- Raju Jhallu Prasad
In the context of globalization, it is essential to engage in production within the Nepalese environment, even unknowingly, to achieve prosperity. The first condition for prosperity is production, and an increase in the rate of production can lead to economic growth. Therefore, there is a significant push and awareness towards agriculture throughout the country, focusing on enhancing human capacity, technology, labor participation, employment, and organized management and distribution of investment. Agriculture is not only about food production; it encompasses art, science, and the production of both crops and livestock. It provides essential elements like nutritious substances, fish, and meat for sustenance.
Situated in Dhadhing district, Siddhalek Rural Municipality is well-known for its exemplary agricultural pockets. This municipality supplies vegetables and fruits not only to the district headquarters DhadingBesi but also to Kathmandu.
Nalang, Galchhi, Pipaltar, and other major areas within the rular municipality are considered significant agricultural regions. Approximately 58% of the total land in this area is arable, characterized by diverse topography, including rivers, riverbanks, bamboo forests, and mountains ranging from 500 to 1,400 meters above sea level. The presence of such diversity has facilitated the development of various agricultural systems. Farmers engaged in traditional methods of vegetable and fruit cultivation are currently transitioning towards commercial agriculture, witnessing the pleasant changes and prospects in production possibilities.
Overall, Siddhalek Rural Municipality showcases scenes and landscapes where sufficient possibilities of vegetable, fruit, food grain, pulse, oilseed, and honey production exist through traditional approaches. Farmers who are currently involved in commercial agriculture can witness these evolving scenarios, which are favorable and satisfying.
There are seven wards in the rural municipality. Each ward has its own distinct characteristics in terms of agricultural production. Ward number 1 is mainly focused on maize cultivation. It also has good potential for commercial poultry farming, coffee cultivation, and vegetable farming. In the coming years, the Agriculture Development Branch has adopted a policy and program to establish commercial farming in this ward, particularly focusing on poultry, coffee, and silk farming.
Similarly, ward number 2 is primarily engaged in vegetable farming. Cauliflower, cabbage, and spices are being cultivated on a commercial scale in this area. Plans have been made to expand vegetable farming by constructing plastic tunnels and improving irrigation facilities.
Ward number 3 and 4 are recognized for their cauliflower production. Commercial cultivation of hybrid and platinum varieties of cauliflower is being carried out in these wards. The municipality has adopted policies to further enhance commercial cauliflower farming and improve market management.
Similarly, in wards 5, 6, and 7, the main agricultural product is ginger. Along with ginger, there is good potential for commercial cultivation of vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, spices, and food grains, as well as maize, rice, and flower farming. There are plans to implement programs focused on ginger farming, lychee and banana cultivation, and promoting commercial cultivation of crops such as maize, rice, and flowers.
In this rural municipality, the Agriculture Development Branch, along with local authorities and various governmental and non-governmental organizations, is working towards the commercialization of the agricultural sector. The Chief of the Agriculture Branch, Kamal Prasad Joshi, emphasizes the importance of making agriculture a dimension-based profession, making farmers self-sufficient, and developing agriculture as a respected and productive business. The municipality has adopted policies to promote modern agricultural practices, improved seed varieties, fertilizer management, expansion of crop insurance, promotion of organic farming, use of modern tools and equipment, and urban agriculture development.
The main agricultural products in Siddhalek Rural Municipality include:
- Vegetables: Cauliflower, ginger, potato, cabbage, etc.
- Food grains: Maize, rice, millet, wheat, etc.
- Fruits and flowers: Banana, lychee, orange varieties, mango, etc.
- Spices: Onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, etc.
“Siddhalek: High Potential for Agricultural Tourism”
The concept of agricultural tourism originated in Italy in the 1970s. Although there are no official records regarding the history of agricultural tourism in Nepal, the first professional course on agricultural tourism was introduced as part of the Environmental Science Department’s “Masters in Conservation Ecology” program by the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science.
Agriculture and tourism have their own significance. By diversifying agricultural practices and making some managerial improvements, the journey of development becomes possible. Low-investment agricultural tourism can quickly become a profitable venture, as evidenced by successful examples. Currently, there are many initiatives focused on agricultural tourism in various parts of the country. Homestays are being operated in villages, and agricultural resorts are being established in some locations in the Terai region also.
Agricultural tourism generates local employment opportunities and contributes to the identification, utilization, management, and commercialization of local resources. As development progresses, it significantly reduces the outmigration of youth. Integrated development plans for agricultural tourism promote the development of tourism sectors and enhance the value addition of primary production through direct participation in tourism. Agricultural tourism fosters social harmony by promoting direct participation within society. Farm stays and homestays enhance the attraction of tourism, leading to the expansion of tourism inflow. This expansion, in turn, broadens the scope of social harmony and facilitates the expansion of local products. Agricultural tourism provides a platform for the exchange of foreign innovative techniques and the adoption of new Nepalese youth farmers, contributing to uniqueness in production, innovation in processing, taste ownership, quality in consumption, and promotion of the local market. This cooperation enhances the sustainability of the business and increases the participation of young farmers in agriculture.
Currently, there is a growing trend of seeking solace in rural areas, indulging in organic food, and being attracted to rural lifestyles. The urban lifestyle, for various reasons, has become burdensome and monotonous. Many people residing in urban areas yearn to escape to rural homes and explore their surroundings during their leisure time. Agricultural tourism serves as a means to attract tourists to rural homes. Due to this, Tharu homestays appeal to domestic tourists through their traditional attire, heritage, art, and culture. In addition to pilgrimage sites and heritage locations, food tourism also captures the attention of foreign visitors. Therefore, the Siddhalek Rural Municipality has no doubt that its agricultural products, combined with its rich indigenous attire, heritage, art, and culture, can contribute significantly to the tourism industry without compromising its agricultural production.
By enhancing production and management through agricultural tourism, the Siddhalek Rural Municipality has the potential to achieve high productivity and effectively manage the market. To promote food self-sufficiency and sustainable agriculture, the municipality has initiated plans for the production and preservation of its own indigenous products such as silk, coffee, honey, and chemical-free high-quality food products. It aims to improve waste management, distribution systems, and actively participate in the conservation of forests and the environment. The municipality also encourages participation in initiatives like the construction of agricultural roads, the protection of temples, monasteries, pathways, festivals, traditional culture, and the publication of brochures and articles. With these efforts, Siddhalek Rural Municipality envisions becoming a center for agricultural tourism in the country.
Due to its easy accessibility, as well as its geographical, geological, archaeological, historical, cultural, and natural diversity, the municipality can generate income through agriculture-based businesses. It can provide organized homestays, well-equipped hotels, and showcase local economic activities through exhibitions. This will contribute to the local economy and enable visitors to have a more structured experience. Additionally, extending the duration of tourists’ stay, particularly for those who come for fishing at ‘Malekhu (PhurkeKhola)‘, can be achieved by providing facilities based on rafting production.
It is an undeniable fact that without promoting commercialization and productivity-oriented management of its own food production, the municipality cannot achieve economic progress by replacing imports. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on labor management, commercialization of agricultural activities, mechanization, and modernization in agriculture. Local authorities need to pay special attention when implementing agricultural development programs based on local potential to ensure the expected returns. Recently, even the youth who have returned from foreign employment are being attracted to modern agricultural practices, and studying this trend, it is important to expedite marketization, funding, and create an environment of enthusiasm.
The geographic and biological diversity, capital, motivation, self-confidence, and advanced techniques brought by the youth who have returned from abroad can play a significant role in the future of agriculture by exploring the specific characteristics of interest. With the maximum utilization of agricultural land towards agricultural revolution, the expansion of opportunities in the agricultural sector will become more promising in the coming days. To achieve an agricultural transformation, it is essential to encourage large-scale production through cooperatives, community-based initiatives, and private farms based on the potential of crops. Small-scale irrigation systems and their operation should be encouraged through agricultural cooperatives and consumer groups. The municipality should take the lead in motivating such youths.