Weak commitment to policy and weak implementation capacity will be an obstacle to get the desired results from the Agriculture Development Strategy, according to participants at the 'Policy Dialogue: Workshop on Agriculture Development Strategy', here today.
The strategy has a target to increase agriculture exports by almost seven times, land productivity by more than three times, labour productivity by three times, and contribution of agriculture to the gross domestic production (GDP) by three times. However, society has to completely change its perception of farming from being unattractive and full of drudgery, to an honourable professional activity, according to senior agriculturist at the Ministry of Agriculture Development Sabnam Shivakoti.
Similarly, the exodus of youth from rural areas, growing rural-urban gap, loss of agricultural land, weak smallholder farmer organisations, and adoption of improved technology are some of the key challenges to transform the agriculture sector that includes broader areas from crops to livestock, forestry and fisheries, production, trade, processing to marketing, and spans across different ministries and agencies, and includes not only government agencies but farmers, private sector enterprises, cooperatives, NGOs, and service providers.
The strategy is trying to address the current agriculture system that has become less important as a share of labour and GDP, she said, adding that after the implementation of the strategy, agriculture could become more productive in terms of higher agricultural labour income and GDP.
But for better results, technology development and dissemination that is demand-driven and responsive to farmers and enterprises, needs to be developed, besides ensuring that the input supply and distribution system provides timely, quality, and reasonably priced inputs to farmers, providing a favourable environment and specific measures to increase the level and effectiveness of public and private investment including investment in infrastructure and irrigation.
However, market development and commercialisation of agriculture is key to achieve the growth potential of agriculture, driven by expanding domestic and regional demand, emergence of innovative and competitive enterprises, and increased value addition, added Shivakoti. "Along with proper land management that ensures effective implementation of land planning and management to promote productive use of land, rights of tillers, and environmental protection must also be ensured."
The policy dialogue shared the process and content of the strategy with the wider public so that its assumptions, analyses, priorities and thematic thrusts could be scrutinised. Its aim was to also identify weaknesses and strengths in the process and its content, and review viable changes and suggestions if needed. The dialogue had an objective to also review the initiatives taken in mainstreaming organic agriculture integration, and to provide inputs.
The strategy that envisions 'a competitive, sustainable and inclusive agricultural sector that contributes to economic growth, improved livelihoods, and food and nutrition security,' also has to include the voice of farmers and practitioners in the planning process and engage key policy shapers and makers, according to the civic society that blamed the policy for being donor driven and of techno-bureaucratic interest and orientation.
Nepal is on the threshold of a new socio-cultural, political and economic change, and reshaping agricultural policies and strategies could play a vital role in economic development.
There have been a number of policies and programmes for the development of the agriculture sector since 1995. An example is the 20-year Agriculture Perspective Plan, a strategic document that was formulated in the mid-1990s with the support of the government and development partners. The validity of the Agriculture Perspective Plan will end by 2015.
The government, with the assistance of Asian Development Bank (ADB) and several other donors, has been preparing an Agriculture Development Strategy with a 20-year vision and a 10-year planning horizon.
According to the work plan, the ADS needs to be drafted by December 2012.
Ministry of Agriculture Development is the executing agency, whereas development partners including ADB, IFAD, EU, FAO, SDC, JICA, DANIDA, USAID, WFP, DfID, World Bank, and AusAID are helping the government.