Cooperation between the government of Nepal and IRRI began in 1985. This covers research on improvement of rainfed lowland and irrigated rice varieties, plant pathology, entomology, soil science, agronomy, and farming systems. It also includes education and training of Nepalese scientists and technology transfer.
In 1985, a cooperative agreement between Nepal and IRRI was forged for scientific and technical cooperation on rice and rice-based farming systems research. Two years later, collaborative research was agreed when Director General Purushottam P. Gorkhaly of Nepal’s Department of Agriculture (DOA) visited IRRI.
In 1995, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Plant Sciences Programme of the Overseas Development Administration and IRRI was signed. Several collaborative projects between IRRI and Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) were conducted and completed. Their partnership was strengthened in 1999.
IRRI-Nepal Country Office was established in 2005 to facilitate collaboration on different rice researches and rice-based system activities. It also officially celebrated the International Year of Rice organized by the NARC, DOA, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. The government reportedly declared June 29 or Ashad 15 during the year as ‘National Rice Day.’
After the IRRI-Nepal Country Office was launched, the country’s rice knowledge bank was opened in the NARC website. 21 rice technology fact sheets were made available in the website. Three national and four regional trainings were organized to raise awareness about the rice knowledge bank and to develop the fact sheets. Agricultural scientists, extension officers, and NGO personnel participated in the trainings.
Strong collaborative activities continue to be a major driving force to improve the current rice situation in Nepal.
Developing sustainable rice production sysrems
IRRI is involved in a project that aims to raise the productivity of flood-prone and salt-affected lowlands in South Asia. A seed business model became part of the project in Nepal where key seed specialists, government officials, private companies, community groups or cooperatives, and others became involved. The target stakeholders of the project are women, farmers, extension staff, and ethnic minority groups. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) also supports another IRRI project that aims to enhance poor rural people's access to improved agricultural technologies especially in stress-prone areas.
In Nepal, the focus is on improving upland rice systems and drought-prone lowlands by doing participatory varietal selection (PVS) activities with farmers and introducing improved crop management options. The latter included modern cultivation practices on rice and maize, integrated disease and pest management, resource conservation technologies, effective use of compost; soil conservation practices, principles and importance of community-based organization, and others. The project also included a seed production component for upland rice farmers and establishment of community seed banks.
Breeding hardy rice varieties
IRRI is working with the Regional Agricultural Research Station in Nepal to evaluate promising drought breeding lines and find specific genes with consistent effect on yields under drought. IRRI is also working with multiple partners to develop new hybrid rice varieties, and to generate widely accessible databases on crop improvement for tracking the diffusion of rice varieties. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) supports IRRI in a project where stress-tolerant rice varieties are being developed.
Farmers benefited from reduced labor and costs, less seedling breakage, and increased yield through various technologies brought by Nepal and IRRI's collaboration.
More accessible information sources
Along with the establishment of the IRRI Nepal Office in 2005, the Nepal Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB) was simultaneously made available in the NARC website. It compiled several fact sheets in technology. Trainings were organized to communicate these fact sheets and the Nepal RKB to NGOs, extension workers, and scientists.
Better rice varieties
To date, NARC has released 60 rice varieties both for irrigated and rainfed environments with IRRI genotypes contributing more than 60% of the released varieties in Nepal.
A total of 108 Nepalese scholars completed their studies and short-training courses from 1966 to 2010. Of this number, 51 held post-doctoral degrees, 47 finished master's degrees, and 10 were on-the-job-trainees.
Agriculture forms an important part of Nepal's economy. Besides corn, wheat, potato, millet, and various legumes like lentil and soybean, rice is of major significance to the people of Nepal.
In a 2008 report by the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP), coarse rice was said to be a main food source of poor households. It is a major staple crop in the country as it constitutes a primary part of the local diet.
In terms of total monthly food expenditure, as much as 34% is spent on rice. It supplies up to 40% per capita of the total calorie intake amount, and is also considered a main source of protein besides wheat and pulses.
Among cereals, rice ranks high in terms of harvested area. Although rice is considered the most important crop nationally in terms of harvested area, its production is still insufficient to meet the domestic demand. Thus, rice is among one of the country's imported agricultural products with over 7.5 millions of US dollars expended annually for importation. Nepal is among Asian countries that are most susceptible to damage from the rise in food prices due to the vulnerable segments of its population. About 40% is reported chronically food insecure, 48% of children under the age of 5 is underweight and 39% of these are severely malnourished.
Rice growing conditions and challenges
Some of the constraints that face rice farming in Nepal include being dependent on and highly influenced by weather or climatic conditions, low agricultural productivity, lack of modern technology (i.e. adequate irrigation infrastructure), inadequate or difficult access to inputs (good seeds, fertilizers, etc.) or credit, topography of land area, and small farm size holding. In view of land area owned, Nepal can be seen as a country of small and marginal farmers. A major challenge will be meeting the demand of a growing population.
Mountains reportedly occupy 35% of Nepal and only 2% of that area is suitable for cultivation so further expansion of agricultural production has to take place in the terai and hilly areas of the country. These agroecological zones, however, already host 93% of the total population and show trends that indicate further urbanization and loss of cultivable land.
1st Floor, CG Block, NASC Complex
Dev Prakash Shastri Marg, Pusa
New Delhi-110012, India
Dr. Bhaba Tripathi
c/o Nepal Agricultural
Research Council (NARC)
Singh Durbar Plaza,
Tel: +97 7 1426 2650, +97 7 1421 8823
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- Sub1 rice varieties--in the eyes of farmers from Bangladesh and Nepal
Media release and news items
- Profiles of successful seed producer farmers in Nepal
- Visit of Nepal's agriculture secretary strengthens partnership with IRRI
- Rice Science Academy conducts training on reducing postharvest losses
- Bangladesh, India and Nepal sign historic agreement in the evaluation of rice varieties