KATHMANDU, Nov 9: The Ministry of Agriculture Development (MoAD) and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) Trust Fund -- a global initiative to improve food security in poor countries--have started negotiation to launch food security programs that aims to improve nutrition and food production in 19 remote districts of mid-western and far-western regions of the country.
Ram Prasad Pulami, joint secretary at MoAD said the fund is positive during the first phase of dialogue about providing US$ 56 million to Nepal to implement the proposed programs that includes food diversification, improvement in nutrition level and boosting agriculture production and modernizing animal farming in the districts of the regions except Banke, Bardiya, Kailali, Kanchanpur and Dang.
“We completed first phase of negotiation with the fund on implementing food security programs which are expected to improve the overall food availability, distribution and nutrition level in the selected highly food insecure districts,” said Pulami.
Pulami said the modality to implement the programs will be finalized after another round of negotiation.
Under the fund´s assistance which has been extended for six years, the government will implement the programs wherein local people of food insecure districts will be encouraged to use locally produced agro-products, diversify the food habits as well as improve food production.
In the absence of effective programs to improve food security in the remote districts, local people are highly dependent on the subsidized food provided by the government for last few decades. The government has been providing around 150,000 quintals of rice at subsidized rates for food insecure districts through Nepal Food Corporation (NFC) -- the state-owned food distributor.
“The program is expected to reduce the level of malnutrition in the food deficit districts and gradually reduce their dependence for food on external sources,” Pulami further added.
In a recent crop estimation report, MoAD has predicted paddy and maize production to fall by 14.2 percent (720,000 tons) and 10 percent (164,000 tons) respectively this year compared to a year ago. Last year, the government had reported an all time high surplus by 886,000 tons.
Insufficient rainfall, lack of irrigation, insufficient supplies of agriculture inputs such as fertilizers are the major reasons behind the decline in production and productivity in Nepal leading to food deficit.
According to government estimates, a total of 27 dozen districts, which are mainly concentrated in mid-western and far-western regions, will face worse food insecurity if the winter crops -- wheat and barley -- fails this year.