Rice is Nepal’s dominant crop, grown nearly in 1.5 million hectares. Major constraints to productivity include water scarcity, limited suitable land, and shortage of labor. In labor alone, most of the work is done by hand, with manual transplanting, weeding, and harvesting activities requiring up to 90-100 mandays per hectare land. This is equivalent to about NPR 36,800 of the total cost of production excluding other inputs like seed and fertilizers.
Labour cost constitutes 65-70% of total cost of rice production which severely limiting the use of purchased agricultural inputs including mechanization.
These constraints have resulted in low return of investment, making many farmers shift to alternative livelihood options like commercial banana farming, timber plantation, goat and poultry raising, and fish farming. The declining involvement of youth in rice production has also been cited as a factor in the shortage of workers.
DSR technology is seen as one of the most promising solutions to these challenges. Compared to conventional manual transplanting, mechanized direct seeding of rice , supported by best management practices, has been shown to reduce the total cost of production by around 30-40%. Similarly, DSR practices can save 20-25% irrigation water, which in turn can reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming by 16-33%. Combined with the adoption of improved and climate-smart rice varieties, Nepalese farmers will be able to reduce their costs in labor and water, while maintaining or increasing yields and profitability.
IRRI has been implementing ADB-funded pilot projects on climate-smart rice varieties and practices for intensive rice-based systems in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Nepal since December 2017. In Nepal, IRRI collaborated with Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC) at their Regional Agriculture Research Station (RARS, Khajura) to conduct direct seeded rice trials and demonstrations covering 40 hectares (dry DSR 31.5 ha & wet DSR 8.5 ha) in farmers' fields. 46 farmers of the Bardiya and Kailali districts were supported with seeds, fertilizers, seed drill service, drum seeder, weeder machines, herbicides and insecticides, along with regular field-based trainings and technical support for the 2018 rice growing season.
Three delegates from ADB - Dr. Akmal Siddiq, Chief of Agricultural Thematic Group; Dr. Abul Basher, Specialist of Natural Resource and Agriculture; and De. Sonoko Sunayama, Senior Economist of SAER and SARD, have monitored DSR sites of Banke and Bardiya Districts and also participated in the interaction organized by farmers’ group on 12-13th October 2018. They were accompanied with Mr. Tej Bahadur Subedi, Joint Secretary, Agriculture Development Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), Nepal; Dr. Surya Prasad Paudel, Director General, Department of Agriculture (DoA), Nepal; Dr. Baidya Nath Mahto, Executive Director, NARC, Nepal; Dr. Arvind Kumar, Interim Rice Breeding Platform Leader (IRRI, Philippines); Dr. Krishna Dev Joshi, Country Representative (IRRI, Nepal); Dr. Bhaba Prasad Tripathi, Consultant (IRRI, Nepal); and other scientists from NARC.
By applying climate-resilient technology and improved varieties with the aim of reducing the cost of production and increasing benefit over investment, IRRI and ADB believe that this will have a significant impact in creating opportunities and accelerating development for rice sectors.