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Apples and Walnuts for Change in Nepal

Saurav Rana's picture
Photo Credit : Saurav Rana


Jijodamandu, a small hilltop village in Doti district in Western Nepal is a full day’s walk from the nearest motorable road. Below the village, the hillside is littered by terraced paddy fields producing rice. Surrounding many homes in the village slightly above the terraced paddy fields, there are fruits trees planted sporadically – oranges, lemons and pomegranates. When I was leaving the village after a few days stay, my host handed me a bag of oranges. Not wanting to overreach his hospitality towards me and also knowing food security is a concern for them I initially declined his offer. But he was insistent. “For the walk back down,” he said. “Fruits we have plenty of. It is rice and grains we cannot plant enough.”

This anecdote is a case in point of majority of the rural population of Nepal. Many hilly and mountainous regions are highly suitable for producing fruits, vegetables and nuts – crops that command a higher price at markets. However, many villages do not harvest much of it because they do not have access to markets to sell their produce and no income to sustain themselves if they do not produce rice and cereals for their staple diet. Poverty compels rural populations in Nepal into subsistence farming.

The paradox in Nepal is apparent – some of the most deprived and poverty stricken regions in Nepal also have the potential of producing high value crops. For example, as shown in the World Bank’s Vision for Nepal – Policy Notes for the Government, the western regions of Nepal are highly suitable for producing apples and walnuts but they are also the regions with the greatest prevalence of poverty.

As Nepal charts its development vision it will be important to devise a strategy to incorporate such populations into the productive process of the economy. This will not only raise their income and help sustain their move out of poverty but it will also contribute to sustaining the overall growth of the economy. The key question is: how to do this?

First, physically connecting rural and remote populations to the rest of the country and internationally will lay the foundations for further progress. Without access to markets, commercialization of their products is impossible as in the case of the families in Jijodamandu where their surplus fruit production could not be sent to markets because the fruits would rot before it reached any commercial center. Constructing new roads to expand the reach and improving and maintaining existing ones will be important.

Photo Credit : Saurav Rana

Second, support and assistance need to be provided to farmers diversifying their crop production. This may be in the form of providing them with technical know-how of planting new crops. Equally, if not more, important will be devising a plan to support farmers who have moved away from subsistence farming for a time period until the fruits of their new crops are earned.

And finally, make the nexus between producers and consumers efficient to keep transaction costs at a minimum. Looking beyond Nepal’s own borders for markets will also be key. Burgeoning India is a readymade market for Nepali produce. As income rises in India, people’s tastes and consumption patterns will change. They will likely diversify their food consumption consuming greater variety of foods and also consume more expensive foods like certain fruits and vegetables. Linking Nepal’s agriculture supply chain to Indian markets has the potential to further bolster Nepal’s agriculture income.

In recent history when looking at East Asia, development has been synonymous with export led growth focused on industrial goods. However, such a growth model suited those countries because of their close proximity to the sea and low costs of production relative to developed countries where the markets were, which gave them the comparative advantage to produce industrial goods for export. However, Nepal is landlocked and such a development strategy may not be possible. But Nepal has a large growing economy at its doorstep. Nepal may not be able to compete with the economies of scale of Indian and Chinese industries but where it can have comparative advantage is agriculture. There is no one-size-fits-all development strategy. Nepal’s strategy needs to be tailor-made for Nepal which must focus on developing a productive, sustainable and commercialized agriculture sector.

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Comments

Submitted by Lakpa Diki Lama on

Yes, I know this brutal truth about the life of farmers and the harshness of surviving due to the lack of some basic infrastructure like transportation. I am very happy that the place has been studied. I also agree that we need the three I's.

My question is: Can the member of World Bank; Nepal take any initiative to improve the life style of these people at least to some extent? If yes then,why not try to make a business of the fruits grown in the region and earn profit for the locals? I know transport becomes the issue again. I am just suggesting that it would be nice if the locals are trained in small scale industry to produce packaged dry fruits because they will not be rotten so easily while being transported. Travelling around few countries have showed me that dry fruits are quite expensive and this makes me think; "Nepal should come on the spotlight for exporting dry fruits".

I have read a case study about this once in the Nepali times and I think it should be taken to the next level. Since, when one has an income only then is he able to change his lifestyle for betterment.

I wish I could do a project as such. I would recommend that World Bank Nepal at least try this out and see what happens. This is just a suggestion from a fellow Nepalese student.

Thank you!
Jai Nepal

Submitted by Rupak Manvatkar on

Thanks for the great article Saurav! What you write is a problem faced by many small holder farmers across India as well. Linking remote villages to markets can open up a lot of opportunities for producers as well as create employment across the value chain. Crop diversification can also increase resilience by providing alternate sources of income. It is vital to keep the the gap between farm and fridge to a minimum as middlemen can add up to 300% of the initial price. It would be interesting to see progress made in Nepal simply due to it's untapped potential.

Submitted by suraj sharma on

I really support the statement mentioned above about the tentative ideas to bolster the rural food security scheme that is the entrenched problem in the rural part of Nepal especially in the case of Far-west. The three dynamic ideas, if implemented in the practical ground, can lead to the sustainable food security issues. In my personal estimation, after going through this piece, there can be a straight forward question for the donors and their critical approach for working in this field and it also drags the attention of Nepal government. There are so many development organizations working in this theme but are the issues resolved? Are the farmers of Far-west are enlightened about this issues in a broad way? There are myriads of question still unresolved. If the issues of food security resolves, then we can leap the boundary of poverty.

Submitted by Raihana Rabbany on

I totally agree that the focus should be on high end fruits and vegetables (nuts, berries etc.) which can compensate for the high transport costs, but the market should be beyond India and more focus should be on developing market access to East Asia.

Submitted by Pankaj Kumar on

In my view, multilateral agencies like World Bank having studied & prepared preliminary and feasibility report regarding cultivation, promotion of high value fruits and nuts. They should lead through suitable local partner or private sector by starting a cultivation project to attract stakeholder and create awareness, enthusiasm & revenue to count. There have been a heap of reports on the potential of agriculture produce out of mountainous terrain in Nepal but hardly few of them seen light of the day. The financial institute must make obligatory guidelines for least developed countries like Nepal to invest hugely in such agriculture sector to qualify for additional soft loans & grants. The world bank may help to provide necessary technological support as grant or at affordable & concessional price.Such initiatives will have likely impact in realizing the true agriculture potential of Nepal.

Submitted by Laxmi on

The article, research is very valid, all comments are also remarkable, in Nepal due to lack of government policy regarding nuts and subsidiary for farmers and government macanism to encourage them the most of the farmer are underpoverty line and displaced there fore government line ministry and agencies need to ensure proper market and value of agriculture products and promote local product for export.

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