Nepali agriculture is still traditional, which is why productivity is so low. Most farmers grow crops and keep livestock for their own livelihood. Rarely do they adopt technology. Under such conditions, Nepal’s institutional capacity in agricultural research and extension is unable to transform traditional agriculture into competitive commercial production system.
Nepali farmers can learn from China. China has a long history of intensive cultivation practices, especially in improving crop and animal varieties, cultivation techniques, artificial grassland development, forage production, prevention of diseases, etc.
After fifty years of continuous research in Tibet, China now has appropriate technical options for highland agriculture. Due to similar climatic and cultural conditions, these technological options can be applicable in Nepal; in terms of cost reduction, resource utilization, production practices, and marketing for our mountainous region. Furthermore, similar agro-biodiversity in Tibet and northern Nepal should also make these two countries cooperate on agriculture.
In this context, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s call for Chinese investment in different aspects of development including agriculture is timely. Likewise, Chinese Foreign Minister during his recent visit to Nepal spelling out trade, investment, agriculture, tourism, energy, and human resource development as possible areas of support is also a welcome step.
China has also said it supports Nepal’s identification of agriculture as its priority area and is ready to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with Nepal on germplasm exchange, human resource development and transfer of improved production technologies. Furthermore, the Chinese side is also ready to assist Nepali agricultural institutes in terms of faculty and capacity building. These are brighter sides of agricultural cooperation between Nepal and China.
Thousands of species of rare and valuable medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) grow in mountain areas of Nepal. These plants are used in Tibetan medicine. Farmers in mountain areas have been harvesting and selling these MAPs to Tibetan markets for long. However, Nepal has little knowledge on scientific cultivation and processing of these valuable plants. As these plant species constitute an extremely valuable source for income and employment in mountain areas, research on cultivation, post-harvest handling and processing is urgently needed and China’s assistance here can be helpful.
Chinese support in setting up experiment stations at strategic points for collection, conservation, domestication and utilization of MAPs would also be desirable. Furthermore, Nepal should request China for agricultural aid to strengthen government agriculture farms at different parts of the country.
Naked barley is a stable food of Tibet and northern part of Nepal and is recognized as a promising crop. With progress in varietal breeding and cultivation techniques, productivity of 3.5 ton per hectare is common in Tibet, whereas productivity is less than 1.5 ton/ha in Nepal. Introduction of such varieties and improved techniques can benefit the locals. Similarly, promotion of yak and sheep industry by joint effort in these highlands can also reduce the poverty of the people in that region.
China can also contribute to improving agricultural infrastructure of Nepal so as to enhance overall agricultural technology, increase grain output, mitigate food shortage, and eliminate extreme poverty. In addition, a portion of Chinese investment can also be diverted to supply of high quality seeds, chemical fertilizer, pesticides, small- and medium-sized agricultural implements, and agricultural product processing equipment.
Nepal needs to improve its human resources. Training Nepali technicians in China in production planning, farm management, crop breeding, pasture land development, aquaculture, agricultural product processing, and agricultural mechanization will be useful.
Introduction of Chinese technology can help meet agricultural development goals of Nepal. The agricultural technology demonstration centers thus built will have multiple functions including agricultural demonstration, service delivery and technical training. Setting up pilot centers for testing new technologies and vocational trainings on various aspects of commercial agriculture will further strengthen cooperation.
The agricultural product trade between China and Nepal is not significant. But there is room for improvement. At present Nepal is importing considerable amount of ginger and garlic from China. But Nepal’s export of agricultural products to China is very little, though there are several agricultural commodities that can be produced in Nepal and exported to Tibet. Citrus fruits, chilies, corn, and different types of beans are some examples. Chinese aid can also be helpful in mitigating climate change effect in mountainous areas of Nepal.
High-level exchanges between China and Nepal have thickened in recent years and have been instrumental in enhancing cooperation. But such visits to work out potential areas of agricultural cooperation are missing.
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>