Quality Seed for Agriculture and Nutrition in Nepal

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Crop Genetics

Abstract

Nepal is one of the most undernourished countries in the world ranking 144th on the Human Development Index (HDI) out of 195 countries and territories (HDI 2016 Report, p.226). According to UNICEF, more than 50,000 children die each year in Nepal, with malnutrition as the underlying cause for more than 60 per cent of these deaths. Half of the children in Nepal are underweight and 75% of pregnant women are anaemic and experience poor nutrition. A major contributing factor to this problem is the inadequate state of agriculture in Nepal, especially the limited availability of good quality seed, poor choice of crop cultivars and inefficient cultivation practises. This suppresses the agricultural economy and severely limits the availability of nutritious, healthy food especially in the mountainous regions where the difficult terrain prevents access to local markets.

Our project addresses United Nations Sustainable Development Goals SDG2 (Zero Hunger: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture). We will develop private sector enterprise that builds on international efforts to improve health in Nepal including the USAID programme Knowledge-based Integrated Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition (KISAN, 2013-2018). The two intractable challenges we address in our research are chronic malnutrition and the poor state of agriculture in Nepal. We will establish a partnership between the John Innes Centre and CN Seeds Ltd in the UK, and Sarba Shrestha Seeds Ltd Pvt in Nepal. We will undertake knowledge exchange activities between the organisations to transfer skills and methods in plant health and crop improvement technologies. We will identify nutritious brassica vegetable cultivars which are rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron, and improve seed packaging technology to improve their cultivation. At a Model Farm in Nepal, we will establish demonstration plots to show farmers about new cultivation methods and how improved seed quality and packaging can improve their yields. We will undertake a monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) audit to evaluate the impact of our work and provide feedback about cultivar preferences, seed performance and the impact of new cultivation practises that will enable us to target future activities more effectively. It will improve agricultural self-sufficiency and the health and well-being of the people of Nepal, reducing their dependence on diet supplements and imported crop produce.

Planned Impact

This I-FLIP project establishes a public-private alliance between researchers in the UK and Nepal. The project will develop the agricultural economy, particularly in poor rural communities, leading to increased production of nutritious, healthy vegetables that will improve diets and reduce malnutrition.

Who will benefit
The principal beneficiaries will be those involved in agricultural production in Nepal, many of whom live in some of the most economically deprived, and remote, areas of the country. Our work will benefit those directly engaged in farming, who are mostly women, and in the production of reliable seed both in public and private industry in Nepal and the UK. Increased stability in production will also support other sectors of Nepalese society, particularly in urban areas, who depend on nutritional sound food being available in local markets and shops. The financial stability of farmers' incomes will also be improved through increased certainty in food production. Additionally, agricultural researchers worldwide involved in crop improvement will benefit as they will gain new knowledge about performance of vegetable crops in Nepal, which can inform crop improvement programmes, and learn how they can target their research to address the challenges faced in developing countries.

Those involved in international aid programmes will benefit because our research will directly build on their efforts and enhance their impact through private sector enterprise. Our project addresses United Nations Sustainable Development Goals SDG2 (Zero Hunger: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture). In 2011, Nepal started to address these issues by joining Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), a global movement uniting national leaders, civil society, donors, businesses, and researchers in a collective effort to improve nutrition. Our project also builds on international efforts to improve health in Nepal including the USAID programme Knowledge-based Integrated Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition (KISAN, 2013-2018).

How will they benefit
The people of Nepal will benefit through improved health and well-being because of increased availability of more nutritious and healthy food grown within the country. This will reduce dependence on vitamin supplements and decrease the risk of diseases including cancer. Nepalese women farmers will benefit because they will have a greater choice of crop cultivars and improved seed quality which will produce higher yields of locally-grown crops; this will reduce dependence on imports, making their businesses more competitive and economically viable. Though our demonstration activities, the confidence of the farmers in their ability to grow crops will increase, further strengthening the agricultural economy in Nepal. Agricultural researchers internationally, both in the public and private sector, will benefit from new information about plant health and performance of vegetable cultivars in Nepal that could be used in breeding programmes. They will also benefit through sharing best practise in achieving impact through demonstration activities, knowledge exchange and the monitoring, evaluation and learning framework that we will develop.

Publications

10 25 50