Asar 15, Rastriya Dhaan Diwas

 

By Purna N. Ranjitkar
Rashtriya Dhaan Diwas (National Paddy Planting Day) which falls on Asar 15 (around the end of June / June 29 this year) has been a festival to celebrate for the farmers’ community. Non- farmers also take part in this festival paying respects to the agriculture trade for efforts and labor to produce food grains, especially rice as the food material most people prefer. Food security, the terminology developed later has a close connection with Asar 15 in terms of producing more to feed all.
Food security is a measure of the availability of food and individuals’ ability to access it. The final report of the 1996 World Food Summit states that food security “exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
Household food security exists when all members, at all times, have access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Individuals who are food secure do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. Food security incorporates a measure of resilience to future disruption or unavailability of critical food supply due to various risk factors including droughts, shipping disruptions, fuel shortages, economic instability, and wars. In the years 2011-2013, an estimated 842 million people were suffering from chronic hunger. The United Nations (UN) recognized the Right to Food in the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and has since said that it is vital for the enjoyment of all other rights. Also noteworthy is the 1996 World Summit on Food Security declared that “food should not be used as an instrument for political and economic pressure”.
This also worth remembering, Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The 17 Goals are all interconnected, and in order to leave no one behind, it is important that we achieve them all by 2030. Among 17 Goals as driving forces, Goal 2 emphasizes on ‘zero hunger’.
Nepal was a country to export food grains especially rice to neighboring countries for long many years in the past. For a decade or more it started buying food grains, vegetables, fruits, and finished products paying a huge amount. Remittance is a big source to contribute to the GDP while a big portion of remittance goes immediately out to purchase food materials. The reasons, experts mention that population expansion, lack of laboring manpower, market system, and farmer-unfriendly financial provisions. The government sector has been extending support for seeds, fertilizers, machines, and tools and insuring crops and livestock. But real farmers at grassroots could not have been benefitted appropriately. Thus, most of the farmers are finding agriculture is a sinking business. They lost the capacity to feed the family well and also health, education facilities have been beyond capacity while opportunities are captured by lenders and brokers whether institutions or individuals.
Experts are advocating that supporting factors for sustainable agriculture should be adopted in the thought pattern where farmers’ occupations should be socially dignified. That means, the farmers small or big should be well off in terms of profitable income by sales of products and education, healthcare, social activism should be well accessible. However, the supports provided by the government coffer could not uplift the farmers’ status. As a result youths from farmer families preferred to alternative jobs, migrating to urban areas and seeking jobs abroad as well to earn better in exchange of life-risk jobs.
Recently Federal Minister for Agriculture had formulated plans to rescue people contributing in agriculture with facilities and supports which include easy availability of inputs, irrigation facility, credit at the low rate of interest, easy access to market escaping multi-tier brokerage and so on which all may make farmers’ living a dignified one.
The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is damaging economies of almost all countries of the world where Nepal also has been facing a huge loss. Million or more Nepalese working abroad also have lost their jobs and coming back to the homeland. The government has taken this as an additional challenge to create employment opportunities to them and manage food as well. Thus, politicians, planners, and professionals find the agriculture is the most viable option to engage youth human capital to produce more food to feed all.
Food security is simply to be able to produce more to feed all. But there are a number of challenges to rid over so as farmers take it as a dignified trade. The factors to be considered in this respects are – –  developing irrigation facility, managing supply chain of inputs such as quality and suitable seeds, fertilizer on time and using bio-fertilizer in lieu of chemical fertilizer as far as possible, mechanization of tools and improvising methods, developing of preserving and storing facilities with value additions, financing facilities including subsidy, credit at the low rate of interest and insurance, guaranteed sales of products at profitable rates, access to consumers with less involvement of brokers, capacity building to farmers and local level authorities, social supporting factors in the farmers’ vicinity and so on.
Studies say that there are 1 million hectors of cultivable land unused due to lack of irrigation. Most of such lands see water flowing down it in the rivers and rivulets. So the water if lifted using Solar PV Pumping Systems, the barren lands will produce food for many. Employment opportunities will be generated and opportunities of value additions will be generated as a benefit to the farmers.
One other study says that around 30% of food materials produced by farmers are wasted due to lack of access to market, reasonable price, and storing facilities. The food materials if preserved by drying or cooling will pay better to farmers. Notably, the cost of technologies and systems available these days is easier than in the past. The Solar dryers and locally constructed cold stores run are the available technologies helpful to the farmers.
It is also important to mention that using bio-fertilizer farmers can produce better hygienic food materials. The bio-fertilizers are produced by biogas plants as slurry is nutritious to soil and plants. Many large biogas plants are being installed in the country which will support farmers availing fertilizers in a timely. The plans and policies must be favorable to support more such plants to establish to minimize the use of chemical fertilizers in the long run. Likewise, the use of biochar will also help restore soil quality. So such technologies should be made accessible, available, and affordable to the farmers.
Therefore, the policies and plans on agriculture with a strong food security approach should be realistic and practicable. The benefits must go to farmers and consumers while farmers must be at the center of the stage.

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