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Glocal Khabar presents Youth Dialogue – Sustainable Agriculture: Goal to SDG Number 2 “Zero Hunger”

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July 18, 2019: Glocal Pvt. Ltd. organized “Glocal Khabar presents Youth Dialogue” inviting three exceptional entrepreneurs – Mr. Anil Basnet (Co-Founder of Metro Tarkari), Ms. Sunita Nhemaphuki (CEO of R & D Innovative Solutions) and Mr. Paras Katuwal (CEO of Nepal Thopa Sinchaai). The topic for the discussion was “Sustainable Agriculture: Goal to SDG Number 2 – Zero Hunger” and the program was moderated by the Glocal Khabar Lead – Ms. Shreyasa Dhakal. The main purpose of setting up this session was to make youth aware of the current scenario of agriculture, how widespread its market reach is, what scopes are there for youths in agriculture and other relevant topics that revolved around on making agriculture more sustainable. Here are some highlights from the discussion.

Briefly let us know the current scenario of Agriculture in Nepal.

To this, Ms. Sunita Nhemaphuki shared with us that the Nepal’s agriculture can be parted into two divisions – one being subsistence agriculture, and the other being a commercially driven one. She added that the commercial agriculture seems to be growing slowly, where irrigation, vegetables, coffee and fruits are majorly commercialized. But the consumers have in mind that there are tons of crops but it is only that they are not being able to produce. So, she wonders if it might be sending the consumers a bad message that they are not being able to prosper much in production aspect. She clarified that there are productions happening too; they got to work a little in supply chain but taking consideration of farming and agriculture, she said that it is progressively moving forward. For commercial farming, be it a livestock farming or horticulture one, all are expanding at quite a pace she said. She concluded that the commercial farming is growing faster than subsistence farming.

Mr. Paras Katuwal said that since he is more into technical agriculture and because he is a technical service provider, he focused more on productivity and technicality. “There has been a drastic change in the way there used to be farming for the past 10 years, but it still lags a lot behind as compared to that of western countries; so just imagine what it was like back then. Suppose, if people used to grow 3-4 kilos of tomatoes many years back, now they grow 8 to 12 kilos of it. But still, the quantity can be made up to 50, 55 kgs, with proper technology and management. It is still growing and it might even take 10, 15 years or more; we’ll eventually reach there as the government is providing full support from its side. People who return from abroad work and involve themselves in agriculture; a real example can be taken of my own father, who learnt the necessary skills and disciplines in agriculture and implemented that here. We are in the positive side still, people are not abandoning the field of agriculture, be it by hook or crook, it has benefited the person” he added.

Mr. Anil Basnet shared, “Having gained 6 years of experience in the field, I can say that, at present, there is a 60% import of vegetables, the remaining 40 percent we have crops of Nepal. But taking consideration of other products than just vegetation then there is 80 percentage of import and only 20% is the production of Nepal. There isn’t quite proper coordination among farmers; they want to grow the kinds of crops they want and things like that. They grow crops themselves and sell them to the kind of market or people they like. I see weakness in that part.”

How far is the government being able to fulfill farmers’ expectations?

Paras Katuwal – “Government is currently going through a phase right now; changes are ongoing. Those people who are new technicians, or those who are new to this field of agriculture are involved with government. Government officials are concerned regarding the ways to increase productivity; they are on board to use manpower and technicalities into increasing productivity. And this has been of much support. The government has segregated farming into divisions, for instance, if a certain area is divided to focus on fish culture or for vegetation only, then it will be just for that purpose. So, the main idea here is, if Rupandehi or Dhankuta grows some crops abundantly, then it’ll be fostered much to grow that only. Yet,there is so many things to improve there still with government subsidies and support.

Are there any policies in your mind, that you think would be better to support sustainable farming?

As per Mr. Katuwal, “There are many, but government knows it all better. We can simply provide our suggestions and opinions only. Things like which technology is required in which season should be well known. For instance, it can be seen that one farmer uses four tractors; such people can be made aware for other accessible technologies.”

Ms. Nhemaphuki further added, “It can also be seen that along with production and productivity, the problems can be noticed after harvesting of crops. There is no feasible access to market which has resulted in post-harvest loss. The government should focus not just on production but on the overall production till reaching to the market while still taking into consideration of the necessities of the actors who played roles in the process. I am stunned about the fact why the government isn’t interfering on the part where the retailers aren’t bringing vegetations from some parts of Nepal and rather buying and selling crops of India.”

In European countries, very nominal percentage of people are involved in agriculture and even after that, they are being able to export their crops and vegetations. But, considering Nepal, where more than 70% are into farming, our country still has to import items. What do you think would be the major cause or reason to this?

Ms. Nhemaphuki – “The main problem is the division of land that people have been doing since the time of their ancestors. If there are two ropanees of lands, people grow the kinds of crops they consume in the same field, so it is called sustenance, but that won’t even last for the next three months and everyone is in dire need of that only. The next reason is that no one has their first occupation as agriculture. There is another reason of warehousing of produced crops and vegetations for the coming year.”

Mr. Katuwal – “The government suggests scheme of projects to increase production. Though with the necessary initiatives that the government takes, the natural catastrophes damages all the crops and even with efforts, there hasn’t been expected outcomes.”

Mr. Basnet added, “The major thing to be noted here is that, those who are not involved in any sort of businesses, they mention themselves as farmers. That is the reason why the percentage of people involved in agriculture shows higher rate here. If so was the case, and if there were actually 70% of the population involved in agriculture then, there would have been obviously much higher production than what it is now.”

In what ways do you believe that agriculture is a motivating career for youth?

Mr. Basnet – “In every Nepalese mind, the profession in agriculture is regarded as a last resort, that is, if people do not have anything much to do in life, then such people opt for agriculture or so it is thought. And considering the remuneration provided, it is much lower than compared to that of foreign countries. So, people think it wise to rather put effort and get paid well, than staying back and working for a much lower salary. But it should also be taken into notice that, we earn, we eat, and we are all content with the money we earn, because that suffices our basic needs.”

Mr. Katuwal – “There is lack of employment everywhere, but everyone wants to be an extra good at something, a millionaire, wants to establish a bank, or so and so on. So, the youth should first bring in mind that they want to opt the profession in agriculture and have a vision to be a millionaire by taking the profession forward in life. Then only, they will understand the market scopes and scenarios.”

Hopefully with this, it is hoped that agriculture shall also be considered as a legit occupation from now and on.

-Shreyasa Dhakal