The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2010: Nepal

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2010: Nepal
Nov 2009

Nepal suffers from chronic food insecurity, severe and recurrent natural disasters, poor health and sanitation infrastructure, and water and energy scarcity. These factors combined with political instability and civil unrest result in a dire humanitarian situation for Nepal’s already vulnerable population.

The country’s long-running civil conflict (1996-2006) severely outstretched the coping mechanisms of affected families. Additional external shocks, such as floods, droughts, pandemics or rising food prices, could have catastrophic consequences for Nepal if support mechanisms are not provided.

Currently, 3.4 million people in Nepal are highly to severely food insecure and approximately 28 000 children under the age of five die each year from easily preventable illnesses. Over 50 percent of districts are food-deficit and nearly one-quarter of the population lives on less than USD 1 per day. The cost of staple food items in Nepal today is as high or higher than at the peak of the international food crisis in August 2008.

However, Government expenditure on agriculture has fallen to just 5 percent of the 2008 budget. Further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis, political instability has disrupted governmental proceedings and limited investment, job creation and exports, while continued strikes have impacted the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for over three-quarters of the population, including many subsistence farmers. Nepal’s decade-long conflict caused the collapse of the sector as it destroyed rural infrastructure, disrupted storage, transportation and market access, depleted food and seed stocks, and affected livestock production capacity and animal health services. Over the past three years, a further five million people have fallen below the poverty line as a result of high food prices and low crop yields. As compared with price levels in August 2008, the costs of food items such as lentil and black gram have increased by 35 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Families are spending over 70 percent of their income to purchase food.

Nepalese farmers have difficulty in accessing basic agricultural inputs due to their high costs, limited local seed production capacity and poor road networks, especially in remote areas. The lack of quality seeds, fertilizers and agricultural machinery results in an average per hectare yield of rice, wheat, maize and pulses – Nepal’s staple crops – that is significantly lower than that of neighbouring countries. An increased frequency of floods, droughts and hail storms has further impacted crop production.  Most recently, the 2008/09 winter drought resulted in a 14.5 percent and 17.3 percent decrease in barley and wheat production, respectively, as compared with the previous year. Lack of fodder and access to veterinary services, combined with animal disease outbreaks, continually threaten the food security of families dependent on livestock, a valuable livelihood asset for rural communities, especially the landless.

FAO’s response

FAO has been working with local government partners, community‑based organizations (CBOs), farmers and herders in Nepal for over five decades. The Organization’s proposed assistance through the 2010 Nepal Humanitarian Transition Appeal will address the most critical needs of rural families affected by conflict, soaring food costs and natural disasters, enabling them to improve food security, nutritional practices and resilience to future shocks.

With donor support, FAO will strengthen the resilience of farmers to the increasing occurrence of drought, particularly in areas such as the Mid- and Far-Western Regions. Funding will enable quality cereal and vegetable seeds to reach farmers in time for the summer and winter planting seasons. FAO will provide seeds that are drought-tolerant and require shorter growing periods to maximize production in the event of limited rainfall. Beneficiaries’ yields will also be enhanced through the promotion of crop diversification, small-scale irrigation and water‑harvesting technology, soil management and moisture conservation practices.

The development of school and homestead vegetable gardens and hands-on training in better nutritional practices, food preparation and dietary diversification will improve nutrition among vulnerable households. Focus will also lie in protecting and strengthening the livelihoods of families dependent on livestock through the provision of small ruminant animals and poultry, materials for animal shelters, animal feed, seeds to produce fodder, and veterinary supplies and services. Capacity building at institutional level will also improve support and extension services across the sector.

As part of the Food Security Cluster, FAO is leading the subcluster for agriculture. Strengthening the coordination of agricultural activities in Nepal will be crucial to ensuring that the response of humanitarian partners is effective, avoids duplication, optimizes the use of funding and reaches communities most in need.