Nepal is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world.
ACIAR has supported collaborative research in Nepal since the early 1990s, including projects on small ruminants, wheat and legumes. There is now scope for improved integration of soil, water, crop, livestock and tree components of the farming systems, and to use technology to make individual components more productive.
Nepal became a federal democratic republic in 2008, ending 240 years of monarchy. Nepal is recovering from a 10-year civil conflict, ending in 2006, in which thousands died or disappeared, and from one of the worst disasters in its history, the earthquakes of 2015 which killed 9,000 people and injured 22,000 more.
Nepal’s overall development progress has been slow. While Nepal has reduced poverty rates over the past twenty years, the country remains the poorest in South Asia. In 2016, Nepal ranked 144 out of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index. 15% of the population lives below the income poverty line, down from 53% in 2003–04. The earthquakes may have pushed 700,000 (2.5 to 3.5% of the population) into poverty, and reconstruction after the 2015 earthquakes set back Nepal’s short- to medium-term economic growth. Nepal struggles with disparities and inequalities between regions and social groups; and discrimination based on gender, caste and ethnicity traps people in poverty. Political instability, constitutional uncertainty and highly centralised government all make it difficult for the government to deliver services effectively.
Agriculture contributes nearly a third of the country’s GDP, and two-thirds of the population work in agriculture.
The Agriculture Development Strategy (2014) outlines the vision for self-reliant, sustainable, competitive, and inclusive agriculture that drives economic growth, and improves livelihoods and food and nutrition security. The 20-year strategy aims to halve poverty in less than ten years through an agriculture-led economy. It aims to increase productivity and irrigation coverage. The strategy will increase farm land ownership or joint ownership by women.
The strategy will also guide policies which include women, and states that all agricultural programs must benefit women. It promotes women organisations and agro-enterprises led by women. It recommends equal wages for women labourers, recognising women as independent farmers, ensuring women’s access to means of production, enhancing their leadership, and improving their position in the government, non-government and business. It promotes action to raise awareness of women’s rights to land and build women’s capacity to manage irrigation, water resources and finances.
Degrading resources, underdeveloped agricultural institutions and policies, and lack of productive technologies and mechanisation all make it difficult to improve Nepalese agriculture. The lowland Terai rice–wheat farming systems (an extension of the Ganges Plain of India) has different problems from the mixed crop–livestock–tree farming systems of the hills and mountains.
Australia and Nepal have a longstanding relationship strengthened though development co-operation and personal connections. The Australian Government and private sector have helped to developed Nepal’s economy and society through activities and assistance in education, health, hydro-electricity, sustainable forestry management, and livestock and grain management
Consultations with ACIAR senior research staff and stakeholders in Nepal identified priorities for ACIAR collaboration. Increased farm and forest productivity will improve food and nutrition security and enhance livelihoods. ACIAR reassessed priorities in the Middle Hills districts affected by the earthquakes in 2015.
ACIAR is exploring co-operative research linkages with Nepal, eastern India and Bangladesh, which have common agricultural difficulties across the alluvial plains of Nepal, eastern India and Bangladesh. These linkages especially focus on conservation agriculture.