Although Nepal is a country of overwhelming majority of small farmers whose role is prominent in any major change in the country, they rarely get any kind of recognition at the national level.
Having long experiences and association with small farmers, Chief Executive officer of Sana Kisan Bikas Bank Jalan Kumar Sharma has finally organized a summit of small farmers at Kathmandu’s five star hotel.
At the summit, Sharma invited the father of small farmer Shree Krishna Upadhyaya as the chair of the inaugural function. During his tenure as the general manager in the Agriculture Development Bank, Upadhyaya initiated small farmer development project, as the father of present micro-credit campaigns.
Even before the beginning of micro-credit program in Bangladesh by Yunush, under the leadership of Upadhyaya, a group of young employees working in Agriculture Development Bank experimented with the small farmer development program. Interestingly, Sharma was one of them.
With scholarship by Israeli government to students belonging to small farmers, Israel has made efforts to improve the technical capability of poor and small farmers of Nepal. CEO Sharma was again the key person to make this arrangement possible.
Charge d' Affaires of Israeli Embassy highlighted the importance of the exchange program recently going on between Nepal and Israel. Having expertise on cooperatives and small farmers, Israel’s training program is likely to bring changes in Nepal’s farming patterns.
During the mid-1980s, there was no micro credit institution to support small farmers and lend them money. However, Upadhyaya introduced this in two villages, at Tupuche in Nuwakot and another village in Dhanusha.
As small farmer development project brought drastic transformation in the life of rural farmers, it turned into a Sana Bikas Bank Ltd, which brought over 850 farmers from 55 districts to the capital.
“We are proud to host the summit. As Nepal’s overwhelming numbers of farmers are small farmers, it is impossible to alleviate poverty without improving their livelihood,” said Jalan Kumar Sharma. “ Our experiences have already shown that small farmers can transform the agriculture system to improve the livelihood.”
“The government has announced more facilities targeting farmers like subsidized interest rate on bank loans and customs tariff subsidy to import agriculture equipment, among others. Expansion of the road network is also in our priority so that farmers can bring their produce to the market,” said Minister for Finance Ram Sharan Mahat, inaugurating the summit.
“Farmers need to exploit all the opportunities to boost production and to create more businesses like livestock farming, horticulture and commercial crops which need less land. So it would be better that small farmers focus on high value crops, horticulture, livestock farming and others which can be done on less amount of land," said Dr. Mahat.
“The need for farmers is to adopt risk mitigation measures to reduce the dangers of climate change. Thirty five percent of population is vulnerable to climate change risks and adopting risk mitigation measures is essential for sustainable poverty reduction,” said Dr. Govinda Raj Pokharel, vice chairperson of National Planning Commission (NPC).
“Land is vital among all the means of production that is why the government should bring land-pooling policy first and ensure distribution of agricultural inputs to farmers and provide access to finance to raise production,” said Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) Governor Yubaraj Khatiwada.
“With 4.4 million farmers united in cooperatives across the country, agricultural cooperatives could provide the foundation for the economic transformation,” said Keshav Badal, Chair of the National Cooperatives Board.
“Poverty could be lessened with the effort of small farmers by implementing Bio Agricultural System in agriculture sector,” said, Shree Krishna Upadhyaya, Chair of the main organizing committee.
After debating intensively, small farmers have vowed to make concerted efforts toward alleviating poverty by 2025. Issuing a 19-point Kathmandu Declaration at the end of the Small Farmers’ Summit 2014 in the capital, small farmers concluded that infrastructure development, gender inclusion, entrepreneurship and employment, market, among others, should be dealt with as interconnected issues for poverty alleviation.
Organized by Sana Kisan Bank Ltd in collaboration with nine other institutions that are providing micro finance services in the rural areas of the country, the summit decided to expand the financial and non-financial services to more than one million poor families of 70 districts by 2025.
“Collective efforts will be made to increase access to finance for poor and marginalized communities through Sana Kisan Agricultural Cooperatives Ltd and other similar institutions to alleviate poverty and for capital formation,” the declaration read.
Livestock farming is important for the alleviation of rural poverty. The declaration also emphasized the need to encourage livestock farming to increase export of dairy and meat products.
At a time when lack of roads is creating problems, farmers have demanded that the government build agricultural roads, storage houses and ensure market for their agro products.
Addressed by political leaders, experts and experts like Hari Krishna Upadhyaya,Pitamber Prasad Acharya, former vice chairperson of National Planning Commission Dr. Shanker Sharma, Harihar Dev Panta, CA member Keshab Badal, the 2-day summit was full of discussion on issues ranging from cooperatives to micro-credit institutions and various ways to improve agriculture productivity.
“Economic development of the country is possible only through the development of agriculture. As our farm land is fragmented, the government should encourage strengthening of small farmers and cooperatives for mass production,” CPN-UML leader Bharat Mohan Adhikari said.
Similarly, UCPN (Maoist) leader Barshaman Pun said the government should make sure that small farmers get reasonable price for their products. “Small farmers are not getting good price for their products, but consumers are forced to pay high price by middlemen. This practice should be brought to an end by making sure that farmers get justifiable price for their products,” he added
They also urged the government to strengthen the District Agriculture Offices to provide better agriculture extension services. The summit is being organized by Sana Kisan Bikas Bank — a microfinance bank — and Nepal Agriculture Cooperative Central Federation Ltd to identify the real problems faced by small farmers and build strong institutions in rural areas to uplift their living standards.
Although many people played a role in different places, the credit to bring over 800 farmers to the five star hotel goes to Jalan Kumar Sharma. The exposure given to small farmers will definitely yield the results.