A new slogan
- ‘Agriculture revolution’ needs to be translated into action
Jul 3, 2014-
It is that time of the year again when one cannot step outside one’s home without an umbrella. The skies are overcast and it is either raining or about to. The monsoon this year, however, which was supposed to begin around June 10, arrived 10 days later. So even as farmers celebrated Asar 15 last Sunday, which is also the National Rice Day, only about 10 percent of paddy plantation has been completed across the country. It was 15 percent during the same time last year. Nevertheless, it is still too early to say whether this will affect paddy yield in the Tarai which consists of 70 percent of the country’s paddy fields—1.52 million hectares. But it remains a cause of concern as a lot rides on a good rice harvest.
If Nepal’s economy is to grow at 5.15 percent in the current fiscal year as projected by the Central Bureau of Statistics in April, agriculture and forestry along with fisheries should increase by 4.71 percent. For that to happen, rice, maize and wheat were projected to grow by 12, 10 and six percent respectively. The projection, apart from the improved supply of agricultural inputs—particularly fertilisers—largely depends upon a timely and adequate monsoon. This also concerns the livelihoods of three-quarters of the population including a significant portion of the poor. In addition, agriculture also accounts for one-third of the GDP.
Recognising the importance of agriculture for the economy, the government, while presenting its policies and programmes last week, announced ‘a decade of agriculture revolution’. The plan is to prioritise contract farming, promote farm mechanisation and cooperative-based farming to enhance production. Furthermore, the government will now be fixing reference prices for key products so that farmers get a decent price for their produce. It has also rightly recognised the increased role of women in agriculture and plans to bring in targeted programmes for them.
All of this is commendable. But unless it is implemented, there is very little to rejoice about. More so as there is no dearth of brilliant agricultural planning in Nepal. Only last year, the Agriculture Development Strategy was presented to the Agriculture Minister which is an ambitious document that seeks to increase the growth rate of agriculture from three to five percent while ensuring that the sector receives as much as 10 percent of the national budget over time.
The challenge for the government is, therefore, to ensure it implements its plans. To begin with, it must come up with an action plan and make sure it adheres to its deadlines. The Agriculture Ministry should lead the process and ensure that the government releases budget for investing in farm mechanisation and bringing programmes for women farmers in time. Farmers’ organisations, on the other hand, must keep a watch on the Ministry and to ensure that the talk of revolutionising agriculture is not merely another catchy government slogan.
Published: 04-07-2014 09:05