The world amidst the coronavirus pandemic is on the standstill affecting billions of people. Countries are facing slowdowns in the economy due to massive slowdowns in tourism, service, and manufacturing sectors resulting in widespread work stoppages and layoffs; throwing economies into chaos. The Covid-19 pandemic that hit the world has severely affected every sector of the economy of Nepal, particularly distressing agriculture sector.
Nepalese farmers and the marginalized rural communities are at huge risk due to the novel coronavirus. As vulnerable as any country can be, Nepal being a low-income-agrarian economy, its dependency on neighboring countries for the import of food products is much higher. The agriculture sector, which contributes 27 percent to Nepal’s GDP, has already been affected by the comparatively low summer output in the present context.
The survey conducted by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) concluded the insufficiency of stock in Nepal and predicted significant reductions in the harvest of wheat and other winter crops in Nepal. As with the most other sectors, the ongoing lockdown is exacerbating food and nutritional security in terms of post-harvest loss, given the halt in the spring harvest in absence of many farmhands. As per the data given by the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC), post-harvest loss in fruits and vegetables is found to be 20-30% whereas marking 10-12% loss in cereals and grains. The losses have directly emphasized the reduction of productivity by 50%, therefore, affecting the basic human consumption rate. The ground reality of the barriers contrasting the major problems leading to the underlined losses stays untouched by the authorities and the government.
The initiative model
“Farm-to-fork” is a derivative considering farmers as custodians of agriculture playing a key role in the chain of the food supply. That means proper education and awareness to the farmers states benchmark on channeling the issues and implement reduction techniques to act on losses and increase productivity. The proposed post-harvest loss reduction initiative offers an opportunity to ensure that the food that is grown reaches markets and is not lost or wasted. The primary focal point should target more in the food lost in farmer’s fields, after harvest, staging in various procedures; at initial storage, during processing, and during transportation. These post-harvest losses are mainly a challenge in developing countries like Nepal. While no miracle exists in a short time frame, small changes in behavior among the few key points can improve the system but all these small changes need to occur together.
This initiative model also anchors an honest relationship between agro-dealers and farmers, famers and processors, processors, and buyers and catalyzes four components: aggregation, finance, technologies, and market linkages. Similarly, implementing innovative finance mechanisms to promote agricultural investments particularly among smallholder farmers is not only beneficial to the economy but equally increases a sense of motivation. In conclusion, securing market demand, aggregating farmers, and linking the two are necessary for the model to succeed.
Smallholder farmers participation in value chains:
Unprecedented opportunities can be presented in local sourcing activities to link farmers to more reliable and consolidated large-scale markets, as well as local ones.
Closing the gap:
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development said that this year paddy production went down by 1.05 percent compared to the last year. In many parts of Nepal, current agricultural land is not reaching its potential, yielding less than what it could produce. There are several factors that hold responsible for a menace in agriculture wherein some of them are plotting of arable land, lack of irrigation facilities focusing more on technology generation and extension, inundation in Terai/Madhes, and a large exodus of youths from the nation. Nepal is a net food deficit country despite being an “agricultural country”, which is dependent on imports for items such as rice and many other agricultural products. The import on rice was estimated NPR 28 billion last year. The land left cultivated should be used fruitfully to sustain the production of the staple food for the produce, filling the void between what is being produced and what could be produced would both reduce the need to clear land for agriculture.
Target food-habit and food-system:
Increasingly more prosperous and urban consumers are purchasing processed and packaged foods ensuring bad habits in nutrition and dietary supplement. It would be very naive to assume that diets could drastically shift soon among the natives. In fact, rice is the staple crop of Nepal and has been believed that rice is a must-have food to serve basic nutrition, but cereal grains are rich in fiber, protein, vitamins which are proven facts that it is higher in nutritional value than rice. Implementing cereal grains and their consumption on a higher basis has an adverse effect on a well-balanced diet. Lowering consumption of rice can have a major effect on the production value. The government should emphasize youths to consider the consumption of Nepalese-based diets including cereal grains.
Post-harvest loss-reducing technologies:
Many technologies for reducing losses exist, but they are barely utilized in Nepal and some of them have not yet been introduced in our country. Examples include hermetic bags, heavy molded-plastic containers, and mobile processing units. These innovations have a small unit cost and are suited to individual use. These also can be easily scaled up to satisfy growing demand.
Various factors in the value chain can each play a part in this integrated system. Large buyers can signal demands by making commitments and arranging contracts with their suppliers (local processors) in order to purchase specified quantities of smallholder farmer’s products. Another way can be partnering with NGOs and train smallholder farmers on how to reduce on-farm crop losses and meet market standards for both quality and quantity. Also, agro-dealers can develop new channels for distributing post-harvest technologies to smallholder farmers.
Individual farmers may not need to purchase or own these technologies; it may be more efficient for farmer organizations to collateralize buyers’ crop orders, acquire loans, purchase technologies, and lend or lease the technologies to farmers.
At the heart of the initiative is the link between market demand and aggregation of farmers’ supply. A primary point of connection is created hence forming a link between technology and finance. Market demand, the prime mover of this model, must be met with aggregated supply. Without this connection, farmers will have no incentive to accumulate or adopt loss-reducing technologies. In short, securing market demand, aggregating farmers, and linking the two are necessary for the model to succeed.
 “COVID-19 affecting food security in Nepal: WFP”, Nepali Times, 19 April 2020. Retrieved from- https://www.nepalitimes.com/latest/covid-19-affecting-food-security-in-nepal-wfp/
 Data acquired through telephonic conversation with Mr. Upendra Ray, Deputy Director General of Department of Food Technology and Quality Control.
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