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FEATURE: Scaling-up climate smart agriculture in Nepal

Hammad Raza Khan, CDKN’s Country Programme Manager for Nepal discusses the climate challenges faced by agriculture in Nepal and CDKN’s work to help the government and farmers overcome these.

Nepal is primarily an agrarian society, with approximately 70% of Nepal’s population involved in agriculture, which also accounts for around 38% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. 21% of Nepal’s agricultural land is cultivable, of which 57% is rain fed and bestowed with geographical, ecological, cultural and climatic variation as well as valuable biological and natural resources.

Despite these figures, Nepal is struggling to fulfill its food requirements and desperately needs access to seeds, technology and market opportunities. To add to this, about 50% of Nepal’s population is undernourished, with nearly half of all children suffering from chronic malnutrition.Poverty and food insecurity coupled with political instability are forcing over 400,000 youth, mostly men (about 97%), to migrate to foreign countries every year, a migration which is contributing to 22% of national GDP. This migration is having a detrimental effect on women’s lives and the agricultural sector is also suffering through poor investment withwomen deprived of loan facilities required for agricultural. Overseas remittances are mostly spent in non-agricultural activities such schooling, health and household amenities.

Climate change is further compounding the problem faced by the agricultural sector, with the future looking quite bleak. Increased temperatures, erratic rainfall patterns, extreme events, dry spells and rapid glacial melt are affecting water availability and soil moisture. Some of these events are also contributing to the spread of new insect and pests, the loss of crops by floods and droughts, and changes in physiology, leading to poor crop production and food insecurity.

Based on the aforementioned statistics, it is becoming more and more important for Nepal to scale-up its agricultural activities to cater for the needs of its population. However, in order to do this, it is necessary for a development approach that is sustainable in nature. According to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), rising temperatures and extreme climate events will have a negative impact on crops, livestock forestry, fisheries and aquaculture productivity. In order to cater for this, agriculture must also be resilient towards natural disasters and rising temperatures caused by climate change.

Food security is becoming one of the most important and critical issues for alleviation of poverty and improving living standards in the developing world. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) has recognised that in order to promote the development of agriculture on sustainable lines it has to become ‘Climate Smart’. Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) contributes to the attainment of sustainable goals by integrating its three main pillars:

1. Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes
2. Adapting to climate change
3. Reducing and/or removing greenhouse gases emissions, where possible

Research and development of CSA technologies and practices along with the capacity building of stakeholders and farmers has received special attention in the recently drafted Low Carbon Economic Development Strategy (LCEDS), Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS), and recently approved Nepal Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). Against this background, and at the request of the Government of Nepal, a new two-year project funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) on “Scaling-up Climate Smart Agriculture in Nepal” commenced in early March 2015. The project is led by the Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD), working in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program onClimate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). The project aims to:

• Identify, test and screen suitable CSA practices for the different geographic, agro-ecological and socio-economic contexts of Nepal by involving farmers, researchers, and extension agencies;
• Develop scaling up pathways and implementation plans to champion CSA practices in the country with active participation of local communities and government stakeholders; and
• Enhance the capacity of government stakeholders to effectively implement sustainable CSA practices in the country.

To achieve its aims, the project will adopt the following approach:

Multi-stakeholder Mechanism
The project will build and nurture relationships with multiple stakeholders at national, district and Village Development Committee (VDC) levels to actively engage them in planning, implementation and monitoring activities. At the beneficiary level, poor and disadvantaged households, climate vulnerable households, poor women and youth will be involved in planning, implementation and evaluation processes.

Equity and Inclusion of Women, the Poor and Disadvantaged Communities
To ensure the benefits are fairly and equitably distributed among the people in need, mainly marginalised and vulnerable households and communities, the project will follow the principle of fairness, equity and inclusion. Agriculture is seen by many as a women’s domain or they are the main custodians;yet they still remain under-served. Therefore, economic empowerment of women will be prioritised to reflect the meaningful representation and participation of women through access to livelihood resources and their ability to exercise their voices and influence agency throughout the project period -a process ensured through M&E, Fund Flow Analysis and other gender sensitive tools.

Case Studies and Piloting
In order to draw specific learning from farmers and carry out piloting of selected CSA practices, the project will identify some sites for conducting case studies in each of the three ecological zones. Piloting of some CSA practices and technologies having quick turnaround will be done in the field, with close observation, monitoring and data recording ensured.

Building on Existing Practices
The project will focus on existing CSA practices that are already introduced or validated in Nepal, but a few others may be introduced from other parts of the world, which will be decided during CSA identification process. The project team will explore the available CSA practices carried out by other institutions/organisations.

Climate Smart Village (CSV) and Climate Adapted Village (CAV) as entry point
The project will follow the basic approaches and methodologies of the Climate Smart Village (CSV), an undertaking by CCAFS/LI-BIRD where researchers, development partners, and farmers come together to test climate-smart agricultural interventions in partnership with several agencies, particularly international non-government organisations.

Value Chain Approach
The project will employ a value chain approach as a key strategy to promote products generating from CSA practices, ensuring that all key actors operating across the value chain are actively engaged and fairly benefited. This will provide the opportunities to maximize benefits for the producers, generate rapid, tangible benefits for women, youth and disadvantaged groups, and act as an incentive for them to continuously engage in the programme. The experiences and evidence will be documented and used for creating a more conducive policy and operational environment for CSA.

Approach and Methodology for Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI)
This projectrecognises that gender issues and social equality issues are likely to be a strong determinant of successful up-scaling of climate activities in Nepal. There is a strong need for more research and analysis of GESI issues in Nepal.

In addition the “Scaling-Up Climate Smart Agriculture in Nepal” project aims to adopt a participatory approach to developing CSA scaling-out and implementation plans for Nepal by bringing national and international researchers, national and local organisations, farmers’ groups and policy makers together to select the most appropriate technological and institutional interventions based on global knowledge and local conditions.

Image Courtesy:  CIAT

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