Nepal is only just recently emerging from a ten-year civil war that ended in 2006 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Although progress has been made, the peace process still faces challenges and a significant number of people in this landlocked Himalayan nation continue to be in need of humanitarian assistance.
Conflict and natural disasters heighten food insecurity
Most rural households are engaged in subsistence farming. However, years of civil war, compounded by recurring natural disasters, have ravaged the country’s rural infrastructure and left farmers with little access to much-needed inputs such as seeds and agricultural tools.
Farmers in many areas – especially in the remote western and central mountains – also have difficulties in linking up with markets. Poverty and food insecurity are especially rife in these regions.
Reliance on imports
Once self-sufficient in food production, Nepal has become increasingly dependent on food imports to meet demands, making it exceedingly vulnerable to price shocks.
Skyrocketing food, fuel and input prices in 2008 worsened the country’s already precarious food security situation, while a severe winter drought in 2009 led to a significant shortfall in wheat and barley production. An estimated 3.4 million people in Nepal are highly to severely food insecure as a result.
European Union Food Facility
With over € 8 million from the European Union, FAO is providing quality inputs to small-scale farmers and technical training to farmers’ group in Nepal in an effort to boost crop production and make vulnerable families more food secure.
The two-year project, launched in June 2009, is expected to benefit over 92 000 households in 10 districts. Of these, the majority are in the mid-hills and Therai districts, while the remaining households live in the sparsely populated high hills districts.
The project is linked to activities already being carried out by the FAO, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Nepal. The WFP is undertaking cash-for-work activities to restore rural infrastructure, while FAO is focusing on boosting production and improving livelihoods.
Households in the targeted districts will receive input packages containing high quality cereal, pulse, potato and vegetable seeds. Fertilizers will also be distributed to farmers in selected districts along with technical training to ensure proper usage. Input packages will be adapted to the various districts according to local planting conditions and needs.
Funds from the project will go towards promoting improved farming practices. Through the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC), FAO is working to develop an extensive training and capacity building programme to support farmers in applying techniques that preserve soil fertility and water resources.
Attention is also being given to strengthening MoAC extension services to improve agricultural practices and farmer productivity at the village level.
The WFP, FAO and other stakeholders are supporting the government in designing a comprehensive food security and nutrition information and monitoring system.
Other FAO Activities
In 2008, FAO launched a Technical Cooperation Programme(TCP) project worth USD 500 000 to help the government supply more than 124 metric tonnes of certified wheat seed to the Accham, Bajang, Baitadi and Darchula districts in western Nepal.
In addition, 600 kilos worth of vegetable seeds were airlifted to Jumla district in the northwest. These were supplied in variety packages containing both winter and summer vegetables, including potato seeds. Fertilizers were also made available to vulnerable farming families. The activities targeted some 30 000 households, or 150 000 people, many of them headed by single women.
In July 2008, an inter-agency rapid assessment mission to Nepal proposed a three-year action plan to assist the Government in meeting a series of immediate and short- to medium-term strategies, including: distribution of improved seed kits; promotion of sustainable soil management practices; and rehabilitation of irrigation schemes.