Donors asked to explain their commitment to farm sector

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

Sep 9, 2014-

The donor agencies involved in drafting the ambitious Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS) have been asked to appear before a parliamentary committee to clearly explain their commitment to Nepal’s farm sector.

The ADS-a 20-year vision and a 10-year planning horizon for the country’s farm sector-is being prepared with the technical support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and includes investment commitments from a dozen other development partners.

It has envisioned an ambitious growth pattern in output and land and labour productivity. The ADS is expected to supersede the Agriculture Perspective Plan (APP) by 2015.

“APP 1995-2015 failed to yield the desired results due to low investment, and the mistake should not be repeated,” said Gagan Thapa, chairman of the parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resources Committee (AWRC) on Tuesday. “So it is necessary to find out the level of commitment of the development partners at the very beginning.”

The APP, which was also prepared by the ADB, had been termed one of the best strategic documents, but it failed to attract investment due to a decline in donor support to the agricultural sector from the mid-1990s in the name of economic liberalization. The government also followed suit. Government officials said that in contrast to the APP, the ADS is a common draft, where donor agencies can pour their money into any farm sector or sub-sector. The government expects huge chunks of donor aid for Nepal’s agriculture sector once it is implemented.

The proposed draft has recommended spending Rs 502 billion in 10 years, or around Rs 50 billion annually, including the contribution from the private sector and donors. “What are the bases to arrange these resources?” Thapa questioned. The draft has envisioned an ambitious growth pattern in output and land and labour productivity for the next 20 years. The ADS has targeted boosting the average annual growth rate to 5 percent from the present 3 percent for the agricultural sector, and increase land productivity to $ 5,000 per hectare from the current $ 1,600. It also aims to increase labour productivity to $ 2,000 from $ 800 per worker. Likewise, exports of farm items have been targeted to increase to $ 1.6 billion from $ 250 million through the implementation of the ADS. The document has envisaged increasing round-the-year irrigation coverage areas to 80 percent from the current 18 percent. One of its ambitious targets is to halve poverty in less than 10 years through an agriculture-led economy.

Lawmaker Kashi Nath Adhikari said that there was a need to conduct extensive discussions on the ADS and amend it as required so that past mistakes are not repeated. “The APP has failed, and there are no substantial bases that the ADS will be implemented effectively.”

Meanwhile, the committee has also decided to discuss the draft ADS extensively with experts for at least a month before giving it the finishing touches.  

National Planning Commission Vice-Chairman Govinda Pokhrel said that the proposed ADS document would supplement the government’s goal to graduate from the current least developed country category to a developing country by 2022, and it was necessary to implement the document wisely.

The agriculture sector provides employment to 66 percent of the total population and contributes about 33 percent of the GDP. Development partners like the IFAD, EU, FAO, USAID, JICA, WFP, DANIDA, SDC, DFID, AusAid and UN Women are involved in writing the ADS. On July 1, 2013, the ADS formulating team submitted a draft to the government. The document cost Rs 200m and took 26-mth to complete.

Published: 10-09-2014 09:49

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