Published On: June 16, 2020 01:40 PM NPT By: Pratibha Baral

Can Covid-19 be taken as opportunity for Organic farming in Nepal?

Can Covid-19 be taken as opportunity for Organic farming in Nepal?

 

Covid-19, the global health crisis, is also leaving its deep scars by creating social, economic and political crisis. Being a communicable disease, first step of defensefor most of the sufferer country is taken as lockdown for maintaining social distance so as to minimize the spread of the disease. Currently, the employment generating sectors not being in operation, most of the people residing in urban areas have returned to their homeplace vacating the cities. This condition seems to be naturally simulating the ‘Back to village national campaign’ by King Mahendra.  Because of Covid-19, the migrated urban population have returned to their native places and must of the villages that seems to be desolating are now occupied. The otherwise busy people neglecting their native land have now full time to spend there. So, why not fully utilize these potential reverted human resources.

As we all know that food is one of the critical human need without which the existence of human beings would come to an end. Besides, Covid-19 being combatted by strong immune system, food stood as bonanza helping to strengthen the immune system of our body. The future possibility of famine in the country could only be addressed by agricultural sector producing enough food materials within the country. Having export cut off policy of most of the countries of the world to smoothen food supply within their own country, the importance of food self-sufficiency as a means of agricultural protectionism could seem to be in foreground. However, as per the saying tomorrow’s ecology is more important than today’s economy, on desire of fulfilling our current need, we shouldn’t forget that there are still more generations that need this same land for their survival too. So, even in extreme of unpleasant situation, sustainable approach should be our utmost priority. Although heavy mechanization and chemicalization seems to be beguiling in early adaptive stage, its negative effect persist in the ecosystem for such a long time that it is difficult to indemnify such impacts. Moreover, the increasing jolt of the effect of global warming and climate change globally also teach us a lesson of coordinating with the nature rather than trying to conquer it. Analyzing all these situation, sustainable agriculture is the better approach to address all these problems as we know it’s better to be safe than sorry. One of the widely admired and adopted approach of sustainable agriculture is organic farming. Thus, organic farming seems to be a viable solution hitting two targetswith one arrow i.e. addressing the food security issues without much negative impact on environment and natural ecosystem.

Though organic farming sounds to be a new terminology/methodology, it is not a new concept in Nepalese context where a very high percentage of farming techniques is by default organic in nature. Most of the farming systems being followed since century comprises organic recycling, crop rotations, mixed cropping, traditional technology such as cattle urine and botanicals for pest management, zero tillage in form of relay cropping in rice or maize fields, etc., which are typically organic. The organic farming primarily focusing on cutting off the use of synthetic chemicals in farming, all the traditional agricultural system being practiced in Nepal before the introduction of chemicals can be considered as organic.

As we all know, due to increasing consciousness of people for their health and increasing living standard of people, it has lately increased the demand of organic food product so organic farming has quite tremendous scope in Nepalese market too, apart from international markets. The forthcoming concept of land bank likely to be promoted in near future also seems to be contributing in promoting the agricultural system throughout the country.

Despite having huge potentiality and scope, why organic farming is still in its infancy stage is quite enigmatic. The general reasons might be reluctant to adopt agriculture by ‘degree holder’ youths, lack of timely availability of organic inputs like organic seeds, fertilizers, botanicals, etc, lack of proper initiative by government to promote organic agriculture by providing enough subsidy, incentives, etc, lack of proper reliant market facility, lack of insurance scheme in case of crop failure, lengthy certification process and majorly the skeptical perception of farmers that without chemicals crop couldn’t grow to its full extent.

Whatever may be the reason, we should particularly focus on the possible solutions or ways of improving the prevailing situation. First of all, awareness about the concept and importance of organic farming to farmers as well asconsumers is the first and foremost way. The farmers must be provided with the package of practices to be adopted while following organic farming. Due to being labor intensive farming, costs of organic products are obviously higher than the product produced from conventional farming so consumers are reluctant in buying costly organic product. Similarly, due to prohibition of use of chemicals to make the product look more attractive like use of waxing, coloring agents, etc., the organic product are outcompeted by conventional agricultural product. And we all know, as ‘the consumer buys with their eyes’,  tempting, glossy food products ruled the market rather than dull looking nutritious organic products. Thus, bringing some innovations or policies as soon as possible for addressing these cost issues of the organic product will help them flourish in the market economy and hence more farmers will be motivated and enticed toward organic agriculture. Moreover, certification process must be as easy and uncomplicated as possible to avoid farmer’s reluctance towards it.

Thus, reiterating the importance of organic farming in context of Nepal, I would like to appeal all the Nepalese citizens to think seriously about it. The situation itself is demanding some quick responses and action. As the majority of business including tourism couldn’t survive longer in this kind of situation and many of the foreign workers are likely to be returning back to the country, serious attention must be given for generating some systematic, rational and sustainable employment opportunity within the country. In this context, agriculture being one of the best feasible alternative, there is once again chance of the revival of agriculture as a dominant sector of employment over next few decades. Organic agriculture being ecologically sound, economically viable and socially just farming system with much greater hype in recent time, it can generate employment and entrepreneurship within the country to address the emerging issue to rather a great extent. As the saying better late than never, we all citizens can go hand in hand in this situation for making our agricultural system organic and sustainable, taking this Covid-19 pandemic as a blessing in disguise, for reviving our country’s economy once again through agriculture.

(Pratibha Baral is the student of 6th semester in Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science, Paklihawa)

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