Conservation Agriculture Meaning, Prospects & Goals. Why conservation Agriculture in Nepal?

Author: Shristi Adhikari
BSc. Ag. 3rd Semester
Agriculture and Forestry University

Agriculture is the mainstay of livelihood in Nepal. Agricultural activities accounts for about one-third of GDP, and provide a livelihood for almost 70% of the population. But its production is barely sufficient to meet domestic consumption needs. 32% of the population still lives in poverty line. Food insecurity persists in many parts of the country.

     Conservation Agriculture is a farming system that can prevent losses of arable land while regenerating degraded lands. According to definition given by FAO, Conservation Agriculture is ”a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment.” So, Conservation Agriculture (CA) is a holistic approach characterized by minimal soil disturbance, diversified crop rotation and surface crop residue retention aimed not only at conserving soil and water but also biotic bases of sustainability. Research evidence illustrate that CA gives at least the same yield as conventional tillage (traditional practice), often more with less time and energy inputs and better environment sustainability. Also, it is reported that CA increases in yield of crops by 15 to 25%.

     Repeated tillage, removal or burning of the crop residues and absence of crop rotations are the fundamental causes of unsustainable conventional agricultural system in Nepal. Increasing uncertain in availability of water due to increasing frequency of drought or excess water events resulting in uneven water availability in time and space. Much of the agricultural land in Nepal being marginal such that about half of the agricultural land is located on slopes which results in soil losses from 2.7 to 8.2 tons per hectare. Today’s scenario of labor scarcity, dependence on rainfed ecologies, inappropriate use of fertilizers, increasing production costs and declining productivity are the major’s challenges of agriculture in Nepal. Furthermore, climate change has brought additional challenges to soil and water resources.

       Conservation Agriculture (CA) in several ways, is practically beneficial over Traditional Agriculture. In Traditional Agriculture, the burning of organic matter like weeds or leaves and the ploughing of soil eventually erode the soil and decrease the soil’s quality and production of crops. Whereas, the CA techniques conserves the soil properties by covering it with mulch. The mulch layer also preserves the humidity of soil. Similarly, in traditional practices, there is no proper agricultural system, so called to be follow, they just plant randomly. As a result, there is an impact in plants which grow up squeezed because they are very close to each other & don’t have enough space to grow healthy. Whereas, planting in line in CA makes the weeding and harvesting process easier for the farmers. There is a lot of hard work in Traditional Agriculture, but the result is not as expected. Whereas the soil’s health improves little by little and from the second year, using the CA techniques, the production tends to increase. Furthermore, significant improvements can be made in water conservation, enhancing soil quality and improving soil fertility. CA reduces water runoff, better water infiltration and more water in the soil profile throughout the crop growing period. It has potential to increase water application efficiency by over 50%. While fossil fuels are the main producer of CO2, estimates are that widespread adoption of conservation tillage could offset as much as 16% of world-wide fossils fuel emissions. CA also reduce vulnerability to extreme climatic events. Hence, through CA we can reverse the degradation of soils and move towards more sustainable agriculture.

          Despite the tremendous opportunities of CA in Nepal, no actions have been undertaken in an effective way. It actually has two intellectual barriers to overcome; the first is that CA concept and principles are counterintuitive and contradict the common tillage-based farming experience which has worked for generations and which often has created cultural values and rural traditions. The second is the lack of experimental knowledge about CA and the mechanism to acquire it.

     In Nepal, the extension and adoption of CA technology are in the primary stage and for their expansion, they require concerted efforts of all stakeholders in the partnership and participatory approaches. To promote CA, we need to generate knowledge through on-site research and wide-scale verification in farmer’s field. Similarly, the replication of CA success stories among North and South American countries can be taken into consideration, as the awareness and adoption of CA in these countries is increasing. Gender constraints is another major factor that need to be considered. Farm management decisions are often made by men in Nepal, we need to invite more women to trainings and host more gender specific trainings and be aware of the potential effects of CA adoption on women’s time and labor (since there is a trend towards the feminization of agriculture in Nepal). Accordingly, short, medium- and long-term strategies need to be set up for further research and development. Researcher, extensionists, farmers and private sectors need to build up strong working group to advocate CA along with machines manufactures need to be formed in order to scale up its adoption.

       Conservation Agriculture, thus enhances biodiversity and natural biological processes above and below the ground surface, which contribute to increased water and nutrient efficiency and to improved and sustained crop production. Therefore, promoting and adopting CA management systems in Terai and plain areas can provide sustainable and increased crop production in Nepal.




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