Nepal’s Rural Hill Agriculture at Crossroads: A Reflection of a Farming-Descendent-turned Professional.


Khanal, N. (2018). Nepal’s Rural Hill Agriculture at Crossroads: A Reflection of a Farming-Descendent-turned Professional. Oral presentation in the First Biennial NAPA Conference 2018 held in Oklahoma City, US, on May 26-27. Abstract in Proceedings Global Food Security through Agricultural Transformations, page 40.


The rural hill agriculture in Nepal has been undergoing changes in resource use pattern while remaining technologically static. Changes in resource use pattern is mainly driven by out-flux of youths in quest of economic opportunities. The rural hill agriculture sustained over generations as a locally closed, diverse and subsistence-oriented production system with a low level of market integration. It involved tight recycling of nutrients on-farm with import of additional nutrients from rangelands as fodder and bedding materials for livestock. Agriculture was a livelihood and way of life for rural people, while being the backbone of national economy. Depending on the size and quality of land ownership, farm families had varying level of reliance on off-farm income. Institutional supports were sparse and scanty. Agricultural extension emphasized on awareness building, and transfer of knowledge and technology to the farmers for the modernization of agriculture. The promoted inputs included chemical fertilizers, pesticides and crop cultivars developed in high-input, intensive management system. Improved crop management such as row-planting and fertilizer banding were emphasized, without parallel efforts in designing and/or introducing appropriate machinery or equipment. However, introduction of early-maturing crop cultivars facilitated multiple cropping, especially in the irrigated, bunded terraces. Use of cash-intensive inputs mismatched with the subsistence-oriented labour-intensive farming. The nature of agriculture lagged far behind the livelihood aspiration of the rural youths. Consequently, growing out-flux of youths for foreign employment is posing a challenge to continue the labour-intensive system in a sustainable way. Paradigm shift in technology transfer from top-down, external input-based recommendation to participatory learning and action, tailored to local resource base has shown some promise in improving agriculture in recent years. This presentation will discuss the issues facing Nepal hill agriculture and prospects for improvement.

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