Impact of Climate Change on Nepal’s Agriculture Sector

As the climate changes and temperature rises, many areas in Nepal will be negatively impacted. One of the sectors that will have to make changes to adapt to climate change is the agriculture sector of Nepal. Most of the population, especially low-income families, heavily relies on agriculture for livelihood. Over 65% of the population depends on agriculture and over 33% of gross domestic product (GDP) comes from the agriculture sector (Selvaraju 17). When agriculture is negatively affected because of natural weather occurrences such as earthquakes, landslides, monsoons, floods, droughts, as well as pest and diseases in the plants, it leads to loss of livelihood and cases of malnutrition due to lack of access to food. As the temperature continues to rise, these events will happen more often due to warmer weather and unusual rain patterns.
Though impacts in the agriculture sector affect most of the Nepalese population, these changes will affect the most vulnerable populations most because they heavily rely on agriculture on a day-to-day basis for consumption as well as income. Due to Nepal’s topography, most of the population lives in the terai and the Hills areas, which is also the area that receives the most amount of rainfall during the monsoon season, which lasts from May to September. The monsoon season brings an abundant amount of rain to the least elevated areas of Nepal and it causes inundation which not only affects the crops that are planted, but also people’s lives because many lose their homes and are misplaced. In addition, because it is very difficult to raise crops on the mountainous areas, over 40% of crop cultivation takes place in the terai (Selvaraju 16). The mountainous regions are very steep, rough and cold, therefore, raising livestock is the main occupation of mountain people and they rely on imports of food from the lower areas. Nepal is divided into five main regions, the terai (60-200m), the siwalik (200-1000m), middle hills (1000m-2500m), high hills (2500-4000m) and the mountains (Himalayas- over 4000m). Though cultivation can occur in the hills through terrace farming, it eventually gets to the point where it is too difficult to raise crops. Nepal’s three main crops are rice (cultivated mainly in the Terai), wheat (grown in the Terai and the valleys of the Himalayas), and maize (hilly regions) and the most vulnerable populations are heavily dependent on these crops (Selvaraju 19). If Nepal’s agriculture sector were to be seriously affected, they would lose income and have to rely on food imports from surrounding countries, which increases their spending.
Although Nepal has made efforts over the past few decades to improve the quality of crops, many of the needed measures have not been implemented. As stated in the Managing climate risks and adapting to climate change in the agriculture sector in Nepal book, “Inefficient use of irrigation water, chemical fertilizers and low-quality seeds, together with a lack of credit facilities, technical advice and mechanization, contribute to the agriculture sector’s vulnerability to climate variability” (Selvaraju 19). Their inability to efficiently use the resources that they have decreases their chances of becoming resilient. However, there are many programs, laws and policies that have been created and implemented that have improved the wellbeing of people in Nepal, again mainly the most vulnerable populations. Programs, laws and policies such as the Agricultural Perspective Plan (APP), the Nepal Agriculture and Food Security Country Investment Plan (2010), the Environmental Protection Act (1996), the National Agriculture Policy (2004), Nepal’s National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA 2010), among many others, have led to poverty alleviation, creation of jobs, better sustainable farming practices, better crops, etc. In order to better respond to these risks, organizations and programs are working to educate farmers on how to properly take care of crops so that they may develop high-value crops, they are trying to improve the technologies that people use, teach people about the importance of forest conservations, help them with water management and water conservation, etc. A lot of the work that has to be done starts with the local communities and goes up from there. This is because it is difficult to build resilience without educating those that are planting the crops before anything else.


Flooding caused by 2017 monsoon.

Citation

Selvaraju, Ramasamy. Managing climate risks and adapting to climate change in the agriculture sector in Nepal. Kathmandu: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2014.

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