Agriculture employs two-thirds of the population in Nepal. Simone McCourtie/World Bank
Parbati Chaudhary, a farmer in Southern Nepal, had a problem. She wanted to start planting around the end of June—as she and fellow farmers had done in the past—but changes in the climate have made traditional farming practices less effective, and no one was confident about making one of the most important decisions of the year. “We are not sure of the time for planting because rainfall is unpredictable,” she explains.
Her experience is shared by many: in Nepal, agriculture employs two-thirds of the population and contributes one-third of the country’s gross domestic product. Yet lack of dependable weather forecast services and weak infrastructure that limit farmer access to markets are exacerbated by an increasing number of unusual weather events caused by global warming. These events threaten the sector’s future—as well as farmers’ livelihoods.
In response, IFC, with support from the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), part of the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), is working to help Nepal overcome these challenges.
Nepal is especially vulnerable to climate change, as Chaudhary sees firsthand. Some of the most obvious consequences include rising temperatures, increases in the frequency and intensity of floods, and changes in monsoon patterns. All jeopardize gains made in farmer productivity.
Just as soil must be prepared for crops, IFC and PPCR are laying the foundation for a climate-smart business model that promotes farmers’ resilience and increases productivity across the South Asia region.
The program started with an in-depth diagnostic study to identify crops and regions in Nepal particularly vulnerable to climate change. IFC then worked with leading agribusiness firms so they could start providing smallholder farmers with technology and innovative climate-smart practices to help them adapt to the changing climate.
These practices include, for example, the adoption of higher-yielding crop varieties that are more resistant to extreme weather conditions, and the introduction of new practices in soil fertility and crop care.
Additionally, new agricultural water management practices are allowing farmers to mitigate the effects of unpredictable rainfall patterns and increased evaporation caused by higher temperatures.
The program, designed as a template to help countries facing similar challenges related to climate change, has already been replicated in Bangladesh.
Nepal’s climate isn’t the only thing that’s changing—the demographics of agricultural sector workers are, too.
Due in part to the large numbers of Nepalese men who have left the country for foreign work, women in Nepal are now more dependent on agriculture as a source of employment than men. Ninety-one percent of employed women work in agriculture, versus 64 percent for men. So climate-related threats to agriculture affect Nepalese women’s economic health and status in numbers that are far different from the past.
Recognizing this shift, the IFC-PPCR project has tailored the delivery of training and other services to the needs of women farmers such as recruiting female farm extension workers and arranging training schedules that are more suitable to women’s availability.
The private sector has a clear role to play in increasing the resilience and competitiveness of the agribusiness sector in Nepal. By providing farmers like Chaudhary with tools and technology, we offer a way for the country to adapt to the effects of climate change.
Learn more about IFC’s work in Climate Change at: www.ifc.org/climatebusiness
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Published in October 2016