Oped

Animal farm

  • Policy makers tend to overlook the livestock sector when setting national priorities
- YUBAK DHOJ GC

Apr 19, 2017-Two-thirds of Nepalis are engaged in agriculture, but the farm sector accounts for only one-third of the country’s economy, pointing to a huge scope for improvement. Rice has the largest contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) followed by livestock and poultry. A study shows that livestock contributes 26 percent to the Agriculture Gross Domestic Product. However, the role of livestock has been underestimated in the national economy, and planners tend to overlook it when setting national priorities. Livestock and poultry get one-third of the farming budget while its contribution amounts to nearly two-thirds. In the minds of the general public too, the livestock and poultry sector is almost like an afterthought.

However, it is interesting to note that the two sectors complement one another. The output of crop-based agriculture is the input for livestock production and vice versa. The by-products, remnants and straws make good sources of animal feed while cattle dung and urine are important soil nutrients for better crop production. The government of Nepal has been running various programmes to modernise the farming and livestock sectors. Two separate Ministries are engaging in production, service and regulation aspects. Considering the ever increasing demand for animal products, especially milk, meat and eggs, the government created the Ministry of Livestock Development in 2015.

Tangible results

The ministry has been working to attain self-sufficiency in important animal products such as milk, meat and eggs in order to meet the target of 91 litres of milk, 14 kg of meat and 48 eggs per person per annum. Current production levels fall short of the target. It is noteworthy that a small intervention in the livestock sector can yield tangible results and greater differences compared to field crops. Moreover, land is a limiting factor for producing crops while no such limits exist for livestock and poultry farming.

The return from the same unit of production and amount of resources and efforts is far higher in the livestock sector than in the crop sector. Also, associated risks related to climatic factors are almost in a manageable condition. Risks in the livestock sector can be substantially reduced with human efforts and insurance schemes, which is not the case with field crops. They could be some of the motivating factors why entrepreneurs choose mostly livestock based enterprises.

Low production, declining productivity with high costs of production, decreasing attraction of agriculture for youths and vulnerability to climatic shocks are some of the challenges to the commercialisation, diversification, industrialisation and specialisation in agriculture. However, they can be overcome by introducing new technology and inputs. Achieving the production targets from shrinking cultivable land is a herculean task, but this can be done through modernisation.

Baseless criticism

There is not a single reported case about someone dying due to hunger in Nepal, but sometimes this sector has been criticised baselessly. While raising these issues, it cannot be concluded that this is the task of only agriculturists but also people and agencies working in other sectors. In recent years, agriculture has become unattractive to many youths and farmers. As a result, fertile and productive land has been converted into barren land. This situation can expand the scope of livestock production if the fallow land is used to produce fodder for animals. Moreover, such areas can also serve as rangeland for goats, sheep and other animals and poultry.  It is evident that insufficient attention was given to the livestock sector while formulating the Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS), Farmers Commission, Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project, National Agricultural Research and Development Fund (NARDF) and Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC). If we look at the indicators set out in the ADS such as the agricultural growth rate, we can see that they can hardly be accomplished without considering the role of the livestock and poultry sector. It is very interesting to note that livestock sector research has not received adequate attention in the research system because the Ministry of Livestock Development is not involved in the allocation of funds. As a result, cereal focused research has been the major priority in the NARC system.

The livestock and veterinary production system is largely associated with public health as zoonotic diseases have a large impact on human health. It should receive the highest consideration not only with regard to production and services but also with regard to regulation. Agriculture is mainly a state subject, but the livestock sector is vital from the federal to the provincial and local levels. The livestock sector should be seen from the regulation aspect from the central to the local levels and from the production and services aspect from the provincial to the local levels. The contribution of milk, meat and eggs can be increased in the upcoming federal system by commercialisation, diversification and value addition.

GC is secretary at the ministry of livestock development

Published: 19-04-2017 08:16

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