Save farms, empower farmers, Nepal citizens’ appeal

A group of civil society activists in Nepal has appealed to minimise the impact on agriculture and farmers during the COVID-19 lockdown.

A statement by the civil society group says the lack of priority for farming could cause a prolonged impact on the lives of a majority of Nepalis who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

‘For the last two weeks, unable to transport their vegetables, milk, eggs and other produce to the market in time, farmers have had their products rot and go to waste. On the other hand, consumers are having a difficult time purchasing agricultural goods,’ says the statement, adding that farmers are not venturing to the fields during the current wheat harvesting season because of the lockdown.

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Despite ideal weather, the lockdown has also deterred most farmers from planting maize this season, and it may even affect paddy planting in the Tarai. Grazing of livestock has also been hit, while dairy and vegetable farmers cannot sell their produce.

Moving forward, the statement stressed the immediate need to reinstate agriculture as a national priosity not just for food security, but also to address unemployment in other sector as the pandemic hits the world economy, including jobs overseas.

‘It is imperative that the federal, provincial and local governments as well as civil society countrywide focus on protecting the farming sector and improving agricultural activities using innovation and new knowledge,’ the statement says. ‘It is a sad reality that agriculture has been progressively sidelined over the decades even though it holds the promise of productive employment and prosperity for the people.’

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The activists have appealed to the government to allow farmers to tend their fields as there is no danger of spread of coronavirus working in the fields or taking livestock to pasture.

The statement says that attracting returnee migrant workers to the farm would enhance agriculture and help in food production. It calls on municipalities to ensure transport of produce from farm to market.

The civil society group included agriculture scientist Ram Prakash Yadav,  MP Bimala Rai Poudyal, former finance secretary Rameshore Khanal, rights activists Renu Adhikari and Sushil Pyakhurel, agriculture expert Yamuna Ghale, journalists Rajendra Dahal and Kanak Mani Dixit and writer Tika Dhakal.