Nepal has stepped into federalism with significant transformation in socio-political system. Recently completed local, provincial and federal elections have followed the federal structure of government with significant power and authority delegation to the local government including developing policies, plans and its implementation.

UNEP-GEF funded Local Crop Project (LCP) sites have also transformed into that reformation i.e. VDC to Rural Municipality (RM, Gaunpalika in Nepali) and hence previously working VDCs have now became Wards. In this context, former strategies and approaches of local level coordination needs to be revised to develop congenial relationship with new leadership. So, with the purpose of facilitating coordination with local government unit on resource leveraging and mainstreaming of key interventions of the project, GEF-LCP organized “Orientation and Interaction Workshop with local government” with participation of local government bodies and leaders of CBOs from the project sites from 15 February to 16 February 2018 in Kathmandu.

A total of 15 participants (13 male, 2 female) representing local government bodies and farming communities attended the workshop from four project sites of Humla, Jumla, Lamjung and Dolakha districts. The participants were comprised of Chairpersons of Rural Municipalities (RMs), Ward Chairpersons of project implemented RMs, Chairs of Community Seed Banks (CSBs), Cooperatives and Members of Farmers Groups from Kharpunath RMC (Humla),Tatopani RMC (Jumla), Gaurishankar RMC (Dolakha), and Marsyangdi RMC (Lamjung).

The first day of the programme started with an introduction of the role of traditional crops in local food security and conservation of agrobiodiversity, and sharing of project objectives and site wise consolidated progress and plans. The participants were oriented about the key interventions of LCP such as diversity assessment, deployment and scaling out of promising genotypes and practices, grassroot breeding and variety maintenance of local crop and landraces, CSB, promotional and awareness raising events such as diversity fair and food fair, promoting collective learning and sharing platform such as Diversity Field School (DFS). Dr. Devendra Gauchan, National Project Manager of LCP, facilitated a session on ‘introduction to farmer’s right and access and benefit sharing (ABS) in the context of agrobiodiversity conservation’ in which he highlighted national and international policies and its relevance to local government policies and plans. Then, we moved in to the discussion of identifying areas, scopes and opportunities of collaboration and integration of the project interventions and promotion of local crops in local policies and programmes of local governments. In this context, Mr. Bharat Bhandari, LI-BIRD’s Programme Operations Director, highlighted the relevant provisions included in the Local Government Act 2017 (स्थानीय सरकार संचालन ऐन २०७४), the guiding document of local government that outlines the scope for local government in conservation, documentation and utilization of local crop genetic resources.

On the following day, the participants visited National Genebank and observed on-station field trials and seed increase of local crop genetic resources and gene bank facilities for conservations of seeds and planting materials. A specific session of the programme focused on interactive site wise group discussion and presentation, where each site team with local RM representatives developed and shared joint action plans and reflected their views and learnings as a part of future plans of the local government in project sites. There was a short visit to Agri-engineering Division of NARC and “International Nepal Agri-tech Fair 2018” that was being held at Bhrikuti Mandap, Kathmandu where they observed recent technological advancement in agriculture.

Mr. Krishna Hari Ghimire, Senior Scientist of National Genebank, presenting a session ‘Diversity assessment, deployment and scaling out of promising genotypes and practices’. Photo: Niranjan Pudasaini, LI-BIRD

There are number of areas where the project can work jointly with RMs together in promoting technologies and management practices for local crops and strengthening their local seed system to improve local food and nutrition security and safeguard biodiversity of traditional crops. It includes organizing seed and products fairs, recipe development trainings targeting local hotels and homestays, strengthening technical and managerial capacity of CSB to produce and supply quality seeds of local and locally demanded improved varieties, supporting for easy processing equipment such as millet thresher. CSBs can play roles of local resource center to conserve, register, produce and supply quality seeds of local crops, however, it needs to be supported by the local government by integrating it in their policies and developmental plans. With this background, each site team comprising representatives of RMs, CBOs and farmers’ committee members and project staffs held interactive discussion together for the identification of activities that can be planned jointly for promoting local crops in the area.

Major discussion revolved around the need of developing and widening scope of farmers institution i.e., CSB, by developing and strengthening value chain of both seed and product of local crops for its promotion during preparation of joint action plans. RMs of all sites have committed in allocating financial support to CSB in seed production activities and linking it with relevant programmes of the municipalities. Humla and Jumla’s project site Municipalities have shown keen interest in supporting seed production and maintenance activities of on-going work of grassroots breeding of Rato (finger millet variety of Jumla) and Dudhae (prosomillet variety of Humla) through CSB. Mr. Karna Bahadur Rawal, Chairperson of Kharpunath, RM Humla said “Our Palika [RM] will support mass seed production of Proso millet and its promotion. Also, we will arrange budget to promote local crop via local tourism in Humla.” Kharpunath RMC, Humla has committed to support further in CSB building construction in addition to the previous support of NPR 4 lakh. Chair and Vice-Chairpersons of all RMs have shown great interest to support CSB activities and emphasized that CSBs of respective sites have to be expanded at RMs level rather than confining them to the particular ward level. The support coming from the local government unit in itself is very much admirable. In this regard, the site team has agreed to hold a follow-up discussion with agriculture committees at their respective RMs to develop a detailed action plans and thus move forward in developing CSBs as a local resource centre for quality seed access, conservation and promotion of local crops. This step will definitely help to widen scope of CSB and eventually ensure its sustainability. Collecting seed demand of both local and improved varieties of important crop and including it in yearly work-plan of CSB would be the very first step in this process.

Mr. Swayam Bahadur Khadka, Chairperson of Gaurishankar RM said “This programme is very relevant and timely as we are planning to develop Gaurishankar as organic Gaupalika. The Gaupalika is interested in expanding seed bank services reaching out other wards since it is currently serving to ward 1 and 2. Gaupalika is positive to support such a good initiatives of local crop conservation and strengthening local seed system through CSB approach.” He also shared that they have already provisioned NPR 600,000 for supporting establishment of three seed banks in Gaurishankar RM. Similarly, Mr. Basanta Karki, Ward Chair of Gaurishankar RM-2, Dolakha highlighted, “Through coordination with the project via CSB, our Gaupalika will definitely work on conservation, promotion and use of local crop of Dolakha.”

Mr. Dhiraj Jaisi, Ward Chairperson of Tatopani RM-4, presenting joint action plan. Photo: Niranjan Pudasaini, LI-BIRD.

All RMs have included conducting diversity fairs linking food fairs as an awareness raising activity. Mr. Nabaraj Neupane, Tatopani Rural Municipality, Jumla stressed on organic production of vegetable and cereal crops for a healthy living. Linking local tourism for local product promotion was also highlighted by the participants and commitments were shown to work for it in future. In this regard, Mr. Homnath B.K., Vice chair of Marsyangdi RM, said “There are 12 homestays within our Palika. We will take initiative to introduce local crop recipes in each homestay along with their information to increase awareness among the people and to promote the use of the local crops and their nutritional value.”

During the policy level discussion, Mr. Khageswor Jung Gurung, Chairperson of CSB management team of Ghanpokhara Lamjung said “Community seed bank is important resource for local people, so its sustainability has to be thought by the community and local government. Supporting rules and regulation has to be formulated from local to national level.” He further added that the CSB member committee, farmers and local government unit can and has to play crucial role in this process.

Meanwhile Chairpersons of RMs mentioned that with changed context and limited instruction from central government, they are struggling in preparing plans for agricultural development. So, this programme has helped them in realizing scope and opportunity in their area and thus they have shown commitment in planning and allocating resources accordingly. Joint action plans of all project sites have clearly highlighted possible collaboration and support in this as they are planning to formulate a periodic master plan on key areas of agricultural development. During the process, as per local context, the project can provide needed technical support in developing action plans particularly on conservation, use and promotion of agro-biodiversity. The Local Government Act 2017 (2074) has also explicitly outlined production, promotion and conservation of local crops and agrobiodiversity.

The project site wise group work plans developed and drafted jointly with representatives of local governments and local communities during the workshop will be further reviewed and revised by the respective site teams through further consultation and facilitations with the local partner community based organizations. The project team will submit the revised plan formally to the local governments of the respective project sites unit through existing local mechanisms. For example, in Lamjung, each ward have separate network of key sectors such as agriculture and infrastructure which are represented in respective committee at RM level. They have formulated this network for collecting proposal from each ward on each sector, which will be submitted and discussed in the RM level committee. In our case, we will directly coordinate with the Agriculture Network at ward level and the Agriculture Committee at RM level for submission and implementation of work plans for mainstreaming project outputs and good practices.

The participants highly appreciated the initiative of bringing key stakeholders, project implementers, local community and partner organizations and local government representatives at a place with motive of facilitating the discussion for betterment of the area with background of the project objective. They felt that the workshop was very much relevant and held at an appropriate time when the local governments are in the process of developing plans for coming fiscal year. The joint actions plans have been a good indicator for further follow-up and collaboration to mainstream project activities and leveraging resources at the local level for the sustainability of the project works.

Local Crop Project is funded by the Global Environment Facility, implemented by UNEP and jointly executed by Bioversity International, National Agriculture Genetic Resources Centre (NAGRC) – Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC), the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD).

This article is prepared by Rita Gurung, Niranjan Pudasaini and Subash Gautam and reviewed by Bharat Bhandari and Dr. Devendra Gauchan.