Adjusting Nepal’s complex agricultural economy to the federalist system laid out by the new constitution will require some adjustment, but a new paper from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) proposes several policy measures to ease the transition.

Nepal’s 2072 Federal Constitution: Implications for the Governance of the Agricultural Sector” looks at how wisdom gleaned from similar structures of government can help Nepal’s farming sector weather the change. Across Nepal’s varied geography, farming provides a livelihood for two-thirds of the population, one-third of the GDP, and half of all exports. A smooth transition in management of the agricultural sector to the new federal system is crucial to ensuring stability.

“Agriculture forms the backbone of the Nepali economy,” according to Danielle Resnick, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI and an author of the paper. “To preserve its role the government must clearly map out the divisions of authority at each level and establish vertical coordination across all levels of government, while avoiding a one-size-fits-all solutions.”

The authors conducted an original survey of 100 agriculture officials at the local level, as well as more than two-dozen interviews with high-level stakeholders. Their analysis considers examples from India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, and South Africa.

“Nepal is much smaller than our other examples, and adapting their lessons will require a smaller scale,” says Resnick. “As decentralization proceeds, local governments should not receive obligations that exceed their ability to provide services, or the citizens could quickly lose faith.”

But Nepal’s decade of experience with local government and decentralization will ease this transition, says Jordan Kyle, Associate Research Fellow at IFPRI and an author of the paper. “The new constitution has strong provisions for food security, and the last ten years have taught citizens how to articulate their demands for local agricultural planning priorities. Without that experience, federalism would have been a much harder change.”

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries. www.ifpri.org. 

Photo: Asian Development BankCC BY-NC-ND 2.0