USAID – a major donor in agriculture in Nepal – operates a programme on a wholly different level than the limited organic sector. 25 percent of the vegetables on the urban market in Nepal are imported from abroad, mainly from India, and to achieve greater self-sufficiency, USAID advocates, it is crucial to improve the “value chain”. Under the NEAT programme, USAID is distributing “improved seeds” to thousands of farmers; setting up collection centres to help with transportation; and improving the marketing and retail link. The video opposite sums it all up.
“Farmers [now] see a new future in commercial vegetable production, and now traders are purchasing quality vegetables from Nepali farmers.” Narrator on the success of the programme.
It is estimated that nearly 1600 tons of hybrid seeds are imported to Nepal every year. That’s a sizeable dependency on foreign seed suppliers! So, USAID – in its support for the use of hybrid seeds in the country – has started to promote local hybrid seed production. Watch the video opposite to learn the details: USAID’s Nepal Economic Agriculture and Trade (NEAT) Activity supports SEAN Seed Service Centre (SSSC) who not only initiates local farmers into growing hybrid seeds but also collects the seeds, upgrade and package them. The hybrid seeds are then sold to seed vendors who sell on to farmers…
“Improved technologies, such as hybrid seeds, are crucial to improving productivity in [agriculture] in Nepal.” Narrator’s comment in the USAID video above.
Once upon a time, all farming in Nepal was purely organic. But over the last one or two decades, a significant commercialization in the more productive farm areas has taken place. Population and income levels in Kathmandu and major towns have been rising; the number of consumers who are buying not least vegetables has increased; and to exploit this demand, farmers around the capital, such as in Panchkhal out in Kavre, and in several Terai districts, have shifted from traditional agriculture to commercial, chemical-based farming.
We just received a call from a farmer down in Tanahun, Mahendra Shrestha, who is not only talking about it. He and his wife have now taken action. They are running a small organic farm – the Holy Green Organic Farm – and other farmers in their village are also attracted to the idea. Yes, great profits can be made from chemical-based farming in short time, Mahendra agrees. But in the long term, organic farming is better. Watch the episode of “Local Voices” below to hear him explain why that is: it’s a small farmer’s views on a heated issue in Nepal today.
What’s best for Nepal’s farmers: hybrid seeds – by and large imported from abroad – or original, local varieties? Well, opinions differ. But voices critical of hybrid seeds are growing. Hybrid corn, rice and other crops have been grown in Nepal for over a decade – and USAID is promoting hybrid seeds as the best way ahead. However, steadily more farmers are now raising concerns.
“Aver Top – what’s in it?” We were back at the pesticide shop in Panchkhal. The owner was passing a bottle of insecticide over the counter – one we hadn’t seen before – and a local farmer was making the purchase. He was unable to read the label but the shop owner could explain: “The active ingredient is this one.” He pointed at the text on the bottle: “It’s called Chlorpyrifos.” We chewed on the name a couple of times. It sounded quite toxic and sure enough: the insert listed a range of bugs that it kills at contact. But what is Chlorpyrifos more exactly and is it safe?
“What’s the small bags over there?” We were checking out the shelves at a pesticide shop in Panchkhal. There were hundreds of bottles lined up along the walls behind the counter. In front of one of the attractive looking rows of small containers were some innocent looking bags with the label: “Looper”. A farmer had just bought one of them in the same casual way as when you go and buy a packet of cigarets. “Well, that one”, the shop-owner explained. “It’s a very effective one, so we sell quite a lot of them too. The active ingredient is called
“What are you spraying?” We just had a chat with Thulimaya Tamang about farming and now she was getting her pesticide kit ready. Time to dust the vegetables, she explained, or pest might get the better of them. She showed us the pesticide bottle: “Badal 76” it read. We had seen it many times in that area already – Panchkhal just east of Kathmandu – and in other parts of the country too. In fact, under different names, it’s been one of the most sprayed in the world. The active ingredient in Badal is a real killer. Meet: Dichlorvos!