A new joint initiative of the Government of Nepal, UNDP and the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the Value Chain Development of Fruits and Vegetables Project, was officially launched amidst an inception workshop held on 21 November.
Over 70 decision-making officers, development partners, agriculture technology researchers, practitioners, and extension workers discussed on several ways to tackle postharvest losses and maximizing the untapped agricultural potential in Nepal.
Agriculture matters as 28% of the national Gross Domestic Product comes from the sector and more than 60% of the population are either directly or indirectly associated. The diversity in agro-ecological environment also gives a good opportunity of growing fruit and vegetable crops in Nepal.
However, Mr. Chiranjibi Adhikari, National Project Manager, said that “limited access to extension to smallholder farmers and a lack of postharvest technology and marketing skills have been obstacles to agriculture development,”. He mentioned that the project will focus on strengthening the value chains of selected fruit and vegetables and increase incomes for farmers.
Emphasizing on the importance of coordination with local governments, Mr. Bhoj Raj Sapkota, Senior Crop Development Officer, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, said “To make the project successful, we need to understand the current extension system and strategize how the project will work with government officials at local level.”
In the technical discussion, Dr. Surendra Lal Shrestha, Principal Scientist, the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, showed the data that 20-35% of fruit and 15-30% of vegetables are lost during postharvest stages (handling). “Nepal has only 35 cold storages with an average capacity of 3,000mt. We need more facility and technologies to reduce postharvest losses” he added.
The presentations were followed by constructive feedback and suggestions from the floor. The development of gender-friendly technology; the creation of a linkage between production support and business development; and innovation in using wasted resources for other purposes were discussed.
Addressing the programme, Chairperson of the National Farmers’ Commission, Mr. Chitra Bahadur Shrestha, said the project will empower smallholder farmers and uplift their livelihood.
The project aimed at raising the incomes of nearly 10,000 smallholder farmers through strengthening the value chain of fruit and vegetable production in the country.