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Agriculture And Coping Climate Change In Nepal

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Climate change is already accepted as major burning environmental issue in Nepal after it has been listed as 4th most vulnerable country due to the impacts of climate change by Maplecroft in 2010 despite the fact that it is one of the least contributors to global GHGs emissions, emitting 0.027% of global total. Nepal’s worrisome ranking is mainly based on the country’s dire levels of poverty, poor general health and high dependency on agriculture.

In the past decade in Nepal the damage is increasingly evident and has initiated arable land lost to flood and erosion, shifting of snow line and ice coverage, erratic changes in monsoon, water shortages and drought events, disappearing forests in some areas, invasion of exotic species, sharp and sustained decline in food security and threats to biodiversity. These climate induced hazards can have wide and unanticipated effect on environment, and socio-economic sectors including agriculture, food security, biodiversity, water resources, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Poor and vulnerable communities of Nepal, therefore, face dramatic impacts on their livelihood and well-being.

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Climate change is expected to lead to increasing dryness in drought-prone areas and to wetter conditions in wet areas and also a change in weather patterns. The plant varieties currently available in different regions in Nepal may not be adapted to new type of production conditions. The extreme weather phenomenon, including droughts and floods, is expected to induce food vulnerability to the already food insecure 3.4 million people in Nepal and this increases the cost of coping dramatically.

The farming in Nepal is characterized by mixed farming and livestock production systems, which have rich diversity. Forest, home gardens, agroforestry, and productive fields all embed diversity rich maintenance and use practices that increase adaptability and reduce vulnerability. Communities maintain rich species and intraspecific crop diversity both help to manage climatic adversity and meet their other needs. The continued availability and use of agrobiodiversity in Nepalese farming, mainly by smallholder farmers, is likely to play a crucial role in adaptation to climate change trend.

Variable climatic conditions have always been part of agriculture, due to which farmers have developed many ways of managing risks. Searching and exchanging different abiotic stress tolerant crop local varieties and adopting and practicing specific soil and water management practices for marginal areas have long been core activities of farming communities. Climate change introduces new dimension to problem but in rapid way. Rising annual temperatures affect crop growth cycles and reduce crop yield and productivity with altered crop suitability. Erratic rainfall, increases frequency and intensity of floods, and changes in monsoon patterns triggering physical loss of soil and sedimentation problems. Extreme events bring change in land use pattern and alters pattern of crop and variety use. The use of modern hybrid varieties creates condition for extinction of local traditional varieties and narrowing down of genetic resource base and higher dependency on external seeds causing increased vulnerability among resource poor farmers.

In this context, its crucial to search the ways in which the role of agrobiodiversity is recognized as part of the adaptive strategies and to determine provisions conducive to deployment of various coping strategies including existing agrobiodiversity. The unprecedented magnitude and rate of climate change presents great challenges to farmers, researchers and policymakers alike and all need to collaborate at local level to address this problem. Major challenges could be necessity of identification new crop varieties, livestock breeds and fish types to resist or tolerate high temperature and changed water availability, interest towards high yielders, changed cropping pattern and land use practices, etc. These challenges shall create opportunities to make effective use of available agrobiodiversity in adapting climate change to a great extent. Having wide diversity of genetic resource adapted to diversified growth conditions offers opportunity for identification and breeding of required trait. Local varieties are likely to provide significant adaptation to changing climate. Underutilized, neglected and minor crops shall be promoted. Integrated production systems such as home gardens, that involve the maintenance and use of diversity, ensure improved ecosystems. Hence, information on the maintenance and use of agrobiodiversity, an appropriate policy and institutional framework, relevant research and adaptation actions that can be adopted by farmers constitute crucial aspects for optimizing the use of agrobiodiversity and coping and adapting climate change.

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