Human resource development: Another significant achievement in the field of agriculture is the number of trained personnel in the country. The Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science offersoffers agricultural graduate degrees and recently started postgraduate programmes.
The Agricultural Perspective Plan: Nepal has prepared a 20-year Agriculture Perspective Plan covering all aspects of agriculture development, including agrobiodiversity conservation. In the last decade, Nepal has organised national, regional, and international conferences on biodiversity. Recent international conferences organised in the country include: the Regional Conference on Environment and Biodiversity (March 1994), the National Conference on Plant Genetic Resources (November 1994), the Global Conference on Livestock (August 1998), the International Conference on Environment and Agriculture (November 1998), the National Conference on Wild Relatives of Cultivated Plants in Nepal (June 1999), Biotechnology Application for Reforestation and Biodiversity Conservation (BIOREFOR) (December 1999).
184.108.40.206 Lessons learned
The adoption of high yielding varieties has resulted in the erosion of several landraces and breeds. Until these high yielding varieties have proven suitability, their use should be restricted. High yielding varieties have been found to be sensitive to pathogens and varying environmental conditions.
Traditional farmers use a wide range of plants for protecting their crops against pest infestation, both in the field as well as during storage. Timur (Zanthoxylum alatum), black plum (Syzygium cumini), tobacco (Nicotina tabacum), neem (Azadiracta indica), bakaino (Melia azedarach), marigold (Tagetus erecta), titepati (Artemesia vulgaris) and asuro (Justicia adhatoda) all have values in crop protection. In addition to the above-mentioned list, there are more than 23 other plant species which have been reported to have similar crop-protecting characteristics.
220.127.116.11 Major constraints
Present germplasm bank facilities are not adequate and require upgrading. There are financial, technical and personnel constraints at various commodity research stations.
Realising that new crop varieties, with their dependence on chemical fertilisers and pesticides, will lead to the displacement of landraces, solutions to maintain local genetic diversity need to be sought through the promotion of appropriate agricultural policies and practices. Such measures will help rural communities to become and remain self-reliant and to maintain control over their production systems.
Plant genetic resources must be conserved because they are the building blocks on which the modern crop-breeding approach relies to develop new varieties. A well-defined scientific approach is urgently required to address several issues regarding agrobiodiversity. These include public awareness and ethnological issues, to explore the potential economic benefits that can be derived from agrobiodiversity, to examine the impact of external market forces on agrobiodiversity, and to evaluate the needs of institutions that have a mandate to conserve and develop agrobiodiversity.
Evolving international dialogue and global mechanisms to protect species and genetic diversity suggest that genetic resources of all forms are the patrimony of the countries in which they originate. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the protection of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights have significant implications for agricultural biodiversity policy. The widespread appreciation and recognition of Intellectual Property Rights for the purpose of creating incentives for technological innovations, processes and products has implications for germplasm management. The exchange of seeds from one farmer to another could be curtailed, farmers may have to buy seeds from companies and pay expensive royalties, and access to germplasm by researchers could be limited. The post-CBD era has sensitised developing countries on the exchange of germplasm by providing sovereignty over Plant Genetic Resources. This is a shift from the earlier concept of Plant Genetic Resources being a common heritage of mankind.
Bio-prospecting is the systematic process of inventorying, sampling, collecting and testing biological material to search for economically and socially valuable genetic and biochemical resources in nature. Gene-rich but technology-poor countries must increase their bio-prospecting technology if they are to use their biodiversity in a sustainable manner (Riley and Rao 1994). In Nepal, genes identified from a few crops govern important traits. For example, Pauder, local wheat, has cold-induced sterility tolerance genes (Joshi & Sthapit 1995). Ekle rice has zinc deficiency tolerance genes, Chhomrong Dhan (rice) has cold tolerance genes, and Ghorlikharka, local sarasin (Brassica species), has the highest oil content (Rijal & Chand 1993; Joshi et al. 1996b). Many more valuable genetic and biochemical resources in cereals, legumes, fruits, and vegetables and their wild relatives remain to be discovered.
The necessity of having a national co-ordinating body, such as a National Biodiversity Unit (NBU), to deal with agricultural biodiversity is urgent. This institution should also have a mandate to formulate agricultural biodiversity policy, to promote agrobiodiversity monitoring, conservation, and use, and to clarify national policy regarding bio-prospecting. This proposed policy-making body should co-ordinate a transparent system to implement national policy, to regulate plant exploration and exchange, and to co-ordinate joint ministry and NGO activities for promoting agrobiodiversity conservation. In addition, institutional roles and mandates regarding agrobiodiversity conservation should be clarified in national policy. This body should also co-ordinate and facilitate effective communication among relevant actors and improve documentation systems to facilitate the work of government agencies, INGOs, NGOs, the private sector and grassroots institutions, including farmers groups, involved in agricultural biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.
National level expertise in agrobiodiversity research, conservation, and management is insufficient and baseline information on the agrobiodiversity of Nepal is incomplete and limited in scope. Furthermore, current planners and policy-makers undervalue indigenous knowledge and traditional agricultural practices.
Curricula at all levels of agricultural management lack orientation towards agricultural biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. Since agricultural biodiversity has a direct bearing on human survival, it is in the public interest to be aware of the value of agricultural biodiversity and the potential threats of its irreversible loss.
For management of agricultural biodiversity to be successful, effective utilisation of the expertise of both male and female farmers is essential. The recognition of gender issues and indigenous knowledge systems, especially amongst the most marginalised groups, must be included in participatory research and management systems.
The Agriculture Perspective Plan does not mention the conservation of livestock genetic resources. However, identification, characterisation, and evaluation of production and reproduction performances of different breeds of livestock and poultry are underway in the Animal Breeding Division and other research stations under the Nepal Agricultural Research Council. The Department of Livestock Services has three ongoing projects. These are: (i) the Third Livestock Development Project, to improve livestock productivity, expand agroprocessing and marketing initiatives, and for institutional strengthening and organisational development, funded by the Asian Development Bank; (ii) the Strengthening of Veterinary Services for Livestock Disease Control Project, which aims to eradicate rinderpest and reduce the incidence of other diseases, funded by the European Community; and (iii) the Hills Leasehold Forestry and Forage Development Project, to improve conditions for families living below the poverty line through livestock development, forestry and pasture development in the degraded forest lands of Nepal, funded by the International Fund for Agriculture Development. However, not one of these three projects addresses conservation issues regarding indigenous animal genetic resources.
The concept of conservation of indigenous animal genetic resources is fairly new to Nepalese planners and policy-makers. Farmers in some areas used to conserve superior productive animals by keeping the male calves of very productive animals for breeding. A population census of lulu cattle, together with attempts to measure their production under farmers’ management, was recently initiated (Joshi & Rasali 1996).
Conservation measures and use of yak, lulu and achhame cattle have been proposed in the Ninth Five-year Plan of His Majesty's Government of Nepal. One of the stated goals in this Plan for the livestock sector is to increase productivity of these indigenous breeds by 25% through breeders’ groups of 8,000 households, comprising women and poor farmers in the districts of Solukhumbu, Mustang, and Achham.
18.104.22.168 Policy and legislation
The objectives of the Livestock Health and Livestock Service Act, 1998, are to develop and maintain animal husbandry to produce healthier food and to produce, distribute, export and import healthier animals, animal products and/or animal product substances.
Section 3 of the Act empowers HMGN to establish permanent or temporary quarantine check-posts in any part of the country by publication of notification in the Nepal Gazette.
Section 6 of the Act requires imported animals, animal products, or animal product substances to be quarantined for a prescribed period of time for examination. If the animal dies during quarantine, the Quarantine Officer must order the importer to dispose of the dead animal. The importer is not entitled to claim for compensation if the animal dies in quarantine.
Section 7 of the Act requires the Quarantine Officer to provide a certificate to the importer after examination in the format prescribed in the Regulations.
Section 8 stipulates that the conditions to be followed while importing or exporting animals, animal products, and/or animal product substances will be as prescribed in the Regulations promulgated under the Act. Further, Section 9 obliges the importer to put his/her products through quarantine. Section 10 of the Act empowers HMGN to prohibit the importation of diseased animals, animal products, and/or animal product substances by publication of notification in the Nepal Gazette.
Section 11 of the Act empowers the Quarantine Officer to deny importation of animals, animal products, and/or animal product substances into Nepal if:
the officer detects that the animal, animal product, and/or animal product substance is infected with a communicable disease;
the importer does not provide a certificate stating that the animal, animal product, and/or animal product substance is free of all communicable diseases;
animals die from a communicable disease, whether or not the importer provides the certificate mentioned in (b);
a vehicle infected with a communicable disease is used to transport the animal, animal product, and/or animal product substance.
Section 14 of the Act requires the importer to remove or destroy the animal, animal product and/or animal product substance on receipt of such order. The Quarantine Officer may personally remove or destroy the animal, animal product, and/or animal product substance if the importer refuses to do so. All costs incurred during removal or destruction of the animal, animal product, and/or animal product substance by a Quarantine Officer must be reimbursed by the importer.
Under section 17 of the Act, a person wishing to establish an industry based on biological materials, such as poultry, fish, or animal food or meat processing, must obtain permission from the concerned authority.
Section 18 of the Act requires that a person wishing to export or import biological materials, including chicks, fingerlings and animal feed, must obtain permission from and pay prescribed fees to the concerned authority.
Under section 19 of the Act, a person who wants to sell or distribute biological materials, including chicks, fingerlings and processed meat, is required to obtain permission from and pay prescribed fees to the concerned authority. Quality and measurement standards for the sale and distribution of biological materials, including chicks, fingerlings, and processed meats, shall be observed.
Aside from the Livestock Health and Livestock Service Act, 1998, there is no legislation regulating animal breeding and no law to protect or conserve domestic animal genetic resources. HMGN has no effective programme for the management and utilisation of well-adapted indigenous livestock. However, crossbreeding has been widely conducted in Nepal since 1960 to upgrade poorly producing cows and buffaloes without the recent studies on the genetic potential of indigenous genotypes. Both the National Conservation Strategy and NEPAP I recommend the implementation of a strategy that stresses multiple use of livestock and optimisation of productivity while minimising over-grazing and loss of soil fertility as central tenets of the nation's livestock development strategy. However, conservation of indigenous livestock and their genetic resources is not mentioned in either document.
Despite such inadequacies, existing breeding guidelines adopted by the Department of Livestock Services that deal with artificial insemination and crossbreeding with exotic breeds address the concern of indigenous breeds. The guidelines are as follows: (i) Parkote and lime buffalo will be conserved and maintained in some pocket areas; (ii) productivity of yak, lulu and achhame cattle will be improved through group-breeding schemes to conserve and maintain their populations; (iii) bull exchange programmes between user groups will check inbreeding; (iv) productivity of the Khari goat will be increased through a selective breeding scheme and an improved overall management system; (v) no exotic breed will be introduced to increase the productivity of Bhyanglung and Lampuchhre sheep, or of Chyangra and Sinhal goat, and a selective group-breeding scheme will be followed to improve productivity of the pure line; (vi) ram and buck exchange programmes between farmers will reduce inbreeding; and (vii) indigenous pig breeds, such as chwache and hurrah, will be conserved in pocket areas.
Nepal has recognised that domesticated and cultivated species are an important component of biological diversity. The Government (HMGN 1998), with the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (GCP/RAS/144/JPN), has prepared a national policy document on management and utilisation of farm animal genetic resources. Although there is no legislation regarding animal breeding, conservation of farm animal genetic resources has been incorporated into the proposed Veterinary Act, which is currently awaiting approval.
22.214.171.124 Major achievements
Improving socio-economic conditions: In Nepal, livestock provides 31% of total agricultural output. This is expected to increase to 45% over the next twenty years (APP 1995). As the cereal deficit continues to worsen, conservation of genetic resources in livestock production systems, which are growing at a faster rate than crop production systems, may become a priority. Livestock and poultry contribute to national food security, fibre, power, fertiliser, fuel, transportation, and income resources. While the water buffalo is the most important economic animal, Nepal’s seven million cattle are the most useful to farmers and thus are bred by all socio-economic groups in all agroecological regions of the country (ASD 1995/96).
Selection of environmentally suitable indigenous breeds: The breeds of livestock and poultry in Nepal have been developed over hundreds of years through selection and thus bear various traits of economic and environmental importance. For example, hill cattle are resistant to diseases like foot-and-mouth disease, internal parasites, and harsh climatic conditions. Therefore, only indigenous breeds may be able to cope with multiple challenges over the long term.
Cross-breeding and livestock improvement: Modern transportation and use of germplasm have made it possible to change production systems in Nepal, by either transporting live animals or transporting their germplasm. Exotic breeds with high milk yields or specialised production systems have been utilised to meet the needs of the growing human population. Examples include Jersey and Holstein cattle crossbred with Nepali hill cattle, Mural buffalo crossbred with local buffalo, and several exotic breeds of pigs crossbred with chwache and hurrah pigs. However, one of the consequences of crossbreeding is a gradual decline in genetic variability within domestic animal populations, and therefore livestock production systems may become unpredictable with environmental changes, adverse nutritional conditions, or prevalence of disease or parasites.
Cultural conservation of livestock: Indigenous breeds, the product of natural selection and human effort, are not commercial. Indigenous breeds do, however, have cultural functions. For example, chwache pigs maintained by the Limbus in eastern Nepal form a valuable part of their culture. Similarly, jhopkyos are multipurpose animals conserved by the Sherpas, used as beats of burden, as draught animals, and for their meat. The baruwal, dhorel sheep, and sinhal goat are well adapted for migration. However, few males are used for breeding amongst indigenous breeds, which also suffer from inbreeding, reducing genetic variability.
126.96.36.199 Lessons learned
Selection and distribution of the various indigenous breeds of animals raised in different parts of the country is guided by socio-economic values, ethnocultural preferences, climate, management systems and, in some cases, marketability. Year-round feed supply and social preferences are two major factors determining the choice of animal and livestock management system used in rural areas. Therefore, conservation of livestock genetic resources incorporating both preservation and sustainable use of farm animals exists mainly in small farming systems where farmers own few animals but keep several species (Shrestha 1984, 1998). These farming systems are characterised by small land holdings and low use of technology and inputs. Livestock production in rural areas, which is mainly subsistence-oriented, is a risk reduction strategy, due to their remote locations and isolation from market services (Wilson 1995).
188.8.131.52 Major constraints
From an institutional standpoint, there is need for a focal point to facilitate effective management and sustainable use of indigenous animal genetic resources and endangered breeds of livestock.
The importance, value, and utility of local breeds and strains have to be established and evaluated so that they may contribute to overall livestock development. Some order of priority must be established, which may be based on genetic merit, contributions to local subsistence, cultural values or other reasons.
Livestock conservation through in-situ management primarily deals with stock numbers and their maintenance cost. In-situ conservation has two distinct disadvantages. Firstly, genetic drift occurs faster in smaller populations; secondly, fewer males than females may cause fixation of some genes. Sufficient numbers of breeding units, a number of which must be renewed annually, are needed to maintain inbreeding at about 0.2% per year (Smith 1984). Therefore, a controlled mating system is important in small populations to keep inbreeding effects to a minimum.
Drawing genetic traits from a shrinking pool of breeds to keep pace with changing climatic and soil conditions and to develop resistance to pests and new diseases is a difficult challenge. Eradication of animal diseases is not being attempted and exotic diseases (e.g. bovine-rhinotrachitis, theileriasis, anaplasmosis, degnala and buffalo pox in cattle and buffalo, avian influenza, mareks, LBD, ILT, Salmonellosis, EDS-76 in poultry) are being introduced through imported animals. These emerging diseases are threatening indigenous domestic and wild animal populations (Singh et al. 2000).
However, ex-situ conservation can overcome some of these difficulties. There is no danger in ex-situ conservation from genetic drift or semen collection techniques for cattle, buffaloes, pigs, goats, sheep, and poultry. Ex- situ methods include storage of frozen cells in either haploid form (sperm or ova) or diploid form (embryo).
Lack of information or databanks on indigenous livestock breeds hampers management and formulation of appropriate breeding policies. A comprehensive description of the characteristics of each breed and established crossbred populations of livestock is necessary. It is also important that provisions be made to connect the data bank to a regional data bank, such as the one maintained at the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Regional Office in Bangkok, to assist in identifying sub-populations of the same breeds in different countries of the region. This will contribute to the formulation of breeding programmes extending beyond Nepal’s boundaries.
Cryopreservation of livestock breeds needs to be strengthened. Planning and implementation of cryogenic storage for all breeds is vital, as is dissemination of information and training. The National Agricultural Research Council has all the prerequisites to become a national focal point for the collection and storage of genetic resources, including embryos, semen, and tissues.