The National Peasants' Coalition, which joined the Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS) drafting process a few months ago, has criticised the draft of the strategy.
The strategy will not be successful unless it is able to protect farmers through accessible subsidies, expert inputs, insurance and land reforms, said the coalition in a press meet today.
The strategy will meet the same fate as that of the Agriculture Perspective Plan (APP), if it does not include the necessities of farmers and the geophysical situation of the country, said a representative of the coalition Prem Dangal. "APP failed to achieve its targets because it ignored farmers, and their involvement in the production and marketing process," he said.
The government had adopted APP in 1995, with a vision to make the country self-reliant on cereal crops and to commercialise cash or high value crops in 20 years. However, it completely failed to achieve its targets.
The government has been developing ADS to replace APP from 2015. "We have corrected our past mistakes and tried to make it practical," said deputy coordinator of the ADS technical assistance team Dr Purushottam Mainali. According to him, the strategy has been designed on a logical base of four pillars — governance, productivity, profitable commercialisation, and competitiveness.
"ADS will achieve its target through the promotion of inclusive and sustainable growth with larger connectivity and participation of the private and cooperative sectors," he said. The strategy has a target to increase land productivity from $1,600 per hectare to $5,000 per hectare in the next 20 years. Similarly, it has planned to achieve agriculture growth of at least five per cent during the period.
However, critics doubt whether the strategy will be able to attract the youth to the agriculture sector with the projected income. "How can we attract youth with a projected income of $2,000 a year in 2035," said a critic during the programme, adding that it will not stop the migration of youth to foreign job markets.
Currently, migrants have been earning about $2,400 and they are sending about $1,600 home annually. Therefore, the agriculture sector will remain a business related to elderly people and the target will not be achieved, he said.
Similarly, an officer at the Ministry of Agriculture Development said that the target to achieve 20 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) from agribusiness is unrealistic. Two decades is a long time. There is a possibility that other sectors could emerge as major contributors to the GDP, so a target of 20 per cent is unrealistic, he said.
The strategy's other weakness is that it has been based on a sound governance environment when political instability and uncertainties are overwhelming in the country.
Deputy coordinator of the ADS technical assistance team Dr Prabhakar Pathak said that the government has been incorporating two new programmes — food and nutrition security, and climate change effects in agriculture. "The two components were not included in APP. These are new concepts in the sector,” he said.The government has been developing ADS with technical assistance from Asian Development Bank and a dozen other donors including IFAD, EU, FAO, SDC, JICA, DANIDA, USAID, and WFP. It is a $2 million project where ADB has contributed $1.5 million and the remaining by other donors.