Last Saturday two trucks carrying smuggled fertilizer across the southern border between India and Nepal were seized at Nepal customs. Police took charge and were escorting the trucks to the capital Kathmandu when they were blocked on the highway by desperate farmers in Dhading district, who seized 400 of the 500 bags of fertilizer and vanished, reported the Kathmandu Post.
Fertilizer shortages are a perennial issue in Nepal. This year the Russian attack on Ukraine has caused a global shortage, possibly worsening the situation here. Also, the monsoon came early, so the fertilizer was needed sooner than usual because farmers were ready to plant rice in their waterlogged fields earlier than in most years. A day after the truck hijacking some farmers started planting without the fertilizers, hoping for the best, again reported the Post.
Those events symbolize the state of agriculture in Nepal today. Dependent on external input, the country’s food supply is at the whim of events outside of its border so when calamities hit, like the invasion of Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic, alarm bells ring. On top of that, much agriculture land is unused as hundreds of thousands potential farmers seek greener pastures working as migrant labourers in India, Malaysia and Persian Gulf countries. Finally, climate change is scrambling weather patterns and generating many more extreme weather events, like drought and torrential rainfall, which endanger crops. Once a rice exporter, today Nepal depends on imports to feed its nearly 30 million people.
In its recent budget the government, like many before it, pledged to revive agriculture. Led by mechanization and improved seeds the country will boost rice production three times and cut overfall food imports by one-third, it promised.
Today’s guest, development policy expert Jagannath Adhikari, is sceptical of the promises. He says that Nepal should be focusing on rebooting traditional family farming, in part so it generates enough food to feed the growing number of urban dwellers, but also so growers can earn the increased amount of cash required by today’s farming families.
Fertilizer truck hijacking — report in the Kathmandu Post
Climate change and agriculture — op-ed article
UN Food System Summit meeting, Kathmandu, September 2021
Nepal Now social links
Thanks as always to Nikunja Nepal for advice and inspiration.
Music: amaretto needs ice ... by urmymuse (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/urmymuse/57996 Ft: Apoxode
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