December 4, 2016: The government has planned to start a farm equipment rental service to help farmers boost output by using expensive modern machines.
Guidelines are being prepared to introduce â€˜custom hiring servicesâ€™ in Nepal for the first time aimed at achieving the objective of farm mechanization under an ambitious 10-year Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project.
Under the scheme, custom hiring centres will be opened that will rent out farm machinery to farmers who cannot afford to purchase high-end agricultural machines and equipment.
The government plans to bring the private sector and farm cooperatives on board to provide custom hiring facilities to farmers.
â€œWe are currently working on a detailed modality of the scheme. The guidelines will be prepared by this fiscal year,â€ said Shankar Sapkota, assistant spokesperson for the Ministry of Agricultural Development.
â€œAs the government cannot make large investments on advanced agricultural machinery and equipment, it will support the private sector and farm cooperatives to set up custom hiring centres.â€
He said that the guidelines currently being prepared would contain details about the kind of investment and subsidies the government needs to provide to the private sector to establish such facilities.
According to Sapkota, custom hiring services are not widely practiced in Nepal, but hiring farm hands to plant crops is common.
Custom hiring centres will help farmers to boost crop production and improve the quality of agriculture operations at less cost,â€ he said.
â€œThis new concept is part of the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project that envisages adopting modern farm techniques to boost productivity and making the country self-reliant in food.â€
He added that the government would promote such centres in zones and super zones. Under the Rs130-billion project, the government has classified farmland into various categories like super zones, special zones, pocket areas and blocks to improve land management and productivity.
The government plans to create 2,100 pocket areas of 10 hectares each, 150 blocks of 100 hectares each, 30 zones of 500 hectares each and seven super zones of 1,000 hectares each.
Farming is a backbreaking activity in Nepal. The method of tilling, planting, weeding, harvesting and bundling hasnâ€™t changed for centuries. Despite the hard work, farmers earn very little.
Studies have revealed that the cost of preparing land and sowing using machines is one-third less than traditional practices. For example, land preparation and sowing costs Rs988 per hectare using machines compared to Rs2,891 manually. Besides, productivity increases 10-20 percent through mechanization.
National Agriculture Census 2011-12 showed that Nepalâ€™s agriculture has made little progress in terms of mechanization.
As per the survey, 22.04 percent of the farm households in the country used tractors and 20.96 percent reported using threshers on their farms.
However, power tillers are not popular among farmers as only 1.97 percent reported using them in their farming operations. The survey revealed that 28.01 percent of the holders were still using the most basic farm technologyâ€”the iron plough.
Farming still remains labour intensive in the 21st century, and as a result, it has failed to attract the younger generation with more than 1,500 people leaving the country daily in search of better jobs abroad.