During the second and third week of June, I had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand with colleagues and faculty members from Kansas State University, University of Florida, and Missouri State University. During our 10-day stay, we visited several prominent farms in New Zealand, including Glen Dene Station (a hunting farm), Jackson Orchards (apple, peach, plum, nectarine, and apricot orchards), large-scale dairy farms, and Māori Point (a grape vineyard). Additionally, I attended the International Food and Agribusiness Association’s (IFAMA) conference, which brought together global professionals in the field of agribusiness.
Being in New Zealand constantly reminded me of Nepal, with both countries having unique similarities and differences. While New Zealand is surrounded by water and Nepal is landlocked, they both boast predominantly mountainous landscapes. New Zealand attracts around 4-5 million tourists annually, and a significant number of them visit agricultural farms. Tourists in New Zealand visit farms for two main reasons: recreational activities (including aesthetics) and educational purposes. New Zealand farms have developed various offerings such as local food and beverages, hunting experiences (deer and Himalayan tahr), and Māori storytelling to cater to recreational interests. Many tourists visit these farms to learn about advanced farming practices, technologies adopted by New Zealand, and acquire agro-entrepreneurial skills. The fusion of the agriculture sector with mesmerizing landscapes and unique traditional culture that New Zealand employs to attract tourists serves as an invaluable lesson for Nepal.
Nepal also receives approximately 1.2 million international tourists, primarily attracted to its mountains and religious sites. However, unlike New Zealand, Nepal has yet to fully capitalize on its beautiful natural landscapes, diverse cultures, and farming systems as major tourist attractions. Nepal has tremendous potential to develop agritourism, which can serve as an effective marketing strategy for Nepali produces at minimal costs. Tourists can be encouraged to purchase and consume local foods and beverages, which can be an excellent source of income for farmers. Similar to New Zealand, Nepal can showcase its farming practices rooted in traditional culture by adopting a storytelling approach. This would not only enhance the overall tourist experience but also extend the positive image and reputation of Nepali farms and farming culture beyond the country’s borders.
However, Nepal’s farming system faces multiple challenges that must be addressed to promote agritourism. During my participation in the four-day IFAMA conference and visits to multiple farms in New Zealand, I, as a scholar of Agricultural Economics, have identified three major approaches to overcome these challenges.
Scaling up small farms
Unlike New Zealand, Nepal predominantly consists of smallholding farmers. Nevertheless, it is possible to operate small farms on a larger scale through horizontal integration. Farmers can organize themselves into associations and cooperatives to coordinate their efforts and develop cooperatives that facilitate the exchange of knowledge and information. Another approach is vertical integration, where cooperatives establish collection and processing units, enabling them to generate higher margins through value addition activities. Even small post-harvest activities such as cleaning, grading, and packaging can enhance customer satisfaction and fetch higher prices.
Research and development
New Zealand exemplifies the effective utilization of research and development as a means to transfer knowledge and technology from research stations to farms. Many farms in New Zealand allocate resources to hire experts or collaborate with research institutions. Nepal should incentivize entrepreneurs, cooperatives, or associations to allocate funds for R&D. This would facilitate collaboration between researchers and agricultural entrepreneurs. Adapting proven Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) to the Nepali farming context is essential for improving both the quantity and quality of production. R&D can play a crucial role in developing customized GAPs.
Quality standards and certification
As a net exporter of agricultural commodities, New Zealand emphasizes the importance of maintaining quality standards and certification. Developing facilities for quality testing, certification, and accreditation is essential as Nepal strives to meet the higher standards of global markets, including Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS) and technical barriers to trade (TBT).Nepal should be able to enjoy its easy access to foreign markets, as demonstrated by its score of 6.5 out of 7 on the World Economic Forum’s Enabling Trade Index.
Adapting proven Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) to the Nepali farming context is essential for improving both the quantity and quality of production.
Nepal can contribute to the global market share with its certified high-value commodities such as ginger, coffee, tea, and large cardamom. The tea industry in Nepal already adheres to a Code of Conduct consistent with good agricultural practices. The Plant Quarantine and Pesticide Management Centre (PQPMC), which serves as the focal point of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), should focus on capacity building and infrastructure development. Furthermore, Nepal has the opportunity to unleash the potential of its high-value crops through Fair Trade certification. The country can replicate successful practices from the coffee industry and apply them to other crops such as large cardamom, ginger, and tea.
By implementing these approaches, Nepal can overcome the challenges faced by its farming system and unlock the potential for agritourism. This would not only contribute to the economic development of the country but also promote sustainable agricultural practices, enhance product quality, and facilitate market access for Nepali farmers.
Manoj Sharma is a PhD Student at Department of Agricultural Economics of Kansas State University.