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Funded by Partners Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal

Authors:
Funded by Partners
Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia
CSISA COVID-19 Resilience Activity Partners
Understanding barriers and
opportunitiesfor scaling
sustainable and inclusive farmer-led
irrigation development in Nepal
Manohara Khadka, Labisha Uprety, Gitta Shrestha, Thai Thi Minh, Shambhawi Nepal, ManitaRaut,
Shashwat Dhungana, Sumona Shahrin, Timothy J. Krupnik, Petra Schmitter
Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia
Understanding barriers and
opportunities for scaling
sustainable and inclusive farmer-led
irrigation development in Nepal
Manohara Khadka
1
, Labisha Uprety
1
, Gitta Shrestha
1
, Thai Thi Minh
1
,
Shambhawi Nepal
1
, ManitaRaut
1
, Shashwat Dhungana
1
, Sumona Shahrin
2
,
Timothy J. Krupnik
2
, PetraSchmitter
1,3
1.International Water Management Institute (IWMI), CGIAR, Lalitpur
44600, Kathmandu, Nepal
2.International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), CGIAR,
Lalitpur, Kahtnamdu, 44700, Nepal
3.The World Bank, MSN MC10-1007, 1818 H St NW, Washington, DC
20433, United States.
The CSISA Nepal Covid-19 Response and Resilience Activity
ii Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
Intensive cropping systems that include rice, wheat and/or maize are widespread
throughout South Asia. These systems constitute the main economic activity
in many rural areas and provide staple food for millions of people. Therefore,
enhancing the yield and productivity of cereal production in South Asia is therefore
of great concern. Simultaneously, issues of resource degradation, declining labor
availability and climate variability pose steep challenges for achieving the goals of
improving food security and rural livelihoods.
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) was established in 2009 with a goal of benefiting more
than 8 million farmers by the end of 2023. The project is an exemplary sample of One CGIAR in action, and
is led by theInternational Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)and implemented jointly with
theInternational Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Inernational Water Mangement Institute (IWMI)
and theInternational Rice Research Institute (IRRI).Operating in rural ‘innovation hubs’ in Bangladesh, India
and Nepal, CSISA works to increase theadoption of various resource-conserving and climate-resilient
technologies, and improve farmers’ access to market information and enterprise development. CSISA
supports women farmers by improving their access and exposure to modern and improved technological
innovations, knowledge and entrepreneurial skills. CSISA works in synergy with regional and national eorts,
collaborating with myriadpublic, civil society and private-sector partners.
CSISA’s Goals
• Facilitate the widespread adoption of resource-conserving practices, technologies and services that
increase yields with lowerwater,labor andinput costs.
• Support mainstreaming innovations in national-, state- and district-level government programs to
improve long-term impacts achieved through investments in theagricultural sector.
• Generate and disseminate new knowledge on cropping systemmanagement practices that can withstand
the impacts of climate change in South Asia.
• Improve the policy environment to facilitate theadoption of sustainable intensification technologies.
• Build strategic partnershipsthat cansustain and enhance the scale of benefits accrued through improving
cereal system productivity.
With a new investment in the CSISA program, the USAID Mission in Nepal is supporting CSISA to rapidly and
eectively respond to the threats posed by the Covid-19 crisis that undermine the recovery and sustained
resilience of farmers in the FtF Zone of Nepal. This Activity includes Texas A&M University, Cornell University,
and International Development Enterprises (iDE) as core partners. Activities involve two inter-linked
Objectives that address CSISA’s strengths in core areas needed to assist in Covid-19 response and recovery
over an18 month period (From July 2020- December 2021). The ultimate goal of the CSISA Covid-19
Resilience Activity is to develop mechanisms to support longer-term resilience among smallholder farmers
and the private sector – with emphasis empowering youth and overcoming challenges faced by women
headed farm households. At the same time, the Activity is assisting in eorts to increase smallholder
farmers’ understanding of, and capacity to protect themselves, from Covid-19. This is achieved through the
dissemination of awareness raising messages on public health and by increasing economic opportunities
for return migrants, smallholder farmers, and by encouraging resilience-enhancing irrigation.
Creative Commons CC BY-NC:
This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format
for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.
Sugested citation: Khadka, M., Uprety, L., Shrestha, G., Minh, T.T., Nepal, S., Raut, M., Dhungana, S., Shahrin,
S., Krupnik, T.J., Schmitter, P. 2021. Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable and
inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal. The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA).
Kathmandu, Nepal.
Cover photo: Nabin Baral
Printed in Nepal. Published in 2021.
Acknowledgement: This work was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID through
the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA). The views and opinions in this document are those
of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the Gates Foundation or USAID and shall not be used for
advertising purposes.
www.CSISA.org
iii
Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
Table of Contents
Tables .....................................................................................................................................................................................................iv
Figures .....................................................................................................................................................................................................iv
Annexes .....................................................................................................................................................................................................iv
Executive Summary ............................................................................................................................................................................... v
Abbreviations and Acronyms .............................................................................................................................................................vii
1. Introduction ....................................................................................................................................................................................1
1.1. Research context .....................................................................................................................................................................1
1.2. Research objective and structure of the report ............................................................................................................... 2
2. Analytical Framework ................................................................................................................................................................. 3
2.1. Defining sustainable and inclusive irrigation development in Nepal ........................................................................... 3
2.2. Analytical framework ............................................................................................................................................................. 3
3. Methodology .................................................................................................................................................................................. 6
3.1. Data sources for analyzing six themesof scaling ........................................................................................................6
3.2. Data analysis and validation ............................................................................................................................................ 6
4. Drivers of and Responses to Sustainable and Inclusive Irrigation Development .........................................................8
4.1. Long-lasting drivers................................................................................................................................................................8
4.2. Covid-19 and emerging drivers .........................................................................................................................................10
4.3. Covid-19 emerging responses .......................................................................................................................................... 13
5 Policy Environment .................................................................................................................................................................... 15
5.1. Policy framework ................................................................................................................................................................. 15
5.2. Institutional arrangements for water and irrigation development ............................................................................ 21
6. Agricultural Value Chains ..........................................................................................................................................................28
6.1. The vegetable value chain ..................................................................................................................................................28
6.2. The cereal value chain ........................................................................................................................................................30
7. Irrigation Equipment Supply Chain ........................................................................................................................................ 33
7.1. Structure of the irrigation equipment supply chain ......................................................................................................33
7.2. Emerging solar technology market for irrigation ...........................................................................................................36
8. Public and Private Sector Interventions for Irrigation Development ............................................................................ 37
8.1. Overview of irrigation development ................................................................................................................................ 37
8.2. Dynamic interventions supporting irrigation development ........................................................................................38
8.3. Ecosystem for accelerating irrigation development .....................................................................................................43
9. Factors Influencing Sustainable and Inclusive Farmer-Led Irrigation Development ................................................47
9.1. Barriers to scaling sustainable and inclusive irrigation FLI development .................................................................48
9.2. Opportunities for scaling farmer-led irrigation development ....................................................................................54
10. Recommendations ......................................................................................................................................................................58
10.1. Enabling a supportive policy and institutional environment and governances ....................................................58
10.2. Capitalizing private sector investment into irrigation equipment and input supply chains ..............................58
10.3. Enhancing adaptive interventions to support small-scale irrigation and
farmer-led irrigation development ................................................................................................................................59
10.4. Supporting collaborative scaling ecosystem in responding to dynamics and driving changes
needed for scaling FLI development ............................................................................................................................. 60
10.5. Transform the irrigation and agricultural development system ............................................................................ 60
11. References ....................................................................................................................................................................................62
Annexes ...................................................................................................................................................................................................69
iv Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
TABLES
Table 3-1. An overview of secondary and primary data. .............................................................................................................6
Table 4-1. Socioeconomic characteristics of people in the FtF ZoI. ..........................................................................................8
Table 4-2. Main crops produced and marketed in the FtF ZoI districts. ....................................................................................9
Table 5-1. Agriculture sector policies for pro-poor, pro-youth and inclusive scaling in irrigation and
agriculturalvalue chains. ................................................................................................................................................ 16
Table 5-2. The water sector’s new policies. .................................................................................................................................. 18
Table 5-3. Jurisdiction of three levels of government for water resources, irrigation and associated sectors. .............25
Table 5-4. Inconsistency in roles and responsibilities around sectoral polices at federal level. ........................................26
Table 5-5. Potential areas for cross-sectoral synergies and collaboration for scaling small-scale irrigation
and agricultural development as a strategic intervention to build resilience
to Covid-19 and climate change. ................................................................................................................................ 27
Table 6-1. Major vegetables by production in six districts in the FtF ZoI (in metric tons). .................................................28
Table 7-1. Total agricultural landholdings under 0.5 ha reporting use of irrigation implements and
other facilities in the FtF ZoI districts. .........................................................................................................................33
Table 7-2. Some key companies in irrigation equipment importation, distribution and manufacture. ...........................34
Table 7-3. Dierent solar irrigation models in Nepal. ..................................................................................................................36
Table 8-1. The evolution of irrigation development in Nepal, 1920s-2020. ..........................................................................38
Table 8-2. Basic features of irrigation programs/projects in Nepal. .........................................................................................39
Table 8-3. Multiple actors and their key roles in water resources and irrigation development
(implementation level) in Nepal. ...................................................................................................................................44
Table 8-4. Scenario for scaling irrigation through varying sizes of irrigation command areas at
three levels of government. ...........................................................................................................................................44
Table 9-1. Summary of barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable and inclusive farmer-led
irrigation development in Nepal (social lens) ............................................................................................................47
FIGURES
Figure 2-1. Analytical framework for scaling irrigation development in Nepal. ........................................................................4
Figure 5-1. Federal Nepal’s three levels of government and intergovernmental relationships
and coordination bodies. ............................................................................................................................................... 21
Figure 5-2. Governance arrangement for shaping policies and programs on water under federalism. ...........................23
Figure 6-1. Typical vegetable value chain in Nepal with gender considerations. ...................................................................29
Figure 6-2. The cereal supply chain in Nepal. ................................................................................................................................ 31
Figure 7-1. Private irrigation equipment supply chain.. ................................................................................................................ 33
Figure 8-1. Problems in accessing groundwater in the Tarai (Chitwan district). ..................................................................... 37
ANNEXES
Annex 1-1. Population dynamic (No.) by caste/ethnicity in the FtF ZoI districts ....................................................................69
Annex 3-1. Lists of policy documents reviewed ............................................................................................................................69
Annex 4-1. New initiatives on Covid-19 responses, Government of Nepal. ............................................................................ 71
Annex 5-1. Policies for resilient water resources management and irrigation development in Nepal. .............................72
Annex 5-2. VAT-exempted products and equipment in the agriculture sector. ..................................................................... 73
Annex 5-3. Trade policies of the GoN enabling solarized irrigation scaling. ...........................................................................73
Annex 5-3. Trade policies of, cont'd.... .............................................................................................................................................74
Annex 5-4. No. of local governments, gender dynamics of leadership in the government’s executive
and ward oces in the FtF districts. ............................................................................................................................ 75
Annex 5-5. List of ministries at federal level that have roles related to water resources use and management. ............ 75
Annex 6. Barriers and solutions for sustainable, ecient and eective surface water irrigation
management in Nepal. ...................................................................................................................................................76
Annex 7. Local water and NRM groups, and their associations in the natural resourcessector. ....................................84
v
Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
Executive Summary
Nepal has abundant water resources, but over 60%
of irrigable lands owned by smallholder farmers don't
have irrigation access. Many smallholder farmers and
women farmers lack water for agriculture, drinking,
sanitation, and other domestic uses. Nepal’s Tarai
region is considered as an area with huge potential for
surface and groundwater-based irrigation development.
But the drivers and constraints for scaling of irrigation
development remain poorly understood.
This study therefore aimed at assessing opportunities,
and barriers for scaling sustainable and inclusive
farmer-led irrigation development in the Feed the
Future Zone of Influence (FtF ZoI) region in Western
Tarai from a qualitative social science perspective.
Irrigation development does not take place in a
vacuum, irrigation practices are continuously shaped
and reshaped by a multi-faceted range of drivers
stretching from farmer's livelihoods and aspirations,
via economic arrangements of dierent scales
including supporting sectors and markets, to the
political economy of water resources management
and international trade arrangements. Making irrigation
work, therefore requires the application of an integrated
lens for analysis to understand and pinpoint critical
bottlenecks in the rural innovation systems for irrigation
development and management. To achieve this,
the research has looked at six key interconnected
dimensions that influence scaling of irrigation
development in Nepal’s diverse societies, livelihoods,
and political economy:
Lasting drivers in the FtF ZoI and Covid-19 related
impacts and responses
Policy environment, including governance
Agricultural value chains
Irrigation equipment and service supply chain
Public and private sector interventions in water
resources and agricultural development
Gender and social inclusion in policies, agricultural
value chains, irrigation equipment supply chains and
public and private sector interventions
The research broadly based on extensive review
of scientific and grey literature, including over 50
policy and programs documents of the governments
and development partners in Nepal, 16 telephone
interviews with the private sector, farmer group
associations and agricultural cooperatives, provincial
ocials and policymakers, and reflections of
stakeholders on the opportunities and challenges of
the water sector to capitalize on the power of water in
national development planning.
The recognition of water management and irrigation
development being crucial to the country’s agricultural
and economic growth provides an opportunity of the
new federal PPP legislations to stimulate private sector
investment in irrigation supply chains, agricultural
value chains (VCs) and also multiple use water systems.
However, the current policy frameworks remain biased
towards large-scale infrastructure and economic
growth instead of inclusive growth. Hence, subsidies
for agro-inputs are not pro-poor and women friendly
and largely fall in the hands of better-o farmers.
Furthermore, the overlapping roles and responsibilities
across the three levels of government and sectoral
line ministries complicates the role out of agricultural
and water management interventions in the water-
agricultural and energy sector. Hence, the lack of
coordination among ministries and stakeholders has
led in the past to poor scaling of available irrigation and
agricultural technologies.
For many of the agricultural VCs, access to timely
and quality fertilizer remains a serious bottleneck.
Furthermore, poor access to roads and transport
facilities, lack of (cold) stores and poor market linkages
result in post-harvest losses. Similar challenges in the
irrigation supply chains are observed. The reliance of
imported raw material for domestic manufacturing
significantly increases costs as well as the unreliable
land ports and road conditions which hamper the
importation of equipment. This together with the
political instability with neighbour countries results in
steep price increases of irrigation equipment such as
pumps. Transportation and market disruptions because
of Covid-19 aggravated the situation leading to price
surges for vegetables and equipment, declined harvests
of wheat and reduced income for farmers as well as
remittances from migrant workers. Given the fast-
growing local demand of agriculture and irrigation
equipment there is an opportunity to strengthen
local manufacturing companies. The USD 6.6. billion
under the Green Recovery Plan in building resilience
to climate, Covid-19 and other shocks provides an
opportunity to strengthen agri-businesses and local
manufacturing of equipment in a pro-poor and inclusive
way, creating jobs for women, returning migrants
and youth aected by Covid-19. Especially the recent
Industrial Enterprise-related policies and acts on VCs,
PPPs, business and finance give priority to smallholders,
youth, tenant and marginal farmers. Multi-stakeholder
partnerships which provide services support and
strengthen the capacity of female extension agents,
entrepreneurs will be key given the cultural norms in
the Tarai which restrict interaction between women and
men outside kinship circles.
For farmer-led irrigation development to thrive, there
is a need to address issues of land tenancy as these
prohibit borehole investments and electricity access
and stability. As tenancy rights are barely protected,
investments in borewells under an irrigation service
scheme are less likely to happen if formal tenancy
contracts are absent. Introducing shared solar
irrigation pump (SIP) systems and wells supporting a
sharing equipment-rental market at community level
might be an alternative. However, upfront investment
costs in SIPs remain relatively high and the 60%
subsidy programs fail to reach the poor and the most
vulnerable. Limitations to the inclusive subsidy schemes
are the requirement of a land ownership certificate, a
recommendation letter from the local government and
vi Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
a minimum land size of 1 ha, preventing smallholder
farmers, women and youth from reaping the benefits
of SIP. Although not implemented in Nepal, a group
approach to subsidy mechanism for SIP access by
smallholder and the poor farmers would be potential
action research to conduct. As irrigation development
remains predominantly infrastructure focused the
implementation of gender and inclusive principles
has been relatively limited when it comes to irrigation
development and in particular the role out of financing
mechanisms, irrigation supply chains and services and
VCs. However, women are emerging as role models
and entrepreneurs leading 30% of firms including
agri-businesses. There is an opportunity to use
private-sector extension to overcome some of the
current challenges in human capacity and knowledge
on Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) in
governmental institutions tasked to implement irrigated
agricultural programs. Mainstreaming GESI in the
private sector by partnering with I/NGOs could oer an
opportunity to achieve GESI outcomes at the project-
implementation level as women’s social networks are
key to technology adoption.
Learning from these insights the following five objectives
are essential to improve incomes, nutrition, health,
knowledge in the FtF ZoI through sustainable and
inclusive scaling of FLI development:
- Enable a supportive policy and institutional
environment and governance mechanisms for the
scaling of sustainable and inclusive FLI development
along irrigated agricultural value chains through
both public and private investments.: This
includes supporting an environment for private
sector partnership, domestic agro-irrigation input
manufacturers, regulation of markets for cheap
Indian agriculture, fertilizer agri-businesses and
strengthening of technical and human capacity in
sanitary and Phyto-sanitary implementation; revision
of fertilizer and subsidy policies and strengthening of
GESI tools and transformative approaches.
- Capitalize upon private sector investment into
irrigation equipment and input supply chains:
Develop financing modalities that help de-risk private
sector investment to entire frontier markets especially
micro-irrigation, bottom of pyramid market financing.
Strengthen scaling partnerships between private
sector, local governments, operating Technical and
vocational education Training (TVET) institutions.
Support domestic manufacturers and create an
enabling environment for more domestic agro and
irrigation input businesses to grow (e.g. revising raw
material taxes those required for irrigation equipment,
engaging with private sector to establish input
factories). Invest in essential infrastructures such as
cold stores and collection centers to enable stallholder
produces to eectively reach bigger markets.
- Enhance adaptive interventions to support
small-scale irrigation and farmer-led irrigation
development: It is essential to emphasize that scaling
FLI development requires bundles of irrigation
technologies, agronomic practices, extension
services, financial and market services as well as
corresponding actions to reach scale of the locally
driven, bottom-up, eective and ecient climate
smart agriculture, sustainable water resources use
and gender and social inclusion. Implement best-
fit of bundled irrigation and agronomic practices
with financial and market services, cold storage
and entrepreneurial activities to enhance return of
investment for smallholder farmers and agri-businesses
and lower investment risk. Support scaling of solar-
powered irrigation pumps (SIPs) technologies for
water access for multiple use, including WASH in areas
with unreliable electricity access. Addressing access
of poor women, smallholders and vulnerable groups
requires innovative end-user financing which could
include farm-equipment leasing, group-distribution
models or integration of irrigation investment with
agricultural-related inputs. Support local governments
to pilot and implement frameworks for decentralized
water and land management as a sustainable solution
to water security, environmental conservation and
equitable development outcomes. This also includes
the training of local services providers for operation
and maintenance.
- Supporting collaborative scaling ecosystem in
responding to dynamics and driving changes needed
for scaling FLI development: Establish inclusive
and sustainable financing ecosystem for public
and private sector investment. Promote ‘multi-
stakeholder partnerships approach for scaling’ to
strengthen resource leverage, harmonized irrigation
investment, market system development, evidence-
based policymaking and knowledge development,
and local capacity building. Strengthen partnerships
with research organizations as a knowledge broker to
address information and innovation gaps to support
the niche, reach and accelerate functions of scaling is
essential. This also includes capacity building of sectoral
sta, water user associations and farmers collective to
promote climate smart agricultural development.
- Transform the irrigation and agricultural development
system: Systemic barriers that hinder transformative
changes in the irrigation, private sector and agricultural
value chain sectors can be addressed through
the facilitation of inclusive policy processes at the
local, provincial and federal levels on inclusive and
sustainable FLI development scaling approaches.
This will require contextual evidence-based policy
and programs explicitly addressing discriminatory
norms, attitudes and practices that exclude women
and disadvantaged groups participating from decision
making processes at layers. This also demands equal
recognition of social science and gender perspectives
and expertise in planning water resource development.
Gender responsive budgeting should be embedded
in the theory of change and monitoring activities,
and capacity development of the government, CSOs
and private sector on multi-use water resources
management. Create and operate multi-stakeholder
dialogue (MSD) platforms, dialogues, and knowledge
forum (national and subnational level) which connects
private sector actors, government, cooperatives and
association of water user groups to discuss barriers
and opportunities for scaling small-scale/farmer-led
irrigation. Investment into Research for Development
(R4D) programs to design, implement and learn from
‘sustainable and transformative irrigation development
in the FtF ZoI is essential to develop local capacity on
inclusive agri-businesses, and strengthen local policy
implementation.
vii
Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
Abbreviations and Acronyms
ADB Asian Development Bank
ADS Agriculture Development Strategy
AEPC Alternative Energy Promotion Center
AMIS Agency Managed Irrigation System
CBS Central Bureau of Statistics
CIDA Canadian International Development Agency
Covid-19 Coronavirus Disease 2019
CSISA Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia
CSO Civil Society Organization
DED Department of Electricity Development
DoA Department of Agriculture
DHM Department of Hydrology and Meteorology
DoLI Department of Local Infrastructure
DP Development Partner
DWRI Department of Water Resources and Irrigation
DWSS Department of Water Supply and Sewerage
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FECOFUN Federation of Community Forestry Users, Nepal
FEDWASUN Federation of Drinking Water and Sanitation Users in Nepal
FLI Farmer-led Irrigation
FMIS Farmer-managed Irrigation System
FtF ZoI Feed the Future Zone of Influence
FY Fiscal Year
G2G Government-to-Government
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GESI Gender Equality and Social Inclusion
GESI WG Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Working Group of IDPG in Nepal
GoN Government of Nepal
GWRDB Groundwater Resource Development Board
HH Household
iDE International Development Enterprises
IDPG International Development Partners Group
IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development
IMP National Irrigation Master Plan
INGO International Non-governmental Organization
IWMI International Water Management Institute
JICA Japan International Cooperation Agency
JMIS Joint Managed Irrigation System
LDPE Low-density Polyethylene
LGOA Local Government Operation Act, 2017
M ha Million Hectares
MFI MonetaryFinancialInstitution
MoALD Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development
MoEWRI Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation
MoF Ministry of Finance
MoFAGA Ministry of Federal Aairs and General Administration
MoITFE Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forests and Environment Provincial
MoLMAC Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperatives
MoLESS Ministry of Labor Employment and Social Security
MoLRCPR Ministry of Land Reform, Cooperatives and Poverty Reduction
MoPID Ministry of Physical Infrastructure Development (Provincial)
MoPIT Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport
MoSD Ministry of Social Development (Provincial)
viii Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
MSD Multi-stakeholder Dialogue
MT Metric Tons
MUS Multiple-use Water System
MUWRM Multiple-use Water Resources Management
NACCF Nepal Agricultural Cooperative Central Federation
NACF Nepal Agricultural Cooperative Federation
NARC Nepal Agricultural Research Council
NDC Nationally Determined Contribution
NEA Nepal Electricity Authority
NFGF National Farmers Group Federation, Nepal
NGO Non-governmental Organization
NIFUWAN National Irrigation Federation of Water User’s Association, Nepal
NIT Non-conventional Irrigation Technology
NNRFC National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission
NPC National Planning Commission
NPR Nepalese Rupees
NTI Non-traditional Technology-based Irrigation
O/M Operation and Management
PMEP Prime Minister Employment Program
PPP Public-Private Partnership
PS Private Sector
PVC Polyvinyl Chloride
REED Rural Economy and Enterprise Development
RETS Renewable Energy Test Station
SAPPROS Support Activities for Poor Producers of Nepal
SDC Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
SDGs Sustainable Development Goals
SFACL Small Farmer Agriculture Cooperative Limited
SFCL Small Farmer Cooperative Limited
SIMI Smallholder Irrigation Market Initiative
SIP Solar-powered Irrigated Pump
SKBBL Sana Kisan Bikas Laghubitta Bittiyasanstha Limited
SMEs Small and Medium Enterprises
SNG Subnational Government (includes Provincial and Local Government)
SPS Sanitary and Phytosanitary
SSI Small-scale Irrigation
SIID Sustainable and Inclusive Irrigation Development
STW Shallow Tube Well
TVET Technical and Vocational Education and Training
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund
USAID United States Agency for International Development
VAT Value Added Tax
WASH Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
WB World Bank
WECS Water and Energy Commission Secretariat
WRM Water Resources Management
WNRM Water and Natural Resources Management
WRI Water Resources and Irrigation
WRRDC Water Resources Research and Development Center
WSS Water Supply and Sanitation
WUA Water Users Association
WUG Water Users Group
YETI Youth Employment Transformation Initiative
1
Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
1. Introduction
1.1. Research context
Nepal is a water-abundant country but is not using
water optimally and eciently to secure livelihoods
and environmental sustainability (Biggs et al., 2013,
Bharati et al., 2014). Less than a tenth of available
water resources are harnessed for productive uses
(IWMI, 2020). Harnessing the potential of water
for food and nutrition security, health and a clean
environment is a key development opportunity.
Nepal’s Tarai region is viewed as having huge
potential for surface and groundwater-based
irrigation development. Only about 22% of the
available recharged groundwater is utilized annually.
The estimated available balance of 6.9 billion cubic
meters (BCM) could be pumped to irrigate 613,000
hectares (ha) of rain-fed agricultural land in the
region, with a potential direct economic gain of
USD 1.1 billion annually, resulting in expansion of
energy-based small and medium enterprises and
local job markets (Nepal et al., 2021). It is likely that
the development of the relatively underutilized
groundwater resource in the Feed the Future
Zone of Influence (FtF ZoI) will support regional
agricultural and industrial development, the national
economy and sociocultural and livelihood changes
(Sharma et al., 2020).
The FtF ZoI is socioeconomically and culturally
diverse. Indigenous peoples (Janajatis) comprising
ethnic groups such as Tharus, Magar, Majhi and
Tamang are the dominant social group (38.15%),
followed by Chhetri (30.16%), Brahmin (11.11%) and
marginalized groups (Dalit1- 12.76%, Muslim - 6.81%,
Madheshi other castes - 0.5%, Badi - 0.25% and
others 0.26%) (Annex 1-1). Over 70% of the Janajatis
are Tharu who live in the Bardiya, Dang and Kailali
districts of the FtF ZoI. Furthermore, youth and
people with disabilities comprise around 39% and
4% of the total population respectively (CBS 2011).
Despite the Government of Nepal’s (GoN) recent
focus on youths in policies and programs, the
majority of young people continue to aspire to
migrate to cities, India and Gulf countries. In the
FtF ZoI, men constitute 95% of those who migrate
(MoLESS, 2020).
Over 50% of the population in the FtF ZoI are
smallholder farmers with less than 0.5 ha of land
or are landless and rely on rain-fed agricultural
and seasonal migration as sources of income.
Women make up over 70% of the total workforce
in agricultural production (UN Women, 2015).
However, smallholders, including tenant and
women farmers, lack water access and irrigation
technologies (Pant and Thapa, 2017, Leder et al.,
1
Dalits are artisan caste groups in Nepal. They are highly excluded and marginalized on the basis of informal institutions such
as ‘caste hierarchy, economic, political and cultural exclusionary practices in Nepal. They live with the lowest of the Human
Development Index and multi-dimension poverty’ (UNDP 2009). Dalit women in the FtF ZoI are discriminated against and
marginalized on the basis of gender intersected with other social relations such as caste, language, region, economic status,
markets and social networks (telephone interview with an MP, February 12, 2021, province 5).
2019), despite availability of water resources. Their
access to water is likely to be further impacted by
the projected change in hydrology and streamflow
caused by climate change (Pandey et al., 2020),
which will eventually aect food security and
livelihoods. The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened
the lives and livelihoods of smallholders, the
poor, women and girls (Shrestha and Leder,
2020). More women (46%) than men (28%) lost
jobs during the lockdown. Those most aected
were agricultural daily wage earners, small-scale
agricultural entrepreneurs, food and vegetable
suppliers and private firms (UNDP, 2020). Ensuring
water access and ecient water use technologies
for irrigation, drinking, sanitation and other
livelihood activities could help build resilience to
shocks such as Covid-19, especially for women,
resource-poor farmers and disadvantaged groups
(Raut and Rajouria, 2020, Shrestha and Leder,
2020). However, insucient attention paid to the
local socioeconomic context, the wider enabling
environment and governance aspects of irrigation as
well as greater focus on large physical infrastructure
and engineering-centered approaches are systemic
barriers to scaling farmer-led irrigation (FLI) (Awasthi
et al., 2016, Bharati and Uhlenbrook, 2020, Harou
JJ et al., 2020, Clement et al., 2012). These barriers
can be addressed when irrigation development
is designed and implemented in an inclusive and
sustainable way, along with multi-actor engagement
for irrigation planning, decision-making and
investment (Clement et al., 2012, Minh et al., 2020,
Harou JJ et al., 2020).
Moreover, while groundwater-based irrigation is
limited and aected by various policy, institutional,
investment and governance challenges (Sugden
et al., 2020, Minh et al., 2021, Urfels and Foster,
2020), regional and global studies warn that
expansion of groundwater-based markets could
lead to overexploitation and result in imbalance in
the hydrological system (Grey and Sado, 2007,
Pavelic, 2013, Villholth, 2013, World Bank, 2020a,
Shah, 2014). The challenge is to promote growth
and poverty alleviation through irrigation scaling
while ensuring environmental sustainability, social
inclusion and equity (ibid). The extent to which FLI
and small-scale irrigation (SSI) can be sustainably
scaled, and gender equality, social inclusion
and equity outcomes achieved, has not been
systemically analyzed in Nepal.
Accelerating irrigation development is also shaped
by Nepal’s new governance system. The country
moved to a federal governance system following
the promulgation of the Federal and Republic
2Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
Constitution on September 20, 2015 and subsequent
elections for the three levels of government in
2017. For the first time in Nepali politics, large
numbers of women were elected as lawmakers at
all levels of government (federal - 33.5%, provincial
- 34.4%, local - 41%) (ECN 2017). This is a significant
political change, as women made up only 6% of
the parliament in the previous system (Uehara,
2019). Their participation in water policymaking and
decision-making is essential for transforming the
water sector and achieving inclusive development
outcomes (Khadka et al., forthcoming). Moreover,
policy frameworks, functions, functionaries, roles
and responsibilities between and among layered
government and sectoral agencies change when
the governance structure changes (De Stefano
and Garrick, 2018). This has implications for water
resources use and management. With a federal
system in place, the GoN announced an ambitious
vision of achieving USD 12,100 per capita income
per year by 2044, along with a reduction in people
living in multidimensional poverty from 28.7% in
2019 to 6% by 2030 and 3% by 2044 (NPC, 2019).
The 15th Plan, 2019/20 -2023/24, recognizes
the roles of agriculture, water resources and the
energy sectors in economic growth and social
development. Ecient, sustainable, equitable
and inclusive groundwater access and irrigated
agricultural value chains (VC), if promoted in the FtF
ZoI (hereafter referred to interchangeably as Western
Tarai), can support the government in achieving its
national vision.
However, there is no systemic analysis of how
federalism has changed policies, functions,
power and functionaries/institutions in the water,
agricultural and energy sector and to what extent
government policies and programs have supported
the promotion of SSI technologies and irrigated
agricultural VCs that enable smallholders, women
farmers and marginalized groups to improve their
livelihoods and income. Neither is there an analysis
of what the systemic barriers are that hinder the
scaling of inclusive and sustainable irrigation
development. This study aims to fill that gap and
to support policymakers and decision makers,
development partners (DPs) and private sector
actors to make informed investment decisions
that build resilience to climate change and other
global challenges such as Covid-19. Investment in
sustainable and inclusive water access, conservation
and ecient use for agriculture development,
along with political empowerment of women in
the water sector and technical approaches to
water development are needed in a country where
political transformation is taking place.
1.2. Research objective and structure of
the report
The overall objective of this research is to assess
opportunities for and systemic barriers to sustainable
and inclusive irrigation development that can
increase resilience and generate income for
smallholder farmers in districts in the FtF ZoI aected
by Covid-19. The research consists of an integrated
analysis of the enabling and disabling environment
for scaling irrigation (Figure 2-1). This includes policy
enabling, governance structures and institutional
changes in the federal context for managing water
resources, dynamics of irrigated agricultural VCs and
irrigation supply chains, public and private sector
interventions in irrigation development, including
multi-actor engagement, with gender equality and
social inclusion (GESI) being cross-cutting to ensure
recommendations for irrigation development that
are inclusive and sustainable.
An analysis of the enabling/disabling environment
is essential when aiming to improve water access
and scale irrigation technologies and services that
are critical for promoting profitable, inclusive and
resilient irrigated agricultural VCs while ensuring
sustainable use of groundwater in the FtF ZoI. The
study is guided by the following key questions:
• What are new drivers and responses (e.g.,
Covid-19) in Nepal that would impact irrigation
scaling?
• What characterizes policy environments for
promoting SSI that are sustainable, profitable and
beneficial to women and smallholder farmers?
• What characterizes agricultural VCs in which
irrigation are embedded?
• What characterizes irrigation supply chains that
provide dierent technologies and equipment for
irrigation development?
• What are public-private sector interventions for
scaling irrigation technologies and development
under federalism?
• What are the systemic barriers and opportunities
for making irrigation development sustainable,
gender and socially inclusive and smallholder-
centric in the federal context?
The report has 11 sections. The first three sections
provide the background to the study, the analytical
framework, the socioeconomic and livelihood
strategies of people in the FtF ZoI and how dierent
people have been impacted by the Covid-19
pandemic. The policy environment influencing
irrigation scaling under the federal system, and the
dynamics of irrigated agricultural VCs and irrigation
supply chains are discussed in sections five, six and
seven. The public and private sector interventions
and actor linkages for scaling irrigation are
discussed in sections eight. The last two sections
discuss the challenges and opportunities for scaling
and some recommendations.
3
Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
2. Analytical Framework
2.1. Defining sustainable and inclusive
irrigation development in Nepal
Scholars (Ansari and Pradhan, 1991, Merrey, 2018,
Merrey et al., 2007, Suhardiman et al., 2017) argue
that irrigation development is more than a technical
intervention and adheres to sociopolitical drivers.
Sustainable and inclusive irrigation scaling therefore
needs to focus on reducing poverty, increasing
equity and gender equality and enhancing
ecosystem services. Nepal’s sociocultural,
economic and food production systems are diverse
and dynamic, and water resources management
(WRM) policies and practices need to consider
this diversity and complexity (Clement et al., 2012,
Leder 2019, Suhardiman et al., 2017). As water
scientists and policymakers point out (Harou JJ et
al., 2020), managing water requires multi-sectoral
action, as water is connected to multiple users
and uses, including health, sanitation, irrigation,
hydropower, enterprises and ecosystems. Water
management also connects themes such as
governance, equity, climate change, gender,
inclusion, economic development and natural
resources management, which requires a holistic
approach (Harou JJ et al., 2020, Pahl-Wostl, 2020,
Bharati and Uhlenbrook, 2020, Joshi and Nicol,
2020). Therefore, transformation is needed in water
resources development (WRD) policy, planning
and implementation that allows policymakers
and water stakeholders to conceptualize and
operationalize irrigation development and scaling
mechanisms beyond the classical engineering-
economic approaches (Harou JJ et al., 2020,
Clement et al., 2012). Keeping these perspectives in
mind, we define sustainable and inclusive irrigation
development in Nepal as:
those eorts in the water/irrigation and
agricultural sectors that recognize the structural
issues of poverty, inequality, human development
and water stress and focus on the need for an
action, a process and a set of desired outcomes
– in short, a way of developing the sector – that
results in positive change in the livelihoods of
smallholder farmers, women and marginalized
groups, and will not reinforce existing inequality
and marginalization (adapted from IDPG GESI
WG, 2017).
The main objective of scaling sustainable and
inclusive irrigation development in the Nepalese
context is, therefore, to enhance food security,
income, human capital and inclusion and to amplify
the voices of women and smallholder farmers in the
water sector by enhancing their access to water,
irrigation technologies, VCs, knowledge, resources
and capabilities (e.g., finance, skills, awareness,) as
well as improving public sector policies, governance
systems and scaling interventions (Minh et al.,
2021 and IWMI, 2021, Loon et al, 2020). The key
questions for systemic scaling are thus: what should
be scaled, where, when, by how much, for whom,
by whom and why (Woltering et al., 2019, p. 4). This
means that scaling irrigation development should
not have negative eects on social (gender and
social equality, power relations, equity, resilience,
and inclusiveness), environmental (use and quality
of natural resources and climate change) and
governance (inclusion, voice and influence).
2.2 Analytical framework
Understanding barriers and opportunities that
influence sustainable and inclusive irrigation
development in Nepal requires a comprehensive
analysis of the current agriculture and irrigation
systems as well as the multiple contexts in which
these systems are embedded. We therefore adapted
the tools for analyzing the enabling environment
(Minh et al., 2021, IWMI, 2021) to the context of
sustainable and inclusive irrigation development in
Nepal as well as to the Covid-19 pandemic. Figure
2-1 illustrates the analytical framework, which
has six dimensions: the long-lasting drivers and
Covid-19-related impacts and responses, policy
environment, agricultural VC, irrigation equipment
and service supply chain, public and private
interventions in WRD and gender equity and social
inclusion (GESI).
2.2.1. Covid-19-related impacts and responses
Nepal is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and
climate change impacts. However, the impacts of
such stressors are unequal (Gentle and Maraseni,
2012, Huynh and Resurreccion, 2014). New drivers
such as Covid-19 can aect smallholder farmers,
women and marginalized groups disproportionately
(UNDP, 2020, Pradhan et al., 2021). The pandemic’s
gendered dynamics can also reinforce existing
gender and social inequality, if response
mechanisms are not GESI-sensitive (UN Women,
2020). At the same time, the pandemic oers
an opportunity for sustainable transformation of
Nepal’s economy, natural resources management
and people’s livelihoods (Pradhan et al., 2021). In
the FtF ZoI – the food basket of Nepal (Sharma et
al., 2020) – the pandemic can positively influence
irrigation development targeted at the most aected
populations and groups. This will eventually help
to build their resilience when irrigated services
reach them and they are connected to markets for
high-value crops. Pro-poor and gender-responsive
irrigation interventions in the wake of Covid-19 can
also boost agriculture’s contribution to the gross
domestic product (GDP), which declined from
50% in 1990 to 27% in 2017 (Tractebel Engineering
GmbH, 2019). We analyze: i) the impact of Covid-19
4Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
Figure 2-1. Analytical framework for scaling irrigation development in Nepal (adapted from Minh et al. 2021,
and IWMI, 2021).
Policy environment
- Policy: Focus, priority and perspective of national and sectoral policies for scaling small-scale and farmer led
irrigation from equity, GESI, multi-stakeholder and holistic approaches for sustainable WRM and development;
- Governance opportunities and challenges for scaling irrigation and agricultural development created by
changes in institutional arrangement and water governance system under federalism
Cross-sectoral linkages and collaboration opportunities for scaling of irrigation created by new policy changes
Public and private
interventions in WRD
- Policy implementation
strategies, mechanisms
and gaps
- Multi-actors in WRM and
synergies between them
and interventions
- Objectives, focuses,
implementation
mechanism, key
interventions, and target
groups
- Dynamics and changes
in actor engagement
and activities in irrigation
development
- Cross-sectoral linkages,
synergy, coordination
- Dynamics and changes in
focus and activities
- Achievements/
shortcomings/ bottlenecks
for irrigation interventions
GESI
- Informal institutions aecting
water access and irrigation
technology
- GESI and equity in policies and
project interventions
- Private sector initiatives
towards GESI
- Sustainability of WRM and
multi-use water system
- GESI opportunity and
challenges in water
policymaking
Agricultural value chain
- Market structure and linkages
of actors in smallholder farmer
specific value chains
- Constraints and challenges
in optimal functioning of the
chain
- Opportunities that exist for
actors to profit from the chain
Covid19 impacts and responses
- Covid-19 imposing/ shock
factors
- Covid-19 vulnerable groups
- Responses of HHs, local
communities and local
government
- Influences of these response
to agriculture production,
water use, income, and
household livelihoods
Irrigation equipment and service
supply chain
- Chain structure, functions, and
governance
- Irrigation products and related
services
- Dynamics of supply chains
(services, technologies, actors)
- Constraints and opportunities
on vulnerable groups; ii) responses of households,
local communities and governments (e.g.,
immediate, new policy and program directions);
and iii) influence of these responses on agricultural
production, multiple-use water systems (MUS) for
irrigation, drinking water, sanitation and hygiene
(WASH) and gainful employment and household
livelihoods.
2.2.2. Policy environment
A policy environment refers to policy frameworks,
institutional arrangements and governance systems
that shape national development (Minh et al., 2021).
A policy framework is key to scaling programs
and approaches (Minh et al., 2021, IWMI, 2021,
Loon et al., 2020). Whether it supports inclusive
and sustainable irrigation development depends
on perspectives and approaches to addressing
irrigation issues articulated in the framework. These
include not only irrigation or WRM systems but
also equity issues around water access, institutional
mechanisms and inclusion/exclusion of actors (state
and non-state) in shaping water and agricultural
policy and development interventions (Suhardiman
et al., 2018). Water resources access, management
and uses require more than classical economic and
engineering approaches and need to be contextually
relevant to the socio-economic conditions (Merrey
et al., 2007, Clement et al., 2012, Biggs et al.,
2013, Pradhan, 2016, Pradhan and Belbase, 2018).
In addition, Nepal’s federal system has resulted
in administrative, fiscal, judicial and legislative
powers and autonomy to be devolved to local level
governments (Sharma, 2020). Therefore, we look
at policy frameworks, institutional arrangements
and governance to: i) assess the focus, priority
and perspectives of Nepal’s national and sectoral
policies influencing small-scale and farmer-led
irrigation development; ii) identify policy agenda and
approaches for equity, gender and social inclusion,
and sustainable WRM and irrigated agricultural
development; and iii) identify the barriers and
opportunities for scaling created by new policy
changes and governance structures.
2.2.3. Agricultural value chains
An agricultural VC refers to the mapping of
a product’s passage from the field to final
consumption involving several actors and activities;
each stage is to have ‘added value’ to the product
(FAO, 2010). This exercise helps better understand
existing linkages and potential constraints that aect
5
Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
actors’ capacities to eectively generate profit for
themselves. The analysis of opportunities for and
barriers to promoting agricultural VCs as a key
dimension for scaling will include: i) assessing the
structure and linkages of actors in smallholder-
centric VCs; ii) constraints and challenges to
the optimal functioning of the chain; and iii)
opportunities that exist for actors to profit from
thechain.
2.2.4. Irrigation equipment and service
supplychains
Easy and sustainable access to irrigation equipment
and services by farmers facilitates their access to
water, technologies and knowledge of multiple
uses of water as well as markets (GC, 2020, IWMI,
2020). Farmers largely rely on the private sector
to access technological innovations and irrigation
services. Therefore, insights into irrigation equipment
supply chains can highlight the main actors (such
as key players in manufacturing, import/wholesale,
distribution and retail as well as end-user farmers)
and their interactions. These insights also oer the
opportunity to better understand how the private
sector engagement could be leveraged in favor
of smallholder farmers. Further, many farmers,
especially smallholders, the poor and women
farmers, are not reached by these actors because
of their lack of access to information, credit and
social networks as well as procedural complexities
and accessibility (Winther et al., 2018, GC and Hall,
2020). Scaling of irrigation services and technologies
therefore needs to consider equity and inclusion
in the way farmers, especially the poor, women
and marginalized groups, have access to resources
and services required for technology access and
adoption. In the analysis of irrigation equipment and
service supply chains, we focus on i) supply chain
structure, functions and governance; ii) irrigation
products and related services; iii) supply chain
dynamics (e.g., services, technologies, actors); and
iv) constraints and opportunities for actors, especially
the private sector, farmers and their associations.
2.2.5. Public and private sector interventions
in irrigation development
Public and private sector interventions refer to
a wide range of scaling activities at the policy
implementation level. These include public sector
development programs/projects, multi-stakeholder
engagement, processes and learning, research and
knowledge development, private sector investment,
partnerships, and capacity development tools
and approaches (IWMI, 2021). Collaboration and
partnership among stakeholders (government, civil
society, I/NGOs, private sector, local and research
institutions, water users associations and farmers)
are key to implementing policies for irrigation
scaling (Loon et al., 2020, Minh et al. 2021, IWMI
2021). Multi-actor engagement (Minh et al. 2020)
can support implementation of national policies
through an integrated irrigation development
program that includes water, energy, agricultural
VCs, irrigation technologies and services,
investment, inclusion and capacity development.
The development priorities and interests of national
and international actors also shape intervention
approaches and focus (Khadka, 2010). In the
analysis of public and private sector interventions in
irrigation development, we explore: i) diverse actors
and their roles in scaling irrigation development;
ii) dynamics in approaches to and focus of
interventions by the GoN and DPs in irrigation
development, and if the interventions intend to
promote SSI/FLI; iii) market system development,
collective action and the financing ecosystem; and
iv) new program directions in response to emerging
drivers such as Covid-19 and climate change.
2.2.6. Gender equality and social
inclusion(GESI)
Studies on gender and technology show that the
capacity of smallholder, women and tenant farmers
to access and adopt agricultural technologies and
knowledge is influenced by their limited access
to and control over water, technologies, credit
and information as well as limited participation in
technology-related decision-making and planning
(Winther et al., 2018, van Koppen, 2002, Tiwari,
2010, Upadhyay et al., 2005), which eventually
impacts the gender and social outcomes of scaling
technology. Systemic barriers that enable or hinder
the poor, women and marginalized groups from
accessing and sustainably using technologies are
linked to formal and informal institutions (IDPG
GESI WG, 2017). Formal institutions, such as
laws, policies, guidelines, programs, and informal
institutions, such as social and gender norms,
beliefs, worldviews, social capital and social power
relations, influence inclusion/exclusion outcomes
and equitable access to resources, opportunities,
information and space for meaningful participation
by women and people with limited voices, power
and networks (Shrestha et al., 2018a, Shrestha and
Clement, 2019a, Udas et al., 2019, Khadka, 2009,
Leder et al., 2019, Sugden et al., 2020). GESI, as
an approach to and outcome of development, is
therefore key to scaling sustainable and inclusive
irrigation development. We analyze: i) informal
and formal institutions/system-specific barriers
and opportunities for access to and adoption of
technologies by the poor, smallholder farmers,
women, youth and disadvantaged groups amid the
evolving socioeconomic and political situation in
the country; and ii) development interventions that
enable women to enter or benefit from irrigated
agricultural VCs and irrigation supply chains.
6Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
3. Methodology
3.1. Data sources for analyzing six
themesof scaling
This report is based on an extensive qualitative
review of scientific literature, ocial documents,
project/program reports, gray literature and
online learning forums related to the six themes
of irrigation scaling presented in the analytical
framework. The documents reviewed ranged
from national and provincial policies, guidelines
and project documents, to blog posts, newspaper
articles, scientific articles and reports (Table
3-1). Nepalese documents were translated into
English. We reviewed over 50 GoN policies,
including federal-level sectoral ministries (water,
forest, agriculture, climate change, environment,
trade, land, poverty reduction, GESI, youth and
employment), province 5 and 7 government policies
and program/project documents and websites
(Annex 3-1). The review focused on the elements
presented in Table 3-1, applying the scaling
framework on sustainable and inclusive irrigation
development in Nepal presented in Figure 2-1.
Telephone interviews, webinars, stakeholder
consultations and transcribing interviews with
provincial and local government authorities
on agricultural development aired on national
television and radio completed the literature
review. The research team attended and reflected
on stakeholder discussions on the water resources
bill (October 12, 2020), webinars on ‘Covid-19
and WASH’, ‘GESI and Covid-19’ and the ‘roles and
barriers of women entrepreneurs in Nepal’. We
also attended virtual conferences on pathways
to scaling, federalism and natural resources
management, and gender, migration and irrigation
governance held between July and December 2020.
We reviewed expert opinions in Nepali newspapers
about the challenges federalism presents to the
water and natural resources sector. We conducted
telephone and online interviews (10 men and 3
women) with private sector stakeholders to better
understand irrigation equipment supply chains, on
which there is limited research in the Nepali context.
Stakeholders interviewed include solar companies,
pump importers, drip irrigation kit and sprinkler
manufacturers, electric/diesel/petrol pump vendors,
local agro-vets, agriculture cooperatives and a
farmers’ federation. In addition, we interviewed
four provincial ocials to confirm the web-
based analysis of provincial policies on water and
agriculture. The preliminary findings of the analysis
were presented at three stakeholder workshops
organized by the CSISA project, and stakeholder
input was extremely important for confirming the
findings.
3.2. Data analysis and validation
In seeking to understand the challenges and
opportunities brought about by Covid-19, we
considered dierent segments of the population
and their vulnerability, associated impacts on
gender and social inequality in the FtF ZoI as well
as the coping and response mechanisms of people
and governments. The webinars on Covid-19 and
GESI organized by the co-chairs of the IDPG GESI
Working Group and Gender in Humanitarian Action
(GiHA), which is coordinated and facilitated by UN
Table 3-1. An overview of secondary and primary data.
Type of data/collection tool n Information/topics
GoN policies 50 National development vision, approaches, irrigation development, WRM,
energy, trade, taxes, land use, climate change adaptation, agriculture,
GESI, public-private partnership (PPP), policy implementation strategies,
institutional mechanisms, roles and power of three levels of government,
and roles of government line ministries
Provincial policies 8 Covid-19 responses, irrigation technologies, agricultural value chains, GESI,
programs and budgets
Development project reports
(project design documents,
factsheets, evaluation reports)
29 Irrigation, value chains, GESI, sustainability, equity, subsidy, PPP, multi-
stakeholder participation, solar energy, farmer-led irrigation, multiple-
use water management, governance barriers, project implementation
modalities, federalism, capacity gaps
Telephone and online interviews
with private sector actors 13 Mapping the irrigation equipment supply chain and better understanding of
agricultural cooperatives and microfinance
Telephone interviews with
provincial ocials and
policymakers
4 Confirmation of provincial policies and programs on irrigation, challenges
and opportunities federalism has created for decentralized irrigation
Multi-stakeholder workshops 3 Presentation and validation of preliminary analysis and additional ideas on
sustainable and inclusive irrigation that the analysis missed
Gray literature (blogs, newspaper
articles, webinars, unpublished
reports, presentations)
>50 Subsidies, governance, GESI, Covid-19, changes brought about by
federalism, political inclusion, capacity development, knowledge
system,PPP
Journal articles (international and
national) >200 Scaling factors, GESI, WRM and irrigation governance, PPP, value chain
approaches, climate change, MUS, livelihoods, migration, Covid-19 impacts
7
Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
Women, provided powerful confirmation of our
findings. We used gender, equity and inclusion
perspectives to analyze vulnerability and response
mechanisms to the pandemic.
In analyzing policies, we first created an inventory
presenting the sector-specific policy data in a
systematic tabular format (for example: goal,
objectives, strategies, water solutions including
SSI, gaps and challenges, conflicts/contradictions
between policies, private sector provision, equity,
gender equality and inclusion provision, etc.). We
then divided the policy review into five clusters: i)
water, irrigation, energy; ii) environment, climate
change, natural resources; iii) agriculture, land; iv)
trade, tax and PPPs; and v) national development
framework including poverty reduction, GESI and
youth empowerment. We then conducted a cross-
sectoral analysis, looking at the complementarity
and contradictions between policies for scaling
irrigation development. The policy analysis was then
linked to the analysis of public and private sector
interventions, agricultural VCs, irrigation supply
chains and GESI as interconnected factors for
scaling irrigation development in Nepal.
In researching private actors in irrigation and
agriculture, we scrutinized their linkages and
interdependencies using agricultural VCs and
mapping irrigation equipment supply chains.
The main questions investigated concerned how
the overall chains functioned, and what barriers
need to be addressed and opportunities explored
to enhance the position of private actors and
smallholders in these chains. The analysis of
public and private sector interventions in irrigation
development was based on a review of around
30 projects and impact evaluation reports.
Some of these reviews/design documents were
commissioned by DPs such as the United States
Agency for International Development (USAID), the
World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural
Development (IFAD), the Swiss Agency for
Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Japan
International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the
Asian Development Bank (ADB). The primary focus
of the review was to understand how smallholder
farmers and farmer-led irrigation infrastructure are
integrated into irrigation and agricultural projects.
We reviewed project goals, focus of interventions/
components, modality of partnerships, irrigation
technologies, beneficiaries, geographical focus and
approaches considered to ensure sustainability,
equity and inclusion of development interventions.
As GESI was cross-cutting, all data collected was
thematically arranged and rearranged as per the
emerging and identified patterns. With regard to
investigating GESI barriers and enablers to SSI
scaling, the review focused on key questions such as
how GESI has been conceptualized in policies and
documents; what key GESI barriers the documents
are trying to address; what strategies have been
adopted for successful implementation of GESI
objectives; what lessons were learned from the
implementation; how gendered norms and barriers
as well as other challenges and constraints were
addressed and enabled transformation. The factors
(barriers and opportunities) influencing scaling
sustainable and inclusive irrigation development
were then identified based on the analysis of
the six aspects of scaling. They were arranged
and rearranged based on the concepts/ideas
emerging from the analysis of scaling elements. The
recommendations for scaling of sustainable and
inclusive irrigation development were drawn from
the barriers and opportunities analysis.
8Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
4.1. Long-lasting drivers
4.1.1. Ethnicity, class, social relations and land
ownership
The FtF ZoI is highly diverse, with more than 90
caste and ethnic groups with varying livelihood
strategies, socioeconomic status, gender and
social relations (CBS, 2014). This diversity must be
considered when designing water resource and
irrigation development (Clement et al., 2012, Leder
et al., 2017). As Table 4-1 shows, 11% of the total
households in the country with more women than
men are located in the FtF ZoI. Over 30% of the
total population is young people aged between
10 and 24. Large numbers of children and women
experience malnutrition.
Historically, social relations, privilege and hierarchies
based on gender, caste, ethnicity, class and region
are the predominant informal institution being
practiced. This dynamic shapes people’s access
to dierent livelihood assets, opportunities and
irrigation technologies (Gurung et al., 2020). A
unique class relation exists in western Nepal due
to skewed landholdings and poverty. Most of the
farmers, who are indigenous to Western Tarai,
are smallholder and tenant farmers who work for
large landholders (advantaged caste groups who
migrated from the Hills to Tarai in the 1960s). The
deeply entrenched ‘Kamaiya’ system of bonded
labor2 in agriculture is still practiced in the region,
even though it was ocially abolished in 2002. The
Tharu ethnic group, who are landless or land poor,
work for the land rich in an exploitative patron-
client relationship. The former become bonded by a
loan received from the latter in return for providing
labor for farming and domestic activities (Giri, 2010,
Panta and Thapa, 2017). Likewise, Dalits (especially
Mushahars), who are also landless and extremely
poor, provide landowners with labor for ploughing
and domestic work under the ‘Haliya’ system.
Land entitlement opens pathways to resources and
opportunities that are essential for high agricultural
performance. To begin with, land entitlement is
the sole proof of being a farmer in Nepal, which in
turn provides access to finance, inputs, tools and
services. Land entitlement is also a basic requirement
for applying for any kind of government subsidy,
including irrigation equipment (Bastakoti et al., 2017,
Pandey et al., 2020a). Furthermore, land entitlement
facilitates trust, reciprocity and negotiation pathways
in agrarian economies. Land ownership is lowest
4. Drivers of and Responses to Sustainable
and Inclusive Irrigation Development
Table 4-1. Socioeconomic characteristics of people in the FtF ZoI.
Socioeconomic characteristics Description
No. of households (HHs) and population
size in Nepal (according to the 2011
census)
HHs = 5,423,297; population = 26.5 million
No. of households Banke = 94,773, Bardiya = 83,176, Dang = 116,415, Kailali = 142,480,
Kanchanpur = 82,152, Kapilvastu = 91,321
Population by gender (%) Male = 1,590,452 (48.65%); female = 1,678,913 (51.35%)
Population by caste and ethnicity (%) Janajatis = 38.15, Chhetri = 30.16, Brahmin = 11.11, Dalits = 12.76, Muslims
= 6.81, Madheshi other caste = 0.5, Badi = 0.25, other = 0.26
Food security status in the FtF ZoI Banke = marginal deficit, Bardiya = surplus, Dang = marginal surplus, Kailali
= severe deficit, Kanchanpur = surplus, Kapilvastu = deficit
Stunting among children under 5 years (%) Banke = 40-49, Bardiya = 40-49, Dang = 40-49, Kailali = 40-49,
Kanchanpur = 30-39, Kapilvastu = 30-39
Wasting among children under 5 years (%) Banke = 15-19, Bardiya = 15-19, Dang = 5-9, Kailali >= 20, Kanchanpur =
10-14, Kapilvastu = 10-14
Underweight among children under 5
years (%) Banke = 30-39, Bardiya = 30-39, Dang = 20-29, Kailali = 20-29,
Kanchanpur = 20-29, Kapilvastu >= 40
Major languages Nepali, Tharu, Avadhi, Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magar
Young people (10-24 years) Banke = 34.42, Bardiya = 35.6, Dang = 34.91, Kailali = 35.91, Kanchanpur =
35.67, Kapilbastu = 32.74
Land ownership (% of total landowners) Men’s ownership of land = 96%; women’s ownership of land = 3.7%
Household managed by gender (% of total
HHs in the region) Female-headed household = 16%; male-headed household = 84%
Source: Census, 2014, Census 2011, Sharma et al., 2020, Suhardiman et al., 2020, Pandey et al., 2019.
2
An individual enters debt bondage when their labor is demanded as a means of repayment of a loan, or of money given
in advance. Usually, people are tricked or trapped into working for no pay or very little pay (in return for such a loan), in
conditions that violate their human rights. Importantly, the value of the work done by a bonded laborer is greater than the
original sum of money borrowed or advanced (Anti-Slavery International cit. Giri 2004: 1 in Giri, 2010).
9
Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
among Madheshi Dalits and Muslims (Gurung et
al., 2020). The landless are directly excluded from
accessing irrigation services and benefits because
they do not own land in the irrigated command
area. Thus, they are never direct beneficiaries of the
sector, as the distribution of irrigation water is land
based, making irrigation development inherently
biased against the landless and land poor (ADB et
al., 2012). Class, gender, caste, ethnicity and other
identity-based social relations influence the irrigated
agricultural production and livelihood strategies
of women, Dalits, Janajatis, Muslims and other
disadvantaged groups.
4.1.2. Agriculture-based livelihood strategies
There is a close relationship between agriculture,
SSIand gender relations in the FtF ZoI. In Nepal,
over two-thirds of the population directly depend
on agriculture for their livelihood/employment (FAO,
2019). Women constitute the major workforce in
farming, including forestry and fishery activities
(76.7%), compared to men (54.6%) (UN Women,
2015). The average landholding size per household
is 0.68 ha, and over 50% of farmers are smallholders
cultivating land usually less than 0.5 ha (Tractebel
Engineering GmbH, 2019).3 Most lands are in the
name of male members of a household (over 80%).
Only 19.7% of households have land in a woman’s
name (CBS, 2011). The figure is even lower in
the FtF ZoI as only 3.1% women own land (Rijal,
2017). Access to micro-irrigation technologies
has provided opportunities for women farmers to
diversify their crops and earn a living. Access to
simple, low-cost and less labor-intensive irrigation
technologies by women farmers has resulted in
improved food security, nutritional intake and
economic opportunities at the household level
(Upadhyay et al., 2005). In particular, multiple-use
water system technologies close to the homestead
empower women to earn a cash income from
vegetable farming as well strengthen their social
networks (Pant et al., 2006).
In the FtF region, much of the population are
smallholder and tenant farmers. Some 73.4% of
landholdings are less than 1 ha and account for
39.1% of the agricultural lands, while 24.8% of
agricultural landholdings larger than 1 ha operate
over 60% of the cultivated lands (CBS, 2013). About
16% of the households are headed by women and
around 61.1% of the agricultural lands are rain-fed.
However, less than 6% of farmers own improved
agricultural equipment (Pandey et al., 2019). Only
3.3% of households surveyed in western Nepal
received services following climate-induced
disasters (ibid). An eective agricultural strategy will
directly benefit small commercial farmers and could
substantially raise the productivity of subsistence
farmers, whereas the impact on the landless and
near landless will be mostly through employment
eects generated by irrigated agricultural VCs
(Tractebel Engineering GmbH, 2019). Scaling
irrigation equipment and services would help
diversify irrigated agriculture production in the Tarai,
where less than 50% of farmers have year-round
irrigation access (ICIMOD, 2017).
Farmers grow both winter and summer crops
(Table 4-2). Major cities such as Dang, Surkhet
and Dhangadi in the FtF ZoI are rapidly urbanizing
and have a high preference for organic food crops
(Tractebel Engineering GmbH, 2019). Hotels and
restaurants in the road corridors demand indigenous
crops (e.g., buckwheat and barley) and livestock
products. Increased demand for water resources
and limited access to irrigation is a challenge for
production. Diversified market-oriented crop
cultivation along with access to low-cost irrigation
technologies and market linkages would create
more livelihood options in the region.
4.1.3. O-farm livelihood strategies
O-farm activities such as migration, wage labor,
formal and informal jobs and small and medium
enterprises (SMEs) are the main livelihood strategies
in the FtF ZoI (Panta and Thapa, 2017). Ocial data
shows that people migrate to India, Malaysia and
Gulf countries; 95% of them are men (MoLESS,
2020). Projecting the data from returnee migrants
during the Covid-19 pandemic shows that people
3
The Agricultural Development Strategy 2015-2035 has classified farmers into three groups comprising 20% small
commercial farmers (with 1 to 5 ha and above of land); 27% subsistence farmers (with 0.5 to 1 ha of land); and the landless
and near landless (less than 0.50 ha) comprising about 53% of the rural population (MoAD, 2016).
Table 4-2. Main crops produced and marketed in the FtF ZoI districts.
Summer crops Winter crops
Districts Paddy Maize Millet Buck-wheat Vegetables Wheat Barley Vegetables Lentils
Banke √ √ - - √ √
Bardiya √ √ - - √ √
Dang √ √ √
Kailali √ √ √
Kanchanpur √ √ - - √ √
Kapilbastu √ √ - - √ √
Source: 1) MOAD, FAO & WFP 2013. Crop Situation Update: A Joint Mission of 2012 Summer Crops and Outlook of 2012/13
Winter Crops. https://documents.wfp.org/stellent/groups/public/documents/ena/wfp256520.pdf. Kathmandu, Nepal:
Ministry of Agricultural Development (MOAD), Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program.
2) Web searches.
10 Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
from province 5 migrate mostly to Gulf countries
(42.2%) followed by India (37%), Malaysia (17.8%)
and other countries (3%). Their counterparts
in province 7 migrate largely to India (90.3%)
followed by Malaysia (7.4%), Gulf countries (2.2%)
and other (0.1%). Agriculture’s contribution to
GDP declined from 50% in 1990 to 27% in 2017,
despite the country’s huge potential for economic
growth through irrigated agriculture (DWRI, 2019).4
Sustainable agriculture-based livelihoods could be
achieved by improving access to micro-irrigation
technologies, markets, credit and technical skills by
those left behind, especially women and returnee
migrant youths (Clement et al., 2015). The Covid-19
pandemic has reinforced existing poverty, inequality,
gender marginalization and unequal power
relations, as discussed below. Irrigation scaling
programs have significant potential to improve the
resilience of those impacted by the pandemic.
4.1.4. Gender norms, relations and patriarchal
values and practices
Gender norms deeply entrenched in patriarchal
ideology and unequal power relations are systemic
barriers to women and girls accessing public
services. In the Tarai region, gender discrimination
and inequality are particularly pervasive. Madheshi
women and girls experience lower human
development and a high incidence of gender-based
violence compared to their counterparts in the Hills
and Mountains regions and compared to Madheshi
men and boys (UNDP, 2009). Women and girls
in the Tarai also face dierent layers of exclusion
based on gender, caste, ethnicity, class, region and
language-based social relations (Bennett et al.,
2008). Among Madheshi women, Dalits, Muslim
and Tarai Janajati experience high levels of poverty
and marginalization. In most cases, women rely on
men for activities such as ploughing, transporting
irrigation pipes, operating irrigation equipment
and even irrigating the fields. This has broader
implications, particularly for women farmers without
men in the household. These women suer from
both economic and psychological stress (Shrestha
et al., 2018a).
Further, patriarchal values and practices are the
main barriers preventing women from fully engaging
in on-farm and o-farm livelihood activities (Udas
et al., 2019). Although traditional gender roles are
shifting, and women are beginning to get involved
in local markets, they face a triple work burden in
terms of productive, reproductive and community
activities. In addition, increasing pressure on
natural resources as a result of climate change has
added stress to women’s time poverty. A study on
nutrition-sensitive agricultural interventions and
gender dynamics shows how both in the Kailali
and Baitadi districts in western Nepal, workload
and time constraints influenced women's choice of
crops (Kjeldsberg et al 2017). Women chose simple,
less time-demanding crops and decided to limit
the amount of production, given the anticipated
time involved in market-related activities. This is
one of the reasons why women mainly engage in
subsistence farming close to their home. Distance to
markets and poor infrastructure and transportation
create an additional time burden (ibid).
Mobility in many cultures is seen as a means to
control women’s sexuality and maintain women’s
subordinate position. Freedom of mobility is lowest
among Muslim women and Madheshi Dalits (Gurung
et al., 2020). Restricted or limited mobility influences
women’s access to information and knowledge
about technology and relevant innovations. For
example, among specific groups such as the Muslims
and Madheshi, women in general practice purdah
or ghumto (female seclusion) and interact less with
the outside world, particularly men. Women outside
the home must be accompanied by a male relative.
Women from these communities also have fewer
opportunities for education because of restricted
mobility (FAO, 2019, JICA, 2013). Under such
circumstances, interaction with male irrigation tech
distributors, extension ocers, agricultural suppliers,
market o-takers or project sta could bring
shame, dishonor and even result in family conflict as
expressed by an interview with a female respondent
from the Small Farmer Cooperative Limited:
“It is not easy to involve women from remote
areas in the western and far-western region.
Social norms limit women’s mobility, they
face questions from family members. Even
if we convince them to join, they are not
active. We are trying to collaborate with local
leaders to enhance women’s participation in
cooperatives” (telephone interview, October
8, 2020).
Deeply embedded gender norms and division
of responsibilities between men and women,
do not favor women as irrigators or technology
users. Irrigation technologies and services, in
discourse and practice, therefore continue to be
dominatedby men.
4.2. Covid-19 and emerging drivers
4.2.1. Pandemic poses additional challenges
to sustainable and inclusive irrigation
development
Covid-19 has disproportionately aected the
poorest and most marginalized sections of society.
While there were immediate consequences, and
several measures such as repatriation and health
support were undertaken, the pandemic has
4
The Second Irrigation Master Plan 2019 (hereafter IMP 2019). The IMP was prepared by Tractebel Engineering GmbH in
association with NIRAS and TMS Package 4 Project Oce Department of Irrigation Lalitpur, Kathmandu Nepal for Water
Resources Project Preparatory Facility, Department of Water Resources and Irrigation, Ministry of Energy, Water Resources
and Irrigation, Kathmandu.
11
Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
resulted in long-term socioeconomic hardships,
especially for the poor who have received less
attention from the government. According to a
study by the National Planning Commission (NPC),
Nepal’s agriculture sector lost NPR 12 billion (approx.
USD 102 million) because of Covid-19. The study
also estimates that NPR 65 billion (approx. USD
555 million) is needed to help the sector recover
from the loss (Paudel 2020). A rapid assessment
by the KISAN II project (Winrock International,
2020) in the FtF ZoI, which includes 25 districts in
Lumbini, Karnali and Sudurpashchim provinces,
reports increasing economic strain on farmers.
The assessment reports that among the targeted
group, 67% have not received any support from
the government, 83% have borrowed money and
71% have used their savings to cope financially. In
addition, 18% of companies which have closed their
businesses in the past six months were owned by
women and disadvantaged groups.
4.2.2. Impact of Covid-19 on agriculture
andproducers
Lack of transportation and market access adversely
influences prices in input and output markets: In
the FtF ZoI, farmers faced transportation limitations
(37%) and inputs shortages (29%) (Winrock
International, 2020). Farmers lost income when
they were not able to sell perishable products
like vegetables and dairy because of limited
transportation and market access.5 Dairy products
contribute 3.3% to GDP and represent 12.4% of the
agriculture sector. The initial lockdown caused a
loss of about 80%, amounting to USD 30 million,
in the privately owned dairy industry (UNDP, 2020).
Vegetables contribute 2.6% to GDP and represent
9.7% of the agriculture sector (ibid, p. 52). Similarly,
vegetable exports plummeted in the first nine
months of the financial year 2019/2020, with sales
amounting to only USD 13,300 compared to USD
10.05 million in same period a year earlier. Farmers
were forced either to distribute vegetables free
of charge to less fortunate people, leave them
decaying in the field as local agents stopped
collecting crops because of limited demand in urban
centers (ibid, p. 52) or sell them to dealers at prices
below those fixed by the government.
Nepal suers from a massive fertilizer shortage
almost every planting season. There is a heavy
reliance on fertilizer import. With the Covid-19
pandemic disrupting trade, farmers were unable
to access subsidized chemical fertilizer until mid-
December 2020. Some 50,000 metric tons (MT)
of fertilizer is still to be imported from Bangladesh
under a government-to-government) deal (New
Business Age, 2020).6 Hence, farmers were unable
to gain access to fertilizers during the planting
season. Most fertilizer depots are owned by private
businessmen, who sell on the black market.
With no other options, farmers were forced to
buy fertilizers at high prices.7 An agro-irrigation
hardware proprietor indicated that other inputs
have been harder to access under Covid-19 too,
with a hike in diesel prices to NPR 3,000 per
liter. It can be assumed that this has negatively
impacted smallholders, particularly women with no
negotiation skills.8
According to SunFarmer, a solar energy services
provider, Covid-19 has negatively impacted the
sale of solar pumps, mainly because of farmers’
reduced incomes and the increased cost of pump
accessories such as panels and silicon. According to
a private sector actor, the price of silicon has hit a
historic high and fluctuates every three or four days.
Transportation limitations and high transport costs
pose additional challenges.9
Unemployment hits women and the most
vulnerable the hardest: According to Nepal Rastra
Bank’s annual report, agriculture is the largest
employer at 21.5% (UNDP, 2020). Women make up
the majority of the workforce in agriculture, forestry
and fisheries (76.7%) compared to men (54.65%)
(UN Women, 2015). Informal agriculture accounts
for 20.2% of the total share. The economic impact
of the pandemic has severely aected women
and the most vulnerable groups, particularly those
involved in the informal employment sector – the
unskilled, the low-paid, those with vague or no
employment contracts and those lacking health
insurance and social security benefits. According to
the Nepal Labour Force Survey (NLFS 2017/18), 98%
of vulnerable people working in paid agriculture are
daily wage earners. Over 90% of working women
are engaged in informal employment – low-paying,
informal and insecure jobs (CBS, 2019). Women lost
jobs, faced increased responsibility at home and are
also at increasing risk of being paid less than men,
widening the gender pay gap (Winrock International
2020). More women (41%) than men (28%) lost their
job during the lockdown (UNDP, 2020). Likewise,
more women (31%) than men (14%) borrowed
food. According to Winrock International (2020),
while men are more likely to take loan (34.3%) than
women (29%), this indicates that more women (7%)
than men (2%) sell assets like livestock. In addition,
20% of women compared to 7% of men reduced the
number of meals they ate per day. Similar findings
reported by previous research demonstrate that in
emergency situations, women sell their assets first,
leading to increased incidences of poverty among
women and female-headed households (Shrestha
and Leder, 2020).
5
Chairperson of the small farmers’ micro finance cooperative interviewed in October 2020; Rapid assessment UNDP 2020.
Rapid assessment of socio-economic impact of Covid-19 in Nepal. UN House, Pulchowk, Lalitpur, Nepal: United Nations
Development Programme..
6
New Business Age (2020). Nepali Delegation to Visit B’desh to Finalize Fertilizer Import Deal. https://www.newbusinessage.
com/Articles/view/12805
7
Telephone interview with chair of the Nepal Agricultural Cooperative Central Federation, October 8, 2020.
8
Telephone interview with an entrepreneur, October 8, 2020.
9
Telephone interview, SunFarmer, October 8, 2020.
12 Understanding barriers and opportunities for scaling sustainable
and inclusive farmer-led irrigation development in Nepal
Hence, women-led households have been the
hardest hit. Of these, 69% struggled to earn money,
53% faced falling prices for their produce, 57%
faced increased discrimination, 62% reported having
no access to information and others reported
decreased collective farming. Women’s lack of
entitlement to productive land also negatively
impacted income and food security.
Impact of Covid-19 on migrant households: The
most visible and immediate impact of Covid-19 in
Nepal was the return of migrants and decline in
remittances (UNDP, 2020). Remittances contribute
over 29% of national GDP in Nepal (World Bank,
2016), and the country is ranked as the top
remittance-receiving country in South Asia (ibid).
In province 5 and 7, the majority of the population
relies on migration as an alternative livelihood
option. Only 5% of households in province 5 and
6% of households in province 7 are able to meet
their daily necessities with income from agriculture.
Decreasing reliance on farming is also evident in
increased fallow lands in both provinces (Bhattarai
et al., 2020).
With the global economic slowdown and
consequent return migration, Nepal Rastra Bank
(2020) projected a 15% drop in remittance inflows.10
Migrants have lost jobs and returning in masse
without economic backup plans (ILO, 2020). An
estimated 127,000 labor migrants have returned to
Nepal from various destination countries because
Covid-19. An additional 400,000 are expected to
return as a result of health issues and non-renewal
of contracts in destination countries (ILO, 2020).
This figure does not include laborers in India, which
shares an open border with Nepal. Hence, Nepal
lacks an ocial record on migrants who have
returned from India. Historically, Nepali migrants
have migrated to India in search of seasonal and
permanent employment opportunities. In March
2020, when India become a Covid-19 hotspot and
the government announced a 21-day lockdown
as a preventive measure, the majority of those in
wage labor jobs had no option but to return to their
villages in remote Nepal. Media reports estimate
that 300,000-400,000 migrants have returned
from India to Sudurpashchim Province alone. A
recent report by the International Organization
for Migration (IOM) (2020) shows that the majority
who return from India are residents of Karnali and
Sudurpashchim provinces. Migrants have returned
almost penniless. The movement of migrant
workers in Nepal has been declining since February
2020, with Covid-19 adding to the challenge of job
creation. Employment opportunities in destination
countries are contingent on how and when
economies will rebound.
In addition to long-term migration, short-term
migration is a popular livelihood strategy in Nepal.
Short-term migrants are typically from poor rural
households and thus at greater higher risk of
negative Covid-19 impact. An assessment of 400
individuals and 700 small and micro-entrepreneurs