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7 Aug 2017 | Himalica

Options to Strengthen Agricultural Practices and Technologies in the Midhills of Nepal

A gathering of around 40 lead farmers, agri-extension officials, and agricultural experts from 10 districts of the mid-hill region of Nepal gathered at Hotel View Bhrikuti in Godavari to discuss the findings of a three-year (2013-2016) randomized control trial (CRT)-based action research on factors contributing to improved agri-extension services as well as adoption of agricultural technologies by farmers.

Designed by the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), the action research had been implemented by the National Development Research Institute (NDRI), the Department of Agriculture, and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) with the assistance of district agriculture development officers, lead, peer, and women farmers from Udayapur, Bhojpur, Nuwakot, Makwanpur, Rolpa, Rukum, Baitadi, Doti, Gulmi and Palpa.

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Director General of the Department of Agriculture Dila Ram Bhandari inaugurates the event by lighting a panos. Photo: Bhawana Syangden

Speaking at the inaugural session of the event, Dila Ram Bhandari, Director General of the Department of Agriculture (DoA), said, “Progress made in the diffusion of agricultural technologies is progress made in agriculture. So improving farmers’ access to agri-extensions service is very important for the agricultural development of the country”.

Niru Dahal Pandey, Director at the Directorate of Agriculture Extension (DoAE) under the Department of Agriculture, added, “Mainstreaming new technologies and practices in agriculture is very important, considering that this sector alone contributes to about one third of our national GDP and 60–70% of total employment.” She said that the CRT-based action research on agri-extension is something new for DoAE and that it has been a good learning experiences for them.

Dhrupad Choudhary, Regional Manager of the Adaptation to Change Programme ICIMOD, pointed out that the main challenge facing agri-extensionists concerns bridging the ‘last mile gap’. He said the objective of the gathering was to discuss challenges and opportunities related to expanding and deepening the reach of extension services, including technologies. He further added that agri-extension services need to be made gender friendly as more and more women are left with the responsibility of managing agriculture in Nepal’s hills as young men outmigrate.

Surendra Raj Joshi, Himalica Programme Coordinator, flagged two burning issues facing mid-hill agriculture at present: a) outmigration of young men, which has increased the agricultural workload of women and b) climate change impacts.

Given these challenges, the gathering underscored the need to identify and promote climate-smart agricultural technologies and practices that are gender-friendly, given the ongoing trend of feminization in agriculture.

Women farmers engage in a group discussion. Photo: Bhawana Syangden

The gathering also identified other priority issues facing the agricultural sector such as limited access to markets for perishable agricultural produce; lack of irrigation; shortages of agricultural workers due to outmigration; the unavailability of fertilizers, agricultural implements, and improved seeds when they are needed the most; and the disconnect between agriculture research, practice, and policy.

Nani Ram Subedi, the facilitator of the gathering, summarized the main findings of the action research.

Conducted amongst 2,928 households (both control and treatment households) in 10 districts in the midhills of Nepal, the action research was the first of its kind to be undertaken in Nepal, with lots of lessons for uptake by practitioners and policymakers alike.

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