Reflecting on discussions at the recent High level Policy Dialogue in Bangkok, Nikita Bhusal, a student of Food Technology from Nepal, believes the transition from traditional and subsistence agriculture in the Asia Pacific region depends on how we attend to a number of “flashpoints” for agricultural development.
Agriculture has undergone enormous changes since the first plants were cultivated thousands of years ago, as primitive techniques have made way for more modern methods to fill the gap between food demand and food supply.
Before attending the High Level Policy Dialogue, I used to wonder what could be the importance and effective agricultural practices through which we can draw the picture of a prosperous Nepal.
After the discussions, I believe that yes, we can transform traditional and subsistence agriculture into commercial and competitive farming for agricultural development in Nepal.
From this perspective, I would like to share my view with following flashpoints.
Women and youth
Youth unemployment and male out-migration has fueled a “feminization of agriculture.” In the last decade, women’s engagement in agriculture has increased from eight to 19 percent (6th National Agriculture Census of Nepal 2013).
However, the role of women in family farming and agro-biodiversity conservation is still unrecognized across the South Asian region because of limited or no land ownership, lack or limited participation, poor information sharing, limited capacity building programs and most of all, a traditional male dominated society which can be the great hurdle for women.
At the same time, the potential of young people to contribute to the agricultural economy is also going untapped. Holding 38.8 percent of the total population in Nepal, youth can be the major contributor of development in Nepal. We, youth, are not only the future, we are also the present. We are the “messengers” of new technologies and practices and can make substantial contribution to agricultural innovation.
As the HLPD focuses in investment in agricultural research, however, investing in youth for the research could be better. I doubt whether dreaming of agriculture development is possible without integrating these potential and energetic populations. Empowering women and attracting young people is one of the key factors for sustainable agricultural development.
In Nepal, very few farmers will have access to their own land. Leasing is more common. However, farmers are at the heart of food production and agricultural activities. Nepalese agriculture contributes the one-third of the total national GDP and about 80 percent of the contributors are the rural farmers.
Yet they are being deprived from the proper recognition by the government and development agencies. Until and unless, farmers have their own land, it would be very difficult to measure development indicators in agriculture, while the investment in rural farmers is a key to attain the Sustainable Development Goals.
Family farming and agribusiness
Family farming has three dimensions of sustainability: economic, environmental, and social. Economic aspects include profitability, competitiveness and the capacity of farmers to sustain their families.
Environmental aspects include farmers’ use and management of natural resources in a responsible way to keep their land fertile and productive, for future generations.
The social dimension is basically about rural employment and benefits derived from that. Family farming also assures Food security and sustainable agricultural development.
Agribusiness and/or agro-entrepreneurship offer much promise for agricultural production. This takes a broader view of agriculture as a business, beyond subsistence. Agribusiness also addresses the immerging food security issue as it helps linking the farm-yield and the market. The marketing of the food can create income generation offering many promises for youth, ultimately encouraging them to become agri-preneurs.
ICTs in Agriculture
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in agriculture can attract more youth into agriculture and hold much promise in terms of agricultural innovation and knowledge dissemination. E-Agriculture is an emerging field focusing on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved information and communication processes.
Connecting smallholders to knowledge, networks, and institutions is one of the most important roles of ICTs in agriculture. This requires proper investment for the betterment of agricultural networks.
As the term “Agricultural Development” comes, the first three words hitting my mind are Youth, Women and the Rural farmers which were missing somewhere in the HLPD. Going through these “flashpoints”, I can conclude that there can be no agricultural development or sustainable development if these three factors are denied.
I, as a concerned youth, am looking forward for more initiatives around these flashpoints at the policy level geared towards more effective outcomes.
Blogpost and photo by Nikita Bhusal, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – bhusalnikita(at)yahoo.com
This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Regional Consultation for Asia and Pacific region. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.