COVID-19: An opportunity for organic agriculture in Nepal

COVID-19: An opportunity for organic agriculture in Nepal

       Nepal is an agricultural country where 66% people are directly engaged in agriculture. Nepal has great potential in agriculture due to its diverse topography, climatic condition, biodiversity, soil type and so on. There are a lot of barren lands in hilly and mountain areas of Nepal where synthetic chemicals and fertilizers haven’t still reached, which therefore is suitable for organic farming. Similarly, at present Nepal along with the entire world is suffering from the pandemic of ‘COVID-19’ and in this situation importance of organic food products has risen. So, there is a lot of opportunity in organic agriculture in Nepal.

Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved. Organic farming has covered 26% area but only 0.3% is certified. The majority of farmers are practicing subsistence farming that can be beneficial in organic farming. The organic farming promotes the cultivation of under exploited and underutilized crops, local fruit and vegetables that can play important role to overcome poverty and food insecurity in the hills and mountains region of Nepal. Different manure like FYM, green manure, bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides can be used in organic farming to reduce chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  As the organic farming reduces chemical pollution, supplies safe healthy food, protects environment, conserves natural resources and reduces use of high input, it is environment-friendly, socially adjustable and economically feasible to guarantee sustainable agriculture.

Currently the world’s economy is badly affected due to covid-19 and Nepal has also been unable to keep itself away from it. Import and export is disturbed and problem of food scarcity is prominent. So, organic farming is only the way to obtain food sufficiency and to save everyone from hunger problems and food scarcity. Organic food products are healthy, fresh and nutritious which enhance immunity power to fight against different diseases. Consumers are aware about health benefits of organic products and they are ready to pay for it. Consumption of organic foods in the markets is increasing as it has no any health hazards. This causes increasing demand of organic products in markets. For household consumption people can spend their leisure time in organic farming (rooftop farming, backyard gardening) and grow sufficient diverse food products for their family. It is cost effective farming system so there is no need of high investment.

Sufficient synthetic agricultural inputs such as hybridized seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc. are not available in the market. This problem can be taken as an opportunity for Nepalese people to shift towards organic farming. We can use local landrace varieties and local resources as fertilizers and plant protection measures to promote organic agriculture. Different organic products of Nepal such as tea, coffee, cardamom, medicinal herbs, ginger etc have become popular in national as well as international markets. High quality organic products can be exported and foreign currency can be earned. At present, many people have lost their job in foreign as well as within the country due to pandemic so it would be a great opportunity to earn good income by engaging in organic agriculture which enhances the national economy as well.

In this scenario of COVID-19, consumers are giving more preference to organic products and it shows that public has finally started to realize the benefits of organic food products over the synthetic ones. The preference of people is believed to increase more in the future as the organic farms are slowly moving towards wide scale productions to meet the increasing demands. So, there is great opportunity for organic agriculture and government should take an attention for the development and expansion of organic agriculture and good coordination between private sector and government bodies is essential.

About the Author

Ram Khanal
Paklihawa campus
Institute of Agriculture and Animal Sciences

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