Dedicate at least one district for organic farming: NOF
KATHMANDU, Aug 11: Nepal Organic Foundation (NOF) has called on the government to dedicate at least one district for organic farming, citing such agricultural technique improves soil quality, while generating products that are not hazardous to health.
The call was made at a time when the country is facing acute shortage of chemical fertilizers, which has seriously affected plantation of various kinds of crops throughout the country.
“Since fertilizers and pesticides used in organic farming can be generated locally using inexpensive common things like food and human waste, livestock manure and urine, and ashes, it is high time the government promoted organic farming in the country,” Deepak Prakash Baskota, president of Nepal Organic Foundation, told a workshop on ´Current Agricultural Practices and Prospects of Organic Farming for Sustainable Agricultural Development´ organized jointly by World Neighbors and Asia Media Forum in Kathmandu on Friday.
Baskota also suggested that the government take the initiative to launch a pilot project on organic farming in at least one district of the country and extend required subsidy to farmers who wish to migrate to organic farming.
Acknowledging the benefits of organic farming, the government last fiscal year started subsidizing fertilizers for organic farming by allocating Rs 100 million for internal purchase of organic fertilizers. But the amount fades in front of Rs 3.06 billion in subsidy extended to purchase chemical fertilizers in that year.
“Is this allocation of budget sufficient if the government truly wants to promote organic farming in the country,” questioned Puran Bista, president of Asia Media Forum.
The country imported 153,000 tons of chemical fertilizers in the last fiscal year ended July 15, up from 43,000 tons in previous fiscal year. The imported fertilizer, however, fell short of the national demand which stands at 800,000 tons.
If the country were to extend subsidy on the total amount of fertilizers that the country needs, the government will have to fork out Rs 15 billion every year, Baskota said, questioning whether the country can afford such a huge cost. “This makes the case for the need to immediately promote organic farming even stronger.”
In addition to this cost, chemical fertilizers and pesticides that are laced with toxic components pose serious threat to human health and environment due to which the country´s spending on healthcare and environment protection is said to be soaring.
Although Nepal so far has not conducted a detailed survey on impacts of use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, it is said farmers often use more pesticides than needed to protect agricultural products.
“This practice is even followed by farmers who have undergone training, while lack of a body to monitor these activities is making the situation worse,” Bista said. “Worse, there are instances of importing low-grade and banned pesticides into the country through porous Nepal-India border.”
However, Shambhu Khatiwoda of Nepal Agricultural Research Council said many farmers may not be able to immediately migrate to organic farming as use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has raised agricultural productivity.
“A hectare of field can now grow around three tons of paddy these days as against two tons around two decades ago,” he said. “Besides, improved and hybrid seedlings that are being widely used these days require chemical fertilizers.”