BUTWAL, Jan 19: Sadhu Ram Kewat, who reached the District Agricultural Development Office (DADO), Rupandehi, for soil test two months ago, had to return empty-handed.
DADO officials turned Kewat, a resident of Rohini Rural Municipality-3, Dhakdhai, back, stating that the office does not have technicians to carry out the test.
Kewat is not the only one. Many farmers, who reach the office to seek expert opinions on agricultural issues, are being turned back, stating that such responsibilities have now been transferred to the local governments.
Though agricultural technicians of DADO have been deputed to local governments as provisioned in the constitution, local governments are still to get their service. As a result, neither DADO, nor local governments are now in a position to provide consultation and laboratory services to farmers due to lack of human resources and equipment.
“DADO had been providing consultation and laboratory services to farmers so far. Now, our technicians have been deployed at the local governments. Despite this, local governments are not being able to provide consultation and laboratory services to the farmers,” Bhoj Raj Sapkota, chief of DADO Rupandehi, said.
Though DADO deputed technicians to local governments, it has not handed over laboratory equipment to them. As a result, even technicians, who have reached the local governments, have not been able to provide consultation and laboratory services to the locals.
DADO Rupandehi have three laboratories to test soil, crop disease and water in fish pond. But they have remained unused since technicians were deputed to local governments.
Ashwini Kumar Sharma, a soil expert who has now been transferred to Agriculture Department of Devdaha Municipality, said that he has not been able to provide soil testing facility due to lack of equipment. “With just two technicians, we cannot provide 11 types of agricultural services that DADO used to provide earlier,” he added. “Such mismanagement will make negative impact on the agricultural sector.”
DADO officials say it feels bad to turn back farmers who reach the office with great expectations. “We even cannot ask farmers to go to local governments for such services as we know experts deputed there lack equipment to provide laboratory services. Although there is a laboratory here, we cannot provide services due to lack of manpower,” said Sapkota.
State restructuring has backfired for locals as the pool of experts at DADO Republica has now been scattered to different local governments. Due to human resource crunch, the agricultural ministry cannot depute experts of all the fields to all local governments. This is sure to affect farm productivity this year.
While the previously available services are now unavailable in the district, farmers have experienced a void in facilities. “Because of state restructuring, we do not have access to facilities that were available easily earlier. This is a new setback to the farming sector,” Dhruba Gyawali, a bee farmer, told Republica.
DADO Chief Sapkota, however, said it is natural to experience some problems in the initial phase of state restructuring. “These problems will be gradually solved,” he added.
But it is an undeniable fact that such problems won't have arisen had the government not discontinued consultation and laboratory services before strengthening the local governments.