Ecosystem-based commercial agriculture: Towards transforming conventional agriculture and forestry into climate smart, attractive and socially prestigious business in Nepal

Nepal has a comparative advantage in developing sustainable agriculture; and the existence of some good practices that are scattered across the nation can be an asset to this direction. But efforts are still lacking to consolidate these good practices into a viable system of value chain. There is no any appropriate agribusiness model to apply under such situation. The sector is still mainly dominated by subsistence farming, traditional farming practices, land fragmentation, and low level of knowledge and suffers with low productivity and production. The sector is struggling to catch up with rapid changes in terms of new technologies, viable products, emerging markets and business possibilities. There is a widespread negative perception among the local people towards farming as menial, tedious and an un-prestigious employment partially due to small remuneration and the use of traditional farming practices. These factors have led the rural people, especially youths, to migrate to urban areas and abroad in search of better livelihood opportunities and higher incomes, thus leaving their children and elderly family behind. This has been negatively affecting the technological up-gradation, which would increase production and the success of rural entrepreneurial activities.

In order to tap the huge potential that exist in Nepal’s agriculture sector and address the challenges of resource degradation, fragmented land holdings, erratic climate systems, poor market linkages and labor shortages currently being faced by this sector, ANSAB has envisioned a new program named Ecosystem-based Commercial Agriculture (ECA),which aims to transform the traditional forestry and agriculture into climate smart, attractive and socially prestigious business. A climate smart ECA system, as envisioned by ANSAB, increases the production and productivity in a sustainable way; improves the resilience of agro-ecosystems and people to climate change; reduces/removes green house gases; and attract youths and make it socially prestigious generating better remuneration. The ECA builds on the good results and best practices gained through ANSAB’s programs aimed at building prosperous communities through farm and forest based enterprises.

With financial assistance from blue moon fund (bmf), ANSAB has started some of the initial key components of ECA that are crucial to test its effectiveness, make a ground for efficiency testing and develop a program for scaling-up. With the bmf support, we have a) conceptualized the ECA system with two major components – farming systems with appropriate inputs, technologies and practices; and community-based capitalism with fair and green value chain – an agri-business model; b) established an experimentation center for developing and testing technologies, and demonstration, c) identified and oriented a lead firm, which has a long-term commitment for promoting ECA value-chain; d) piloting the farming and business model with the lead firm and communities in peri-urban areas of Kathmandu and Nawalparasi districts.