Department of Agriculture, Nepal
Title: Rice farming and the livelihood strategies of rice farmers in Nepal
Rajendra Uprety is a PhD candidate at Wageningen University, The Netherlands and study rice intensification process and livelihood dynamics of rice farmers in Nepal for his PhD study. He is the senior agriculture officer of Department of Agriculture, Nepal where he has been working since 1991. He has published more than 15 field based research papers in different national and international journals, proceedings of international conferences, magazines. At present he is working as Irrigation Specialist (International UN Volunteer) in Zambia with UNDP and his main responsibility is to promote innovative Asian agriculture technology is Africa.
Rice is main staple food crop for the people in Nepal. Intensification of rice cultivation is an objective of the Nepalese government to create food self-sufficiency. In Nepal promotion of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is considered to contribute to this strategy. This paper analyses if and how such national objectives coincide with farmer practice. We studied diversity of livelihood strategies of these farmers. We used a factor analysis to find out how various livelihood attributes correlate and how this pattern results in a typology of different livelihood strategies. We observed four major livelihood strategies. Farmers with relatively smaller plots appeared most productive. These farmers (group one and four) invest in new techniques for agricultural intensification, including machinery, to reduce production cost and increase crop yield. In group one; consisting of owner-cultivators, rice is the dominant crop for home consumption. Group four mainly consists of younger farmers, hiring land and now increasingly buying land where they grow vegetables for income and cultivate rice as a second source of income. Farmers in the other two groups grow rice but are less productive and engage less in intensification as their main income source is either from off-farm labour or non-agriculture occupation. For the majority of farmers’ families, rice farming is neither a main activity nor the main source of income. Our analysis raises important questions on how new technologies like SRI are likely to fit with overall agricultural development and with farmers preferences of crop choice and farming strategies.