Agriculture 2.0

June 4, 2017 01:00 AM Bhairab Raj Kaini


Each village council should have its own agricultural plan based on the local needs so that it is self-reliant on food.

With the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015, a three-tier governance system has been introduced: national, provincial and local. In this context, all old municipalities and village development committees (over 3,900 of them) have been restructured into 744 local units grouped under four categories: Metropolitan Council, Sub-metropolitan Council, Municipality Council and Village Council. All 75 district development committees (DDCs) are going to be replaced by new 75 district coordination committees (DCCs) that will have much less power than the DDCs. But in the case of local units, powers and resources that were heretofore centralized will now reach villages. The services that were provided by district administration will now be provided through these local units. 

In this context it is important to start making these structural adjustments right away for quick and efficient service delivery. As of now, the institutional arrangements for providing services to the people in Nepal are based on 1 nation, 5 regions, 14 zones, 75 districts, 58 municipalities, and 3,915 Village Development Committees (VDCs). At the center, there are ministries for policy formulation, national standard setting, regulation, coordination, monitoring and evaluation; while the departments under the ministries are responsible for program implementation. At present, central organizations are strong but organizations at service delivery level are weak. 

Under the agricultural sector, which includes agriculture, livestock, irrigation, and land management, there are currently four ministries: Land Reform Ministry, Irrigation Ministry, Agriculture Ministry and Livestock Ministry. We also have to remember that there are three basic pillars for sustainable development of Nepali agriculture: a) Land, b) Irrigation, and c) Technology. Unless these three pillars work in tandem, no agriculture intervention can be effective. Forestry, livestock and crop production are integrated in Nepali farming.

By contrast, agricultural organizations established for service delivery are disintegrated. Because of this, the functioning linkages among these three pillars are weak. 
In order to strongly link these pillars, the four ministries should be amalgamated. Likewise, as implementation of agricultural-related decisions has been shifted to the provinces and local councils, all central departments should be adjusted into the provincial level. Existing central organizations under these departments should also be downsized and adjusted accordingly.

Similarly, the existing government farms, training centers and regional laboratories should be placed under the provinces and district level agriculture and livestock offices should be merged to establish new Local Agriculture Development Offices. Each local council should have one such well-established office with adequate technical staff.
This restructuring will require massive re-distribution of civil servants from central, regional and district level organizations to new provincial and local bodies, and new civil servants can be hired on need basis. But motivating civil servants to work in provinces or local level will be an arduous task. 

With independent national, provincial, and local civil service, issues of recruitment, resource management and coordination will also be more complex. As Nepal is a largely rural agriculture-based economy, there will be demand for many kinds of experts in village councils. But can the village councils arrange employ enough technical staff through locally-generated resources?

This kind of all-out administrative restructuring will require not only new set of organizations and employees at provincial and local levels but also new working systems, standards and procedures. 

Similarly, the issue of coordination will get more complicated. No village council will have a perfect team of experts. And local units might not be in a position to use the right technology or to arrange for required production inputs. So two type of coordination, horizontal and vertical, will be needed. The horizontal coordination will apply to village councils that need to work complementarily and the vertical coordination to local governments, provincial governments and the central government.

The departments and other provincial organizations will have to support the new local agriculture development local offices, technically and financially, in addition to helping with resource mobilization. In the agricultural sector, the resource centers for skill training, technology verification and input production will probably be located at provincial level. Unless there are strong linkages between these resource centers and the local offices, science-based agriculture is not possible in Nepal. Besides, the provincial organizations will also have to work as a bridge between the central organizations and the local offices in order to build up human resource of local institutions.

The role of central organizations should be to support provincial organizations in issues related to policy, regulation, external trade, technology, and fund-collection from development partners. As many agencies will be involved in agriculture development, there should be coordination committees with key stakeholders at all levels.

The traditional agriculture practiced in Nepal has low productivity and high cost of production, ultimately making their products less competitive. As a result, the import of both the types and quantities of agricultural commodities are increasing every year.

Nepalis in 31 districts are in food deficit. So, in order to be self-reliant, each village council should have its own agricultural plan based on local needs. But this will be possible only when elected leaders start working on this structural adjustment right away.

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