The Hill Maize Research Project (HMRP) led by CIMMYT, in close partnership with the the Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC) and the Department of Agriculture (DoA) jointly organized a five-day Maize Traveling Seminar for high-level officials in the hills of Nepal during 2-6 September 2012. The purpose of the seminar was to offer policy makers firsthand information on the status of maize varietal development, seed multiplication, marketing, technology dissemination, and the HMRP’s efforts to improve food security and livelihoods of the resource-poor and disadvantaged farmers in the hills of the country. The seminar was attended by 25 officials from the National Planning Commission (NPC), Ministry of Agriculture and Development (MoAD), Ministry of Finance (MoF), NARC, National Seed Board (NSB), DoA, donors (SDC and USAID), NGOs, private sector, and the media.
At the beginning of the seminar, the newly-established Ganesh Himal community-managed seed company from the mid-hill District of Dhading was inaugurated. Yamuna Ghale, senior program officer and SDC representative stressed its importance for the region: “The more than four tons of improved seed this company is expected to produce and sell to neighboring districts will help to increase the seed replacement rate in the area with resulting increases in productivity this year. This approach needs to be replicated in other hill areas of the country.” The participants then visited the National Maize Research Program (NMRP) in Rampur, Chitwan, where they observed varietal improvement and maintenance and source seed production activities. NMRP coordinator K.B. Koirala presented on the current status, priorities, and challenges of maize research and seed production in Nepal. He highlighted that the area under maize source seed production and the quality of the seed have been significantly improved, and that NMRP and other HMRP partners had reached thousands of resource-poor farmers in their respective command areas.
During the rest of the traveling seminar, participants visited HMRP partners’ activities in the hill districts of Palpa, Syangja, and Kaski, including participatory variety selection (PVS), community-based seed production (CBSP), maize-vegetables inter-cropping, and on-farm trials and demonstrations activities conducted by CBSP groups and cooperatives. In the Manakamana Women Farmers Group of Syangja district, about 45 women members gathered to welcome the participants of the seminar. During interactions with the farmers, they learnt about farmers’ constraints and needs for marketing the seed, improving yields, storage facilities, credits, inputs, training etc. Amy Prevatt, USAID-Nepal representative, expressed her satisfaction with the accomplishments of HMRP and its partners regarding reducing poverty and food insecurity in the hills of Nepal. “I am sure the project will continue supporting you to overcome the marketing constraints and to make your CBSP group stronger and sustainable,” she said. The team and the farmers carried a walk around the village to observe crop conditions in CBSP, PVS, and intercropping trials. The team then headed for the Palpa district to visit the Radha Krishna Women farmers groups and Shiva Sakti maize seed producers group in Chatiwan, which has recently graduated into a cooperative with technical assistance from HMRP and its partners.
The seminar was concluded with a business meeting co-chaired by Tek Bahadur Gurung (NARC director of livestock and fisheries) and Dharma Dutta Baral (deputy director general at DoA under MoAD). During the meeting, participants assessed the effectiveness of the seminar; most of them expressed their satisfaction over its achievements, shared recommendations for further improvement, and suggested that the seminar be conducted annually during the main maize season. “The seminar provided good information that can only be appreciated by observing it at the field level,” said Baral. Gurung summed up the meeting by thanking the seminar organizers and stating that “the NARC and the MoAD are proud of the close partnership we have maintained with CIMMYT over the past 27 years. Events like the traveling seminar give us the opportunity to witness some of the fruitful results of this partnership.”