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Potential Role of Traditional Underutilized Food Crops in Achieving Food and Nutrition Security in Nepal

Sita Ram Ghimire, PhD

Nepal Policy Institute

Executive Summary:

The food and nutrition security of a country is addressed in Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2),which relates to ending hunger, food security, and improving nutrition through sustainable agriculturaldevelopment. The Government of Nepal has committed itself to SDGs, set targets to achieve thoserespective goals, defined indicators for those targets, and formulated policies and programs forimplementation to achieve the targets. As per the commitment, those targets have been integrated intothe 14 th and 15 th periodic plans and Agriculture Development Strategy 2015-2035.

Seven years have already passed since the SDGs were adopted for implementation by the Governmentof Nepal, but the indicators in reviews of SDGs, specifically SDG 2, are not very encouraging. TheGovernment’s official figure in 2020, even after five years of SDG’s implementation, stated that only48.2% of households are food secure. Furthermore, an alarming increase in farm product import inrecent years and months, and over-reliance on limited major food products such as rice, wheat, potato,and corn for staple food has led to a loss of nutritional diversity from the daily diet and at the sametime, loss of crop species diversity from the agricultural system, The high hills, and mountains ofNepal, have been facing a food deficit for a long time. However, most of the native and locallyadapted species of these areas, such as barley, buckwheat, millets, amaranth, vegetables, roots, andtuber crops, and so on are neglected or underutilized. Besides that, unfounded cultural and religioustaboos in some ethnic groups have referred to some crops like millet, buckwheat, and soybean asunholy foods regardless of their superior nutritional status.

Since Nepal adopted a federal system of governance in 2015, all local Municipalities have sovereignpower to formulate plans and policies to explore and utilize their resource entitlements andagroecological location advantage. Education and public awareness on locally adapted underutilizedcrop species and their role on food and nutrition diversification should receive priority of localgovernment policies. The evolution of current staple food choice dependent on limited crop speciessuch as rice, wheat, potato, and a few other crops is not considered sustainable, secure, and balancedfrom nutrition perspective. Identification of potential ecological zone-specific traditional crops andtheir breeding and improvement would pave ways to entrepreneurship and investment in suchunderutilized plant resources leading to commercialization and branding. Strategies adopted by localMunicipalities to achieve such policy outcome with the backing of the provincial and federalgovernments would help localize respective SDGs, including SDG 2, thereby helping to achieve foodand nutrition security in the country.

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Document Type: Policy Brief

Access: Open 

Country: Nepal

Keywords: SDG 2, diversity, staple food, underutilized, policies

Citation: SR Ghimire (2022). Potential Role of Traditional Underutilized Food Crops in Achieving Food and Nutrition Security in Nepal. NPI Policy Briefs, No 6, The Hague: Nepal Policy Institute.


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