ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rural and Agricultural Mechanisation in the Himalayan Rural Economy

The Spread of Small Engines in the Nepal Mid-hills

Over the past 10 years, the Nepal mid-hills experienced rapid agricultural and other types of rural mechanisation, especially through the spread of small-scale equipment. Using case studies, published and grey documents, key informant interviews, and participatory observation to examine the extent and history of this mechanisation and the factors influencing the increased use of small-scale equipment, we conclude that these changes were influenced by government and donor policies and projects, Nepal’s migrant economy, the economic shocks of the 2015 earthquake and the 2015 Indian border blockade, the growth of a responsive local import and agricultural machinery industry, and the increased demand for rural goods and services.

The authors would like to thank Andrew McDonald, Gokul Paudel, Madhusudan Basnyat, and Subash Adhikari for their knowledge and support over the years on many of the issues raised in this paper. They are grateful for discussions with many colleagues in the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, the Nepal Agriculture Machinery Entrepreneurs Association, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and the International Food Policy Research Institute over the years. The authors also acknowledge the comments of an external reviewer for helping them to improve the paper.

Recently, researchers, governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and donors have demonstrated a renewed interest in agricultural and rural mechanisation (Biggs et al 2011; Cabral and Amanor 2022; Diao et al 2020; FAO 2017). This paper examines the recent rapid spread of smaller powered equipment in the mid-hills of Nepal. We discuss the reasons for this spread in case studies and the historical setting. Much literature suggests that the mechanisation of agriculture in mountainous areas is limited to better hand tools and manual and animal-powered equipment (FAO 2014). However, recent studies show that considerable mechanisation occurred in the Alpine regions of Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, with smaller horsepower (HP) four-wheel tractors (4WTs) with lower centres of gravity, two-wheeled tractors (2WTs), and more, recently, among the small highland farmers of Italy’s Piedmont region (Flury et al 2013; Franco et al 2020).

Unlike the long-standing technology transfer projects bet­ween Europe and Nepal for transport in mountainous areas (for example, trail bridges and ropeways) and micro and small-scale hydro, there have been few projects concerned with the transfer of small-scale agricultural machinery from the mountains of Europe to the mid-hills of Nepal and vice versa (Gyawali et al 2004; Gyawali et al 2017; Liechty 2021). India has extensive mountainous areas and an open border with Nepal, but small-scale equipment from India has not spread widely in Nepal’s mid-hills. While recent imports of smaller agri-machinery from India often have Indian names, their components are from China and other Asian countries (GOI 2017). The mechanisation of agriculture in the Nepal mid-hills has a long history of the spread of small-scale, inexpensive, good- and light-enough technology, in the beginning from Japan and Korea, and then primarily from China.

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Updated On : 26th Jun, 2023
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