Rehabilitation of Degraded Land through Organic Farming

Degradation of mountain ecosystems is a global malaise, and the Midhills constitute a threatened ecosystem. More than ninety percent of the people in the Midhills are subsistence farmers, therefore, they rely on natural resources such a soil, water, forests, and pasture to meet their daily needs. The use of natural resources in the Midhills is approaching the limits of the natural carrying capacity. Vegetation cover is extensively destroyed; soil fertility declines and water cycles are affected. Various efforts were/are being made to revert back the deforestation and poverty reduction in the past and significant gains have been achieved in the restoration of forest areas from community forestry and livelihood improvement interventions of the government however, no positive impacts have been observed from such interventions on sustainable land management and development. Productivity of community natural resources agriculture, and forests is low and energy conservation efforts are minimal, further adding complexity to the vicious circle of poverty and environmental degradation.

Agriculture production in Nepal has been intensified with a expansion in pesticides, chemical fertilizers and other agro-chemicals use to meet growing peoples' demands for food. Indiscriminate use of agrochemicals has however resulted in several adverse impacts on ecosystem, animal and human health and soil fertility and economy of the country in general and rural farmers in particular.

There is large amount of soil and nutrient losses from the hills and mountain of Nepal. A study in the mid hills of Nepal revealed a soil loss of 20 tons/ha/year from rain-fed marginal land, with a nutrient loss of 300 kg of organic matter (OM), 15 kg of Nitrogen, 20 kg phosphorus and 40 kg potash (Carson 1992, Tripathi et al 1999). Necessary on-farm soil conservation and fertility management approaches are vital to sustainable agriculture and innovative technological breakthrough. It is important to develop crop/technology that do not aggravate the problem.

Although average fertilizer consumption in Nepal is 26 kg/ha as of 2002 (SAIC, 2004), which is very low as compared to other SAARC countries (166kg/ha in Bangladesh, 197kg/ha in India), the unbalanced use of fertilizers is widespread in the country specifically in areas where commercial production of crops has already started. There is also a substantially increasing rate of pesticides consumption in agricultural use (131.3 Mt./year). Of the total pesticide consumption, about 40-50% is used in rice, 10-20% in vegetables and the rest in cash crops (PPD, 2007).

Increasing use of agro-chemicals, higher production cost and deteriorating ecosystem health have advocated the need to change traditional and external input use agriculture towards safe and sustainable organic production i.e promotion of organic farming (FAO, 2009, 2011, ICIMOD, 2010).

Organic farming is an integrated farming system which involves technical aspects (soil, agronomy, and weed and pest management) and economic aspects (input, output and marketing) as well as human health. It is the most widely recognized alternative farming system for sustainable production without seriously harming the environment and ecology (Lampkin, 1990; Sharma, 2001; FAO, 2009, 2011).

WODES under the UNDP/GEF/SGP, is running a project on "Rehabilitation of Degraded Land through Organic Farming" in the Dhading district. The project is primarily focused on:

I. Promoting organic farming: Agricultural intensification II. Promoting the use of Bio-fertilisers and pesticides III. Promotion of agro-forestry/private forestry and Public land Forestry IV. Afforestation/reforestation V. Intensive management of community based forestry VI. Promoting users friendly water harvesting methods and technology VII. Establishing forage resource centers and micro animal breeding centre VIII. Energy Conservation: Promoting alternate energy technology (AET/s)