Workshop on Agricultural Mechanization in South Asia: Trends, Patterns and Implications for Agricultural Development in Nepal
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agricultural Development, Government of Nepal, and Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS), organized a two day workshop on Agricultural Mechanization in South Asia: Trends, Patterns and Implications for Agricultural Development in Nepal on 26-27 April 2016 in Hotel Annapurna, Kathmandu, Nepal. Organized under the Policy Reform Initiative Project (PRIP) grant funded by USAID, the main objective of the workshop was to gain insights into the evolving best practices in agricultural mechanization and good models of Custom Hiring Services (CHS) to address the multi-faceted challenges and opportunities in promoting and up-scaling CHS practices in Nepal. The workshop brought together policymakers, professionals, experts, representatives of farmer organizations, entrepreneurs, civil society and donor agencies from Nepal and neighboring countries. Over 80 participants attended the two day workshop. Government officials representing the Ministry of Agricultural Development, Ministry of Livestock Development, Ministry of Commerce. Ministry of Industries, Ministry of Finance and the National Planning Commission were among the participants from the government sector.
The workshop focused around 4 thematic areas as follows:
· Agricultural Mechanization in South Asia: Issues, Concerns and Challenges (4 presentations)
· Innovations in Rental Markets of Agricultural Machinery Services (5 presentations)
· Agricultural Mechanization Policies and Recent Innovations in Custom Hiring Services (CHS) in Nepal (4 presentations)
· Panel Discussion on Proposed Agricultural Mechanization Promotion Strategy in Nepal (6 panelists)
The deliberations were led by 15 presentations organized around the above 4 themes. The presentations were contributed by 19 national and international experts drawing on their studies and experiences from several countries of the region and beyond including Nepal, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Nigeria
Giving opening remarks as Chief Guest, Honorable Haribol P. Gajurel Miister for Agricultural Development, shed light on the government’s Agriculture Development Strategy and the recently announced 27 point priorities of the Ministry of Agricultural Development both of which have put forward agricultural mechanization as priority. Mr. Uttam Kumar Bhattarai, Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development, giving the chairperson’s remarks in the opening session, highlighted the government’s recent policies and priorities to promote agricultural mechanization in the country and affirmed the government’s comment to implement the announced policies. Likewise, Honorable Vijay B. Kunwar, from the chair of the panel discussion session emphasized the need for the strategy to enhance the access of small holder farmers on agricultural machinery and equipment not only in the accessible areas but in the remote regions of the country where labor scarcity in agriculture is alarming. Mr. Uday Kant Thakur, Secretary of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, who chaired the closing session, expressed satisfaction on the outcome of the workshop and remarked that the recommendations will be useful if implemented properly. Similarly, giving his special remarks in the opening session, USAID Mission Director Mr. Peter Malnik drew attention to the multifaceted challenges of promoting agricultural mechanization in a country like Nepal characterized by small holding, difficult terrain and remoteness.
Major outcome of the workshop are summarized below:
One consensus that emerged in the workshop was that mechanization was compulsion not just choice in the context not only of modernizing agriculture and gaining growth but also to keep agriculture going. The scope of agricultural mechanization should encompass farm operations across crops, livestock and irrigation to post harvest handling. It was also agreed that small holding would not be a constraint for mechanization but unfriendly infrastructure (physical and policy) were. The varied typology of custom hiring services that have been autonomously evolving (cooperative or joint ownership, Pvt. Sector; Farmer to Farmer (FTF); (government sourced and market sourced) should be allowed to grow mainly by policy than by regulation; there is no general model of mechanization and shouldn't opt for one. Mechanization is a multi-sectoral cross cutting sphere (R&D, corporate, farmer, manufacturer, government). Mechanization should be scaled properly to country and location specific (e.g. scale-fit and location-fit and crop/activity-fit technology). Agricultural mechanization has a bearing on economic policies, energy policies, rural industrialization facilitates and are linked with rural transformation and mechanization; these factors need to be taken into account.