Nepal: boosting agricultural production by 30 percent
Interview on EU Food Facility in Nepal
Political instability, high food and fuel prices and a severe winter drought in 2009 have left over 3 million people in Nepal with not enough to eat. With €8 million in funding from the EU Food Facility, the European Union’s € one billion response to rising hunger in the world, FAO is partnering with government and the World Food Programme (WFP) to help boost agricultural production by up to 30 percent. FAO’s Xavier Bouan in Nepal explains.
What is your overall objective in Nepal?
Our principal goal is to deliver the seeds and technologies that will help farmers increase agricultural production by 20 to 30 percent, thus reducing food deficits – which in many areas of the country can last up to six months – by at least two to three months.
At the same time, we want to strengthen the food security monitoring system in order to improve the government’s capacity to assess the food security situation and better plan for food deficit problems.
What are the main achievements so far?
With our operational structure now in place, comprising offices in 10 districts, we have almost completed the procurement of seeds, which is a challenge in Nepal because there is always a shortage of good seeds. For example, we were able to get about 75 percent of our requirements for maize seeds, meaning that we are about to start maize seed distribution.
Does this project help the landless?
Initially, activities were focussed on seed distribution and agriculture. The Government however suggested that a livestock component be included for people without farm land. Now, we will distribute goats and pigs and provide veterinary services, training and support in constructing sheds in four districts. It is a pilot project that could expand to other districts if there was additional funding.
How is FAO working with the WFP?
By linking FAO’s project with activities developed by WFP. For example, we will support seed distribution to farmers benefiting from irrigation canals built by WFP. Also, we work together on food monitoring and we join effort when it comes to outreach activities.
What are the main challenges facing your work in Nepal?
Sustainability. We cannot deliver seeds every year. Instead, we need to give support to farmers so that they can sustain themselves. If we can find a way for farmers to get access to good seeds on a regular basis, provide them with the tools and the knowledge on how to keep seeds and to renew them from time to time, and also strengthen their technical capacity to improve irrigation systems, then I think we can really boost agricultural production by up to 30 percent.
Another challenge is access. I just came back from the far west. To drive 100 km it took us nine hours with a four-wheel drive - and these villages are still accessible by car. Some of the most remote places where we have to send our seeds are a three days’ walk from the district headquarters.
And finally you have the political situation. If it deteriorates, then we have to wait, and in agriculture we cannot miss a cropping season.
European Union Food Facility (EUFF) and FAO
Under the so-called the European Union Food Facility (EUFF), the European Union has committed € one billion to respond rapidly and on a large scale to rising hunger around the world as a consequence of high food prices, compounded by the global economic crisis. Over €215 million (US$301 million) is being channelled through FAO for operations in twenty-seven countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.http://www.fao.org/europeanunion/eu-in-action/eu-food-facility-details/en/
Xavier Bouan, FAO senior project manager, Nepal
is an agronomist. He has been working for almost 15 years with UNODC on drug control. He was based for the last seven years in Myanmar, working on alternative development and agriculture projects.