A farmer uses a mini-tiller in the midwestern region of Nepal. Photo credit: CIMMYT/CSISA
The recent 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April, followed by a 7.3 magnitude aftershock on 12 May and several hundred additional aftershocks, has had huge negative impacts on the country’s agriculture and food security. Around two-thirds of Nepal’s population rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, and agriculture contributes 33% of Nepal’s GDP. It is estimated that about 8 million people have been affected by the earthquakes, with smallholders in hilly regions being the hardest hit.
The earthquakes damaged or destroyed agricultural assets, undermining the longer-term food production capacity of farm families and disrupting critical input supply, trade, and processing networks. Farmers lost grain and seed stocks, livestock, agricultural tools and other inputs, and are facing significant labor shortages. Widespread damage to seed and grain storage facilities has affected smallholder farmers’ ability to secure their harvested crops during the rainy season.
In response to the devastation, USAID-Nepal has provided US$1 million to the CIMMYT-led Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia in Nepal (CSISA-NP) for earthquake relief and recovery. The Earthquake Recovery Support Program will be implemented for a period of 13 months in close coordination with the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD), Department of Agriculture, Department of Livestock Services, Nepal Agricultural Research Council, and District Disaster Relief Committee. The districts that will receive support include Dolkha, Kavre, Khotang, Makwanpur, Nuwakot, Ramechap, Sindhupalchowk, and Solukhumbu, which suffered particularly high levels of damage.
According to Andrew McDonald, CIMMYT Principal Scientist and CSISA Project Leader, “Even if seed is available, farmers’ ability to plant and harvest crops has been severely diminished due to the loss of draft animals and the exacerbation of labor shortages.” To aid them, the earthquake recovery program will provide more than 33,000 farming households with 50,000 grain storage bags, 30 cocoons for community grain storage, 400 mini-tillers and other modern agriculture power tools (e.g., seeders, reapers, and maize shellers), 800 sets of small agricultural hand tools, and 20,000 posters on better-bet agronomic practices for rice and maize.
“First we will focus on getting horse-powered mini-tillers into affected communities, and subsequently broadening the utility of these machines to power a host of essential agricultural activities including seeding, reaping, threshing, and shelling, as well as driving small pumps for irrigation,” said Scott Justice, Agricultural Mechanization Specialist, CSISA-NP.
CIMMYT scientists train farmers on how to use a power tiller in Dadeldhura, Nepal. Photo credit: Lokendra Khadka/CSISA-Nepal
At the program’s inception workshop on 28 August, Beth Dunford, USAID-Nepal Mission Director, remarked that USAID-Nepal has arranged for a special fund to help earthquake-affected people. Beyond the devastation of houses and public infrastructure such as roads, the earthquake has seriously disrupted agriculture and the rural economy in the impacted districts. Re-establishing vital agricultural markets and services is key to how quickly these communities will recover from the earthquake, underlined Dunford.
To coordinate and monitor program activities effectively, management committees at the central, district, and local levels have been formed with the purpose of identifying the earthquake-affected areas within a district and ensuring efficient and transparent distribution of aid items.
MoAD Joint Secretary Rajendra Adhikari highlighted that the Ministry feels a real sense of ownership over this program and is committed to implementing program activities through its network. The farm machinery support program will be a perfect platform for MoAD to expand its farm mechanization program into other areas of the country. The Earthquake Recovery Support Program also aligns with the Nepalese Government’s agricultural development strategies, which focus on community-wide inclusive development.