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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Land reform: still a dream for Nepal farmers

Land reform: still a dream for Nepal farmers

by Ambar Mainali

World viewIT is indeed quite alarming that Nepal, which once was an exporter of food grains, has now turned into an importer of the same. There has been a decreasing trend in per capita food grain production over the years.

The population growth rate in the early eighties stood at 2.5 per cent while agricultural growth was nearly three percent. The then agricultural growth superseded the population growth rate by 0.5 per cent. But the case turned out to be different when entering the new millennium.

The agricultural production over the span of twenty years has not been able to keep abreast with the burgeoning population. Though official statistics show that there has been an increase in the per hectare production of wheat and other crops, still the annual production is far from adequate to support the growing population.

The per capita food grain production, which stood at 376 Kg in the year 2032 B.S. decreased to 277 Kg in the year 2049 B.S. according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

Similarly, the poverty incidence, which stood at 40 per cent in the year 2034 B.S. went up to 49 per cent in the year 2049 B.S. This was accompanied by an increasing trend in the ratio of agriculture import to agricultural export.

The ratio of agricultural import to agricultural export had gone up by 1.5 per cent between the years 2032 B.S. to 2036 B.S. There was an increase of one per cent in the same ratio between the years 2047 B.S and 2050 B.S. according to official figures.

Now looking at the figures the question as to why Nepal has failed to boost its agricultural productions and regain its export status is often raised. The factors behind the inability to keep agricultural production at par with the rate of population growth are lack of clear-cut strategy and failure to emphasize sectoral growth. Other factors that have often been identified for decreased agricultural productivity are inability to meet the year round demand of fertilizers and the lack of infrastructure base for year round and controlled irrigation.

The absence of improved farm technology is one other factor for low productivity. The initiatives for improving the feudal state of land ownership were spearheaded in the year 1956 with the enactment of the Land and Cultivation Record Compilation Act.

This was given continuity with the Lands Act in 1957 when the government began to compile tenants' records. These Acts certainly helped to improve the state of land holdings but the state of small farmers did not improve, which called for further initiatives.

(Courtesy: Rising Nepal)

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