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Agriculture In Nepal

Agriculture is the main source of food, income, and employment for the majority. The economy is dominated by agriculture. Agriculture has been the highest priority because economic growth was dependent on both increasing the productivity of existing crops and diversifying the agricultural base for use as industrial inputs. Agriculture in Nepal is always risky and therefore if you try to change something it becomes more risky.

Agriculture in Nepal has long been based on subsistence farming, particularly in the hilly regions where peasants derive their living from fragmented plots of land cultivated in difficult conditions. Population increases and environmental degradation have ensured that the minimal gains in agricultural production, owing more to the extension of arable land than to improvements in farming practices, have been cancelled out. Once an exporter of rice, Nepal now has a food deficit. Production of cash crops increased substantially, and sugarcane, oilseed, tobacco, and potatoes (a staple food in some areas) were the major crops. Most exports consist of primary agricultural produce which goes to India. The production of crops fluctuated widely as a result of these factors as well as weather conditions.

In general the majority of Nepalese farmers are subsistence farmers and do not export surplus; this does not prevent a minority in the fertile southern Terai region from being able to do so. Most of the country is mountainous, and there are pockets of food-deficit areas. The difficulties of transportation make it far easier to export across the border to India than to transport surplus to remote mountain regions within Nepal. A considerable livestock population of cattle, goats, and poultry exists, but the quality is poor and produces insufficient food for local needs. Fertile lands in the Terai Region and hardworking peasants in the Hill Region provided greater supplies of food staples (mostly rice and corn), increasing the daily caloric intake of the population locally to over 2,000 calories per capita in 1988 from about 1,900 per capita in 1965.

Despite poor weather conditions and a lack of agricultural inputs--particularly fertilizer--there was a production increase of 5 percent. In fact, severe weather fluctuations often affected production levels. Some of the gains in production through the 1980s were due to increased productivity of the work force other gains were due to increased land use and favorable weather conditions.

Crops in Nepal

Whether irrigated or rain-fed, rice is the staple crop of the lowland. This is because rice is the staple food commodity of the Nepalese people. It is considered a prestigious crop in the society. In the lowlands wheat is another important food commodity. Both these crops are consumed by every family.

Similarly, maize is the second most important food crop in the hills. This is mainly grown for family consumption. Farmers also sell it if they have surplus production. In many hill areas, millet is another important food item. Hill farmers feel that millet is highly nutritious for them.

In high hills or mountains, potato is the main crop taken as food followed by maize, buckwheat, barley etc. Because of the cold climate, farmers of this area harvest mostly one crop in a year.

In every agro-ecological zone, priority is given to food crops first and then to cash crops. People need food crops for meeting household needs and cash crops for income generation. Traditionally, farmers grow every sort of possible crop needed for home consumption. This is the reason why there are mainly two types of cropping patterns, namely rice based in the lowlands and maize based in the uplands.

With regard to success stories of crop diversification, many farmers have successfully adopted cultivation of different off-season vegetables like cabbage, peas, cucumber, tomato etc., using modern technologies. Bananas are becoming very popular in the Terai region, where they are grown on a commercial basis. Other important commodities that are being adopted by farmers are cauliflower, sunflower, lentils, mushroom and soybean. These commodities have high demand locally and farmers therefore can sell these items easily.

Considering the climatic conditions, the following commodities for crop diversification have been identified:

a) Vegetables:

  • Summer vegetables - lady's finger, squash, beans, tomato, etc.
  • Winter vegetables - cauliflower, cabbage, radish, carrot, peas, etc.

b) Fruits:

  • Summer fruits - mango, litchi, guava, pineapple.
  • Winter fruits - apple, walnut, apricot, peach etc.
  • Citrus fruits - mandarin, orange, lime etc.

c) Spices - ginger, turmeric, cardamom, garlic, etc.

d) Vegetable seeds

e) Sugar cane

f) Soybean

g) Pulses - lentil, gram, pigeon pea, etc.

h) Potato

i) Chilli

j) Maize

k) Oilseeds - mustard, sunflower, etc.