Social Sciences and Humanity Studies Academic Blog

Climate change and Farmer’s adaptation in Nepal

Posted in assignment by Shekhar on August 19, 2013



This study gives a clear picture of how Nepalese farmers are adapting to the climate change and how their adaptation strategies differ by geographical location. This report is based on the primacy data collected through the focus group discussion conducted with the farmers of hilly and terai district of Nepal. In addition this study suggests that adaptation strategies of Nepalese farmers are short term currently but such strategies need to be long term one if Nepalese agriculture sector is to cope properly with the climate change.

Keywords: Climate Change, Adaptation, Hill, Terai, Agriculture, Nepal


Climate Change

Climate change is a globally accepted and experienced phenomenon. Various studies shows that its impact is more concentrated on developing and under developed countries where majority of poor people are dependent on subsistence agriculture. Nepal carries a very special case because with in very short distance, there is huge altitudinal diversity and simultaneous diverse climate change impacts can be found (Manandhar, Vogt, Perret, & Kazama, 2011).


In Nepal, NAPA and LAPA are some of the policy level initiatives undertaken by governmental and non-governmental agencies to enhance adaptation capacity of Nepalese farmers (Tiwari, Balla, & Pokharel, 2012). These scholarly attempts suggest that subsistence farmers are at the most vulnerable group to Climate change (IPCC, 2007).

Though Nepal’s share in Climate is negligibly small, the impact is relatively clear and high due to altitudinal diversity of Nepal’s topography. The population of Nepal is less than 0.4% of the world population and anthropogenic activity produce greenhouse gas emissions that account to just 0.025% of total greenhouse emissions.

Governmental reports rank Nepal as one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world (GON, 2011) though The Nepal’s share in CC is negligibly small. The population of Nepal is less than 0.4% of the world population and is responsible for only about 0.025% of annual greenhouse gas emissions (NAPA\MOE, 2010).


Climate Change Impact

The impacts of Climate change are diverse and often debatable because they are coming from different sources and under different research framework. National Adaptation Programme of Action ( NAPA)- Nepal (2010) has points out six major areas of CC impact namely Agriculture and Food security, Water resources, Climate induced disaster, Forest and biodiversity, Public health and Urban settlement and infrastructure (Tiwari, Balla, & Pokharel, 2012).

The concerned stakeholders and institutions in CC sector are monitoring the Climate data and observing more intense, highly variable, longer gaps of no rain and delayed monsoon. In addition, growing number of glacier lakes and their growing size have high chance of cracking through terminal moraines and cause catastrophic floods. These CC consequences are anticipated to disturb irrigation and drinking water supply as well as hydroelectric production (WECS, 2011). In addition there are several anomalies predicted that includes biodiversity loss, desertification, glacier melting, and fresh water availability are often interlinked in complex system (Regmi et al., 2009). Global CC will also likely shift monsoon precipitation patterns in ways that will threaten particularly agricultural production in developing countries like Nepal (Tiwari, Balla, & Pokharel, 2012).

The vulnerability level can be also assessed from the food security perspective. Nearly 21 percent of the crop area is irrigated in Nepal (Panta, 2009). A slight change in the climatic variability has high chance of inducing of large changes in agricultural production. Scholars opine that Extreme weather conditions such as flood, drought, frost, hailstone and heat and cold waves are direct hazards to the agriculture production. For example Local consultation in Myagdi district revealed Ecoline shift in Myagdi district which might be due to increased temperature.

A recent example of shift of organize production region reflects the impact of CC in Nepal’s mountain region. In general, orange production takes place at 1200 to 1600 m. But at present it is observed that orange is found at the 1700 m altitude, Gauva also grow in high altitude (Tiwari, Balla, & Pokharel, 2012). Similar shift is observed in human habitation too. It is reported that inhabitants of Surkhang VDC in the Mustang district has migrated from that place due to drying up of water sources.

CC study in Nepal

CC study in Nepal is more focused on finding how Nepal is coping the CC impact. The researches analyses the mode and accuracy of farmers perception of climate change phenomena. Scientists carry out study to discover the new adaptation measures for farmers and people who are vulnerable to CC in Nepal’s mountainous area (Manandhar, Vogt, Perret, & Kazama, 2011).

CC study in Nepal acknowledges the role of different institutions in driving the CC discourse ahead. It confirms the climate change perception acutely and find how farmers respond to it appropriately. Nepalese farmers have their own indigenous knowledge and experiences to deal with the climatic changes around them while they are found adopting various agricultural and non-agricultural adaption measures at an individual level.

Climate Change and Geographical diversity

Farmer’s adaptation in Terai

There is changing trends among farmers behavior as a response to CC impact in agriculture sector in terai. Farmer in terai districts is found to shift from rice planting to fish farming. They prefer to farm crop that requires less water, mature early and has high tolerance to flood and other extreme climatic events. Terai farmers have started off farm activities like brick factories, driving rickshaws, porters etc, adopting zero tillage and surface seeding as strategies to adapt to particular CC impacts in their region.

On the basis of Focus group discussion and survey, the experience of the farmers of Sindhuli district would be relevant to understand the issue.

Two Case studies of Sindhuli districts


Untimely rainfall and decreased production in Jalkanya VDC

Poor farmers of Jalkanya VDC complain about increased temperature and decreased rainfall regarding the climate change. Farmer complains about the secondary impact of climate change for example they feel like there is increased deficiency of rainfall and subsequent drying of water sources in the village. Such unexpected phenomenon had resulted in soil hardening (difficult to break) and growing of shrubs more frequently in the paddy field. That increased the amount of labor to maintain the same level of production.

When asked about the climate information of the village in the 2 or 3 decade period, farmers especially depended on subsistent farming, which often had land on hill side with no possibility of irrigation canal to reach and soil of very bad quality, do feel that untimely and decreased rainfall had been the major problem in their agriculture. In one way it had decreased their production and stopped their regular farming cycle while in other hand such changes in climate like amount of rainfall and change in temperature had increased their cost of production. For example if the more amount of wild grass are seen in the paddy field, it need more labor to wipe them. If untimely rainfall occurs or rainfall doesn’t come as per the prediction of the farmer and their preparation of the rice plant, then their preparation cost goes to vain.

Regarding the farmer’s capacity to adapt to the climate change, most of the farmers were seen to be quite unknown about the need to adapt the farming mode. They were more worried about cursing the low rainfall and criticizing the VDC and government for not being able to manage irrigation for their land. Being unable to adapt to climate change and its negative impact on their production, farmer were moving towards foreign job employment opportunities for their younger generations in one side and on other side they were losing young labor to work on their field. Especially India and Malaysia were their target foreign country.

2 decades back, most of the farmers who are above 40 years now were young and they do feel that the summer temperature had apparently increased but their perception over winter temperature remained mixed and unclear. They shared that partly it may be due to their old age factor that in cold winter also they feel as colder as they used to 2 decade back. While this experience contradict with the local people of relatively young age who shared that winter are less cold than that of their grandfather’s time. Also, all villagers do agree with one another experience of dry summer than past.

Rainfall had become rare and shorter in the VDC. Some shared that rain fall comes at once and vanish in shorter period even before the soil gets completely moist or wet.

Farmers especially that of Tamang community (Janajati) responded that climate change had made their living harder. Decrease in the production of the maize and paddy, the poor farmers have no other options than to enter local forest and earn livelihood through fodder collection and firewood selling. Higher caste people in the village often interpret this situation of poor farmers especially dalit and Tamang that they don’t have energy to work on field, and jus waste their time by drinking alcohol and illegally degrade local community forest. A kind of conflict exists in local dialect according to local people.

Some farmers, relatively well off, shared very interesting experience regarding the impact of climate change. They do feel that increase in temperature of summer during last 2-3 decade has benefitted them like new appropriate environment for cauliflower vegetable farming. Also simultaneously new kind of diseases, which were not common some decades ago were seen to be attacking the vegetables and plants were found in the village.

The drought had become relatively longer and harmful in compare to earlier one. The stopping of wheat is one of the consequences of that drought during winter.

There were similar hardships faced by the farmers of Raanichuri VDC of Sindhuli Districts.

CC impact both positive and negative in Raanichuri VDC

The geographical location of this VDC is relatively remote and settlements are widely scattered among 8-10 hilltop such that no or very rare agricultural land seems to have reach of nearby water resources or stream for irrigation. Poor farmers shared that the rainfall has visibly decreased in 2 decades but oppositely the increase in temperature has made them feel comfort. Warm winters have relived the older farmers for whom working in winter during their young age was very difficult task.

Overall, the poor farmers have experienced both positive and negative impact of climate change however it is often negative most of time.

Farmer’s adaptation in Mountain

The trend of farmer’s adaption in mountain is different form terai. Farmers are more attracted to new kind of tourism business while previously they were surviving by traditional agricultural practices. They have adopted diversification of crops that includes farming of cucumber, bean, tomato, pumpkin and chili. These diverse crop are farmed both in open and green house. Local development partners have followed kitchen waste water harvesting technologies to fight water shortage. Recently farmers of apple farms have stared promoting apple farming to new election and region. Despite all this new trend of farmers adaption, mountain people still followed non-agricultural adaptation measure to conduct their agricultural and other activities like consulting traditional Lamas.

Climate change experience of hilly districts like Kavre of Nepal would be relevant to understand the aforementioned impact.

Two case studies of Kavre districts

More impact on Farmer’s livelihood in Kusadevi VDC

Kusadevi VDC is spread over 40 settlements while the climate change information has been collected from 6 settlements spread over different wards of the VDC. The VDV exist in average 65000 feet from the sea level. The area has ‘samasitosna pradesiya’ climate. The average temperate is 15-30 degree Celsius. The area is dry in the winter while in summer, it receives average rainfall. The agricultural practices differ according to the availability of the irrigational facilities and the technical knowledge of the farmers.

According to farmers of Kusadevi village, climate change has been experienced through increased temperature and subsequent opening of vegetables especially cauliflower and other cash crop, which was not possible some decades ago due to relatively lower temperature.

Climate change has also led to drying of water resources and its bad impact on poor farmers’ livelihood who are heavily dependent on farming.

Increased use of fertilizer has become necessary to main production- this had also been understood by farmers as the impact of climate change.

According to farmer, it’s difficult to predict rainfall and the drought are relative longer and than that of 2-3 decade back. But interestingly, farmers in Kusadevi VDC were found adapting to climate change through different technique like orange farming, extensive farming, off season vegetable farming and rotational farming and greenhouse mode of farming.

Farmers are happy regarding increase in temperature of the location in compare to 2 decade back as they have irrigation facilities to conduct acceptable and cash crop farming.

Similar experiences were shared by the farmers of Dhungkharka VDC of Kavre district of Nepal.


Farmers enjoying the benefit of CC in Dhungkharka VDC

Dhungkharka lies at 23 km south of Dhulikhel, the headquarter of Kavre district of Nepal. There are 23 settlements in the area spread over mainly two type of land structure including high land and low land. The VDC extends from 1300 m to 3018 m from the sea level having different kind of agricultural production. In the low land, rice, maize, wheat and vegetable farming is common while maize farming is the main agricultural activity along with milk selling and livestock raising. As 2001 VDC profile of the VDC, majority of residents are engaged in agriculture, 30% in studies and unemployed activities, 5% in daily wage labor, 0.5% in industry and 2% in business. Only 74% male and 62% female are literature. Among the entire household, 155 household were categories under extreme poverty which include Dalit and Tamang populations.

There were diverse experiences of farmers especially poor farmers regarding the impact of climate change in their agricultural practices. Some farmers feel that shorter and heavy rainfall which used to be seen some 20 years ago was missing in the present time. They complain about frequent occurrence of drought for longer time in compare to past.

Most of the farmers were dependent on sky rainfall and low rainfall or drought had been main obstacle in continuing their farming. They think that if they had irrigation facilities, they would have combat with any climate change problem like decreased rainfall or increased temperature.

Among some farmers, zero production of Rice is the main reason behind low or untimely rainfall and absence of irrigation facilities.

Subsistence farmers shared that snow fall was common before 1 or more decades back and that was acting as the natural killer of the disease but the absence of snow fall since some decades is allowing the same disease in potato to grow and destroy the crop.

Climate change is not followed by only negative consequences among poor farmers of Dhungkharka. Positive impact of climate change includes appropriate environment for cash crop especially vegetable (cabbage) which had no possibility of growing 15-20 years back. Similarly less cold environment during winter has created appropriate environment for the growing of new kind vegetable and cash crops. Simultaneously

In Dhungkharka there is increased use of fertilizer for maize cultivation. That was in response to the decreased productivity of maize due to low soil quality.

Most of the farmers shared that they were not adapting to the climate in their farming mode. However among few farmers who were able to adapt to the climate change, were following interesting technique to increase their agricultural productivity. One of them were ‘Dyang’ in local language that refers to the making soil mass in farm or agriculture land. That is expected to decrease the amount of seed to be shown with same amount of productivity.

Farmers’ adaptation in Terai Vs Mountain

Two case studies have been carried out to mark the trend in climate change scenarios and farmer’s adaption pattern between lowland Terai and upper land mountain of Nepal (Manandhar, Vogt, Perret, & Kazama, 2011).

Farmer’s adaption in Nepal is characterized by their variation in their responses in two different geographical regions namely Lowland terai and upper land mountain.

Terai observes relatively less climatic variation in compare to upper land mountain because altitude different is sharp and high in mountain region. Generally terai farmers are found to be suffering of the CC impact like flood and drought while that of Mountain have benefitted from CC in one way or the other. There are different factors that are acting either facilitator or barrier to combat CC impacts in Nepal.

The dissemination and adoption of new technologies, agricultural inputs, information and innovations are observed faster and easier in terai region in compare to upper land mountain which is dominantly covered with rugged mountains. In Mustang district of Nepal, an example of upper land mountain region of Nepal, Lamas, the traditional fortune teller do weather forecasting and suggest appropriate time schedule for local farmers to start plantation. That hints, enough information and technologies to have access to CC information is not available in Mountain region.

The planners and farmers stress on different mechanism to fight with CC change in Nepal. There is of strong irrigation channel and drainage systems in terai while crop diversification is highly practices in upper mountain region.


The literature review and the focus group discussion with local farmers suggest that the adaptation capacity seems fragile and short term and hence scholars recommend for long term coping mechanisms. Similarly the local and indigenous method of coping with CC change practiced for generations in mountain area can’t be underestimated. In addition, rather than generalizing the coping mechanisms of other places, Nepal should develop location specific adaptation strategies and encourage sustainable farm management practices and dissemination low cost technologies.


Grothmann, T., & Patt, A. (2005). Adaptive capacity and human cognition: The process of individual adaptation to climate change. Global Environmental Change , 15 (3), 199-213.

Gum, W., Singh, P. M., & Emmett, B. (2009). CLIMATE CHANGE, POVERTY AND ADAPTATION IN NEPAL. (W. Gum, Ed.) Lalitpur, Nepal: Oxfam International.

Howden, M. S. (2007). Adapting agriculture to climate change. National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America .

Manandhar, S., Kazama, F., Dietrich, S., & Sylvain, P. (2011). Adapting Cropping systems to Climate Change in Nepal: a cross-regional study of farmer’s perception and practices. Regional Environmental change , 348.

Manandhar, S., Vogt, D. S., Perret, S. R., & Kazama, F. (2011). Adapting cropping systems to climate change in Nepal: a cross-regional study of farmers perception and practices. Reg Environ Change , 335-348.

Tiwari, K., Balla, M., & Pokharel, R. R. (2012). Climate Change Impact, Adaptation Practices and Policy in Nepal Himalaya. UNU-WIDER. Helsinki: United Nations University.

One Response

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  1. Devendra Babu said, on May 29, 2015 at 2:09 am

    Great article! Will be back here for more! Already sharing your article on my fb pages.(harka Ghar Farka) It would be awesome if you could put sharing buttons on each article. Great work!

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