Bringing new technology to Nepali farmersImproved agriculture knowledge centres can spearhead commercial farming in the country.
A few years ago, Krishi Sewa Kendra was at the frontline of agriculture extension. Each centre catered to about four to five local units. A junior technician from the centre served the people in the specified area. But people who lived far away could not be served because there was no travel funding for the frontline extension workers. Krishi Sewa Kendra was supported by the District Agriculture Development Office with about three-four specialists.
Four to five specialists used to be stationed at the former District Agriculture Development Office in Kathmandu. After Nepal went federal, local governments were established, and there was not enough human resource to go around. The important thing to consider here is the operational capacity of the agriculture unit in the local government. Do they have the human resource? Do they have the infrastructure? Do they allocate enough funds to this sector? Do they have a short-, medium- and long-term plan to improve agriculture in their local unit? These are the questions the unit chief of agriculture and the people’s representative at the local level need to seriously consider.
Krishi Gyan Kendra
Krishi Gyan Kendra is located on the premises of the District Agriculture Development Office based in the district headquarters of about 50 plus districts. The centres are important because they connect researchers and farmers. They conduct field research and demonstrate new technology on their farms, provide an open laboratory to farmers, transfer technology by providing regular training to youths and farmers, and train agriculture extension workers based in the local units.
Nepal’s Krishi Gyan Kendra was largely inspired by India’s Krishi Vigyan Kendra. The Indian centre has a minimum of 20 hectares of farmland to set up demonstration and research plots for various crops depending on their importance in any particular region. It is an integrated farm with crop areas, laboratory space, staff quarters, training halls, hostel accommodation for trainees and a canteen. Each centre has a multi-disciplinary team headed by a senior scientist and consisting of agronomists, horticulturists, soil specialists, economists, plant protectionists, sociologists and extensionists. The team comprises people who are both field researchers and trainers. Thus they provide a complete package to farmers or would-be farmers. Annually, each centre trains 2,100 farmers, 390 youths and 580 farm women with improved technology in the cropping system, processing and marketing.
In Nepal, the role of Krishi Gyan Kendra as a knowledge resource centre is very important to expand commercial agriculture. But we need to follow the Indian model because Nepal's present approach may not be effective. The research, extension and business leaders of agriculture need to reposition Nepal in such a way that we decelerate imports and accelerate exports. The country has about 30 million mouths to feed, and about one-quarter of the global population lives next door. Our focus should be on what can be grown competitively, what gives us maximum benefit, what is necessary for the Nepali diet, and what are the import needs of our neighbours and others. To achieve all this, strong research at the national, regional and local levels is of utmost importance. Local-level research can be conducted at Krishi Gyan Kendra, where excellent research findings can be tested and transferred to farmers.
To modernise Nepali agriculture, the technology, training and exposure needed by farmers should be taken to their doorsteps. The approach has been tested and proven in India, but we need to adapt it to our conditions. India currently has 706 centres, and is planning to have one in each of the 732 districts. Nepal can begin by upgrading all the 18 agriculture/horticulture farm centres in different agro-climatic zones into agriculture knowledge centres and equip them with infrastructure, human resource and funds. Many of these centres have farmland but limited infrastructure and human resource.
Follow the Indian model
In Province 2, which lies in a tropical region, there are two horticulture centres—the Tropical Regional Horticulture Centre in Sarlahi, and the Tropical Regional Horticulture Centre in Janakpur. These two centres could be converted into Krishi Gyan Kendras by adding other components of agriculture besides horticulture crops. They should have a multi-disciplinary team led by a senior scientist and subject matter specialists in all relevant disciplines. The current infrastructure should be upgraded so that there can be crop testing plots, demonstration plots, lecture halls, laboratories, staff quarters, trainee hostels and guest houses. The centres should be given targets to train farmers or youths or female farmers so that they can reach out to all potential stakeholders.
Can Krishi Gyan Kendra help accelerate agriculture modernisation in Nepal? In the present form, the centres may not be able to contribute significantly to agriculture modernisation. But if they emulate India's Krishi Vigyan Kendra, they can succeed in becoming a vehicle for commercialisation of agriculture in Nepal.
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