Articles on Organic Agriculture
Organic Agriculture Development in Nepal
Nepal is a mountainous country with plenty of natural beauties and an Agriculture-based economy with about 75% of the population being dependent upon agriculture. About 70% of the Nepali people are in the rural areas of the country where the main occupation is agriculture. A significant part of the population is dependent upon this sector, which remains a backbone of the country’s economy, where as 36 percent GDP is covered by agriculture production. In this situation it cannot be taken for granted that the overall development of the country is possible without the development of this sector. The development of the farmers is not possible without the development of this sector, and the purchasing power of the farmers cannot improve until their conditions improve as well. In the absence of improvement in the purchasing power of the farmers, direct and indirect impact on the demand for industrial outputs, so the industrial development is also hindered. The fact that other various sectors will be affected directly or indirectly cannot be denied. For the above reasons, there is an urgent need for improvement in the agriculture sector. However, the following factors are responsible for the backwardness of this sector in the country: Traditional farming practice, fragmentation of agricultural land, lack of irrigation, lack of adequate technology & skill manpower, dual ownership in land, lack of timely provision of quality seed and fertilizers, absence of well organized agriculture market, lack of utilization of public and private land, less participation of private sector in Agro & Agro Forest sectors etc. are the main obstructions of agriculture development in Nepal.
The population is increasing day by day, but on other hand, the fertile land has been converted into cities or industrial areas. If this continues, there will be no remaining fertile land for growing crops. Kathmandu Valley can be taken as an example. This problem threatens the well being of human beings in every country of this world.
The disorganized agricultural activities are also a serious problem in Nepal. The vast area of land is misused. However, the major issue in this sector is lack of skilled and qualified manpower as well as the appropriate technology. The great effort of Nepalese farmers has become fruitless. Still, we can find the large area of land uncultivated and unutilized. In this regard, it is necessary to implement a planned policy immediately. In the absence of concrete vision and policy, the existing few agricultural entrepreneurs are also facing great problems. On the other hand, there are no such better situations created to exist as private entrepreneurs. The farmers have been doing hard labor, but they are compelled to live in a miserable condition. Every government in Nepal has been claiming that agricultural development is in top priority, but the results are not found satisfactory. The way we can pursue agricultural development in this country, is through the use of organic agriculture. In the world context now organic agriculture is an emerging situation, so this is the right time to begin thinking about organic agriculture development in the country. For a country bestowed by nature with tremendous organic agricultural probability, this must be the right choice. Presently, it is in its infancy stage due to the lack of awareness amongst farmers, consumers, students, scholars, activists and policy makers. Even the government of Nepal has not given any priority for Organic Agriculture (OA) development. What we are facing today owes to the total lack of planning and foresight in the country’s organic agriculture sector. Farmers have been applying chemical inputs in the name of commercial farming, which is hazardous to both human life and the environment. Soil fertility is degrading day by day, and people are suffering with critical diseases. If we do not become timely conscious and create awareness, the situation will be beyond our control, and become a great threat to the human existence in this country. Necessary steps must be taken immediately for preserving both the environment and its creatures by supporting (institutionalizing) organic farming. Our initiative actions in this regard can be recognition for the future generations.
To create public awareness about the importance of organic agriculture, to formulate concrete planning and policy for the betterment of farmers to reduce poverty through organic agriculture, and to establishing organic agriculture resource centers all over the country will be main steps of the Nepali Government as well as those institutions and organizations who have been involving in this sector in a joint effort. It is certain that organic farming will be more cost effective than modern farming in the long run. Employing organic farming methods will lead to higher profits for farmers, not only because of price premiums, but also because of lower production costs (Rosegrant, et al., 2005; von Braun, et al, 2003). OA technologies can decrease the costs of production as chemical inputs are substituted by locally available and cheaper organic inputs and more intensive labor which the farmers often have in abundance. Adoption of OA systems also lowers the need for credit, which is often expensive and difficult to obtain for small farmers. There is substantial evidence linking OA with improvements in the profitability and income of poor farmers in developing countries. Case studies by UNESCAP (2002) shows that certain organic farming groups were able to double their income due to the lower cost of organic inputs and lower credit costs. More importantly, studies show that OA has been particularly profitable for smallholders. In the context of Nepalese farmers, OA is the only technology to adopt for their livelihood as they have a small holding of land. So it is vital to think of organic agriculture development in the country by it’s government. Government is providing subsidy in chemical fertilizer, likewise the government should have to provide necessary support to those who have been involving in the field of organic agriculture development. It should also formulate a policy in regards to organic agricultural development within the country, so that Nepal can gradually become known as an organic country.
Ramesh Nath Sharma
Climate Change and Organic Farming
The world is concerned about the global climate change with its impacts in the Himalayas in present. In the mean time Copenhagen summit was also completed in December, 2009 with some positive resolution. Entirely concerning to Nepal, recently Kathmandu is listed among 15 cities most vulnerable to green house effect, according to a report released in Copenhagen at the climate summit. So the concern to Nepal should be prioritized. The mitigation measures not only to vehicular pollution or industrial pollution but concern should also be focus on the agricultural residues which emits green house gases (GHG), causing global warming with the use of synthetic pesticides, sprays etc that can also be applicable for the agricultural country like Nepal where around 21% of land is cultivated. Regarding to the developed country like US major agricultural activities in 2007 contributed an estimated 5.8 percent to total U.S. GHG emissions. GHG emissions from these inputs add to the overall carbon footprint of agriculture.
In regard to the country like Nepal, most of the people are dependent on agriculture in which most are commercial farmers are still using synthetic fertilizers in the farms. Certainly development in agriculture is crucial for reducing poverty, and preliminary findings from the National Living Standards Survey indicate that the agriculture sector has made a significant contribution to poverty reduction. In the case of gross domestic product (GDP) of Nepal, agricultural activity constitute about 38 per cent, which is highest among other components of GDP and accounts for 75 percent of the total export while the contribution of agriculture to the total gross national product (GNP) was 56% according to 1985 (CBS, 1985). So the agriculture sector is one of the crucial parts for the national economic development and need enhancement to the farming technology to adapt the climate change in mean time.
As like the developed country, Nepal is also not untouched to the massive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Panchkhal is the living example with the consequences of mishandling and overuse of chemical pesticides where the people are suffering from skin irritation, headache, nausea, and the cases of skin cancer are also been identified at an alarming rate. According to PPD (2007), annual consumption of pesticide in Nepal was 131.3 metric ton in the year 2006. The ignorance and awareness among the rural people leads to present consequences. Of the total pesticide consumption, about 40-50% is used in rice, 10-20% in vegetables and the rest in cash crops. Fertilizer is one of the necessary inputs for the higher agricultural productivity; the import of which in the country increased significantly after the implementation of Fertilizer Deregulation Policy 1997 and National Fertilizer Policy 2000 with the provision of supplying products in a subsidize rate to the farmers. Even though average fertilizer consumption in Nepal is 26 kg/ha according to 2002 (SAIC, 2004), which is very low as compared to other SAARC countries but unbalanced and massive use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers is widespread in the country specifically in areas where commercial production of crops has already started.
In the recent days, the practice of organic farming in Nepal is in crisis. Farmers are tempted by higher returns using chemicals, and feel the higher price of organic products does not offset the lower yield as the policy of government in 2058 B.S. broadens the market of pesticides and ease the private sector to import chemical fertilizers. And public who owes it unaware of the dangers of chemicals does not demand their product. So, the indiscriminate use of chemicals goes on, and callous use of agrochemicals banned in most other parts of the world. Tomatoes are dipped in diluted DDT, cauliflowers are sprayed with a pesticide cocktail the day before they are plucked, and chemicals like Aldene and Metacid are regularly used. A recent report issued by the Cancer Relief Society has shown that cancer rate in Kathmandu has raised the alarm about cancer causing risk posed by chemicals in vegetables and fruits.
At the same time the agricultural sector is impacted by climate change, research indicates that current agricultural activities are a significant source of greenhouse gases that aggravate climate disruption. The impact of climate change is severe on a least developed country like Nepal because of the geographical and climatic conditions, high dependence on natural resources and lack of resources to cope with the changing climate. Nepal’s vulnerability to damage from climate change due to increasing temperatures are more in high mountain areas as glaciers and snow fields will recede and may even disappear, reducing Nepal’s dry season river water source. So Nepal should be alert with the mitigation of climate change.
From the study, it is found that sustainable and organic agricultural systems can help to reduce agricultural GHG emissions through energy conservation, lower levels of carbon-based inputs, lower use of synthetic fertilizer and other features that minimize GHG emissions and sequester carbon in the soil. As soil is a major store of carbon. If organic agricultural systems are adopted which improve overall soil quality and provide for relatively stable GHG reduction or sequestration that can be verified and measured with reasonable accuracy.The study suggests that widespread adoption of organic farming practices would offset 23 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture through soil carbon sequestration alone.
The result is that agricultural soils have the capacity to take up carbon through roots, litter, harvest residues, and animal manures used in agricultural production. Recent deliberation and steps towards the climate change is appreciable to some extent but still developed country should focus on the organic farming approaches neutralizing other pollutants or emitter of green house gases. Overall, the sustainable and organic agricultural systems integrate soil, crop, livestock and water management techniques that can increase production while enhancing soil carbon sequestration and reducing GHG emissions. Examining relationships in complex, integrated farming systems does not lend itself easily to isolating cause and effect of the system on various factors. But research on these systems has made clear that mitigation of the adverse effects of rapid climate change cannot be achieved simply by picking out individual agricultural practices in isolation. Rather, a holistic system of agricultural practices must be adopted in order to attain the full measure of a productive and resilient agriculture. Though the annual GHG emission of Nepal is about 0.025% with less than 0.4% of the world population which is negligibly small, Nepal should follow the philosophy and science of organic farming to reduce green house gases and also in order to achieve healthy and sustainable livelihood to set an example to the world forming Nepal as “Organic Country”.
By Sabitri Dahal
(published in Rising Nepal on 18th June, 2010)