KATHMANDU, April 6: A group of civil society leaders have urged the government to take necessary initiatives to save the farmlands, empower farmers and enhance agriculture in the country as this sector remains one of the neglected but hard-hit sectors as a result of weeks-long nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Issuing a joint appeal, the civil society leaders said it is imperative that the federal, provincial and local governments as well as civil society focus on protecting the farming sector and improving agricultural activities using innovation and new knowledge. They have demanded that the insecurity that has overwhelmed the country's agriculturalists be addressed even as plans are made for revival as the lockdown enforced two weeks ago has already left agriculture sector badly affected.
"Even as we tackle various fears and uncertainties, we cannot forget the peasantry and the rural economy, which are so central to the nation's present and future. Over the past two weeks of lockdown, farm produce such as vegetables, milk and eggs have got wasted due to absence of market, while consumers have been deprived of essential foods," they said in the joint appeal.
While stating that agriculture sector holds the promise of productive employment and prosperity for the people, they have lamented that it is a sad reality that this sector has been progressively sidelined over the decades in the governmental as well as popular imagination. "We have a duty to save farming from the impact of coronavirus, with a clear perspective on the present challenge while working to revive farming as a long term, profitable and dignified occupation and an attractive alternative to foreign employment," they further said in the appeal.
The 12-point suggestion they made to the concerned federal, provincial and local government authorities includes allowing farmers to continue farming activity in the mountains, mid-hills and the plains, as there is no danger of spread of coronavirus working in the fields at five-six feet distance; formulating a strategy that builds a welcoming environment for the returning youths to turn the coronavirus crisis into an opportunity and make the country self-sufficient in food production; identifying and isolating villages, wards and municipalities where the virus has not been observed to extend support to revive farming activity; and ensuring transport for produce from farm to the market with concerned governments providing financial and administrative support required for this vital effort.
"Beyond the present crisis, we recommend that the agreed price for the key crops (rice, wheat and corn) must be set at the time of planting, and provincial authorities must work with local governments to ensure that this pricing is implemented," reads the joint statement.
Those signing the joint appeal include Agricultural Scientist Ram Prakash Yadav, National Assembly member Bimala Rai Poudyal, Former Finance Secretary Rameshore Khanal, rights activists Renu Adhikari and Sushil Pyakurel, agriculture development expert Yamuna Ghale, journalists Rajendra Dahal and Kanak Mani Dixit and writer Tika Dhakal.