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Agriculture 2.0: Revolutionizing Nepal’s farm sector

Agriculture 2.0: Revolutionizing Nepal’s farm sector

Agriculture has long been the backbone of Nepal’s economy and a source of livelihood for a majority of its population. We have grown up knowing, studying, writing about Nepal and agriculture in Nepal, described in textbooks as an “agricultural country”. But looking at the uncultivated paddy fields and barren lands, I wonder where the agriculture sector and future of farmers is going. With the advent of agriculture 2.0, a revolutionary paradigm shift is taking place, transforming traditional farming practices into modern, technology-driven approaches. This evolution not only promises to enhance productivity and sustainability but also holds the potential to uplift rural communities, ensuring food security and economic growth for the whole nation. In the context of Nepal, Agriculture 2.0 is poised to bring about a new era of prosperity for its farmers and the agriculture sector as a whole.

Agriculture 2.0, often referred to as “smart farming” or precision agriculture, integrates advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things (IOT), artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and automation into traditional agricultural practices. This approach allows for real-time monitoring, data-driven decision making, and the optimization of resources like water, fertilizers, and pesticides. In the context of Nepal, where smallholder farmers dominate, adopting Agriculture 2.0 practices can significantly enhance their productivity while also conserving resources.

Nepal faces several challenges in its agriculture sector, including fragmented land holdings, limited access to modern agriculture techniques, unpredictable weather patterns, and the ongoing effects of climate change. These challenges have hampered productivity, leading to low income levels among farmers and contributing to rural-urban migration. Agriculture 2.0 offers innovative solutions that can address these issues by enabling farmers to make informed decisions, mitigate risks, and achieve better yields.

It’s already the end of Shrawan, but some farmers haven’t planted paddy still due to a late entry of monsoon and their dependence on rainfed farming and lack of year-round irrigation facilities. Monsoon normally enters Nepal on June 10 and its withdrawal occurs on September 23. Due to climate change, every year the temperature rises by 0.06 C in Nepal and the monsoon gets delayed. Monsoon enters from eastern Nepal and progresses slowly toward western parts. It reaches Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces very late. Delayed planting of paddy is one of the reasons for low productivity of rice. Late plantation and harvesting also affects the plantation of subsequent crops, mostly wheat. Delayed wheat planting then declines the yield of wheat. In this way, the whole annual cycle of cropping is affected due to late paddy plantation. 

Nepal has a food deficit problem that is most acute in the mountain and hill districts with annual food shortage for six months or more. The situation could become worse unless agricultural productivity and rural economies are transformed. Adoption of intensive farming throughout the country along with appropriate technological innovation offers promise for such a transformation. It's high time we adopted climate-smart agriculture practices. Some practices that should be adopted are listed below:

Replacing puddled transplanted rice with DSR( direct seeded rice) so that farmers don’t have to wait until monsoon to start planting. DSR can enable farmers of western Nepal to early plant and harvest paddy and increase national rice yield if weed management can be done effectively during the early growing period.

  • Rather than expending time, energy, and money on land preparation after rice harvest for wheat plantation, it’s time to guide farmers for the adoption of surface seeding of wheat. It ensures early planting and thus increases wheat production.
  • Agroforestry i.e. incorporating multi-use trees with compatible crops like cardamom under uttis, tea under siris, amriso under uttis, ginger and banana under terraces.
  • Intercropping and mixed cropping with legumes (soyabean, blackgram, horsegram, pea) and nitrogen-fixing crops (clover and legumes) i.e. maize + soyabean and barley in upland irrigated mid-Hills of Nepal.
  • Use of bio fertilizers like Azospirulum (A. lipoferum for Rice and Maize),  Rhizobium, Azolla , Blue green algae
  • Use of green manuring crops like dhaincha, sun hemp, cowpea, berseem, siris, titepati, asuro and khirro. It increases the soil organic matter and cuts the fertilizer amount to some extent.
  • Use of machinery like zero-till drill, seed cum fertilizer drill, multiple nozzle boom, turbo happy seeder, laser land leveler, conary and rotary weeder. Farmers can own subsidized machinery through farmers’ groups or cooperatives.

Agriculture 2.0 has the potential to revolutionize Nepal’s agriculture landscape, ushering in a new era of productivity, sustainability, and prosperity for its farming communities. Relevant government and non-government agencies should focus on climate-smart agriculture and provide trainings, build infrastructure, establish agriculture service centers and work on capacity building of farmers in improved, climate-resilient agriculture technologies in order to uplift the livelihood of farmers, ensure food security, strengthen the national economy, ultimately leading to a brighter and more resilient future for Nepal’s agricultural sector.