commercialize agriculture.

A most practical way to do so would be to consolidate such fragmented lands under some suitable scheme. The just unveiled Prime Minister Agriculture Modernization Project aims to do so.

Since the days of Panchayat, governments had spoken of consolidating fragmented land for large-scale farming. This was done here or there, more like a pilot or model project, but never in a big way to make any significant impact.

The present government seeks to do the consolidation work through cooperatives.

Several incentives have been announced for the farmers for consolidation of fragmented land into 2100 pocket areas (each of at least 10 hectares), 150 blocks (each of at least 100 hectares), 30 zones (each with at least 500 hectares) and 17 super zones (each with at least 1, 000 hectares).

Each of these specified consolidated areas will have to produce at least one specific crop to help achieve the objective of making the country self-reliant in agricultural production.

The Budget says the government will provide support services and incentives all the way  from the consolidation work through the provision of quality seeds, seedlings and fingerlings through additional grants for chemical fertilizers, irrigation facilities and agricultural extension services for farmers, to various grants for the development of agricultural production centres, weekly local markets, primary processing centres and warehouses.

The four types of consolidated land will receive government support according to their need; for example, in the zones, the establishment of technical and vocational schools for agricultural entrepreneurs.

A budget of Rs. 5.78 billion has been allocated for the distribution of grants and extension services. There is a blueprint of where such consolidation of land fragments into four kinds of consolidated landmass will be undertaken.

The government has simultaneously announced schemes for expanding other related facilities and services needed for agriculture, such as irrigation, provision of loans at low interest rates, and 75 per cent premium subsidy for insurance cover for agriculture, livestock and fowl.

Whether this scheme will be carried out fully remains to be seen, given the record of the government’s farm policies in the past.

Lightning scare

Every year many people in Nepal are killed by lightning. In fact, lightning cause more casualties than other natural calamities.

Lightning occur more during the pre-monsoon season during the months between March and June. This is because of the natural electrical discharge in the atmosphere and also the imbalance between the negative and positive charges.

It is also found that most of the casualties occur in the eastern region of the country, both in the hills and plains. The damage is exacerbated due to the lack of awareness about lightening.

It hits the highest point found and passes through the ground.

As such, experts warn not to seek shelter under trees when it is raining and there are thunderstorms. People also are advised not to use gadgets like mobiles phones when there is a threat of lightning.

The Ministry of Home Affairs pays a paltry amount of Rs.40,000 to the relatives of those who are killed by lightening through the District Administrative Office. The most affected have also been identified with 44 districts more at risk.

People should take the needed precautions in order to avert disasters due to lightning and to save their life.