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Mechanization in Nepalese agriculture: Potential knowledge gaps and significance


  • Avinash Gupta

    (South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment)


The essay evidences that while the dominant narrative on mechanization is essentially about large farms, capital intensive equipment and canal irrigation system, a less-highlighted, "heterodox" strand in scholarship provides evidence that there are major differences in the way countries like India and Bangladesh have progressed in mechanization. Although there are overlaps in the two strategies, the paper argues that recognizing the differences has scholarship and policy significance for Nepal and for the rest of the region if an effective mechanization strategy is to be devised. The paper observes that if India's mechanization is largely explained by the dominant approach, made feasible by its fiscal, institutional and industrial capacity, Bangladesh's mechanization is based on small, inexpensive and multipurpose equipment. Indeed, Bangladesh achieving significant mechanization despite sustained land fragmentation has especial salience for Nepal. In Nepal, like Bangladesh, smallholders form the bulk of farmer households while fragmentation is on the rise. Moreover, rapid emigration to foreign lands for work has created labour shortages on the farm while, owing to the agriculture sector stagnation and remittance-driven credibly rising consumption capabilities, imports of agricultural goods are soaring. Credible policy support in mechanization is identified as having contributed to Bangladesh`s success. While much of the agriculture mechanization scholarship on Nepal finds that mechanization is low and confined to specific geography such as the Tarai plains, the paper contends, drawing out of some estimation efforts from a less-discussed strand of the literature, that the prevailing narrative may be simplistic, if not erroneous. The argument is that the analytical frame used in much of the existing scholarship is narrow as it does not consider small equipment largely because of ideological and political reasons; indeed, much of the existing knowledge is based on the dominant paradigm. The essay contendsthat, inter alia, this potentially preventsformation of a credible picture which can then be exercised in devising policy interventions for increasing mechanization; considered a potent tool to shore up stagnant agricultural productivity. Upon broadening the analytical frame, i.e., inclusion of small equipment, there is suggestive evidence (quantitative estimates in, for instance, some case- studies) to indicate that rural mechanization, driven by inexpensive small equipment, may well be occurring in Nepal; including in the hills and mountains, areas considered poorly mechanized in the existing literature. Interestingly, much of even the dominant paradigm literature does make some passing references to small equipment-drive mechanization and that this has resulted in efficient agronomic practices in certain pockets. The article contends that to devise a suitable mechanization strategy, there is need for more research on this dimension of farm mechanization, beginning with acredible analysis of rural capital goods that does not equate mechanization with the use of large equipment.

Suggested Citation

  • Avinash Gupta, 2018. "Mechanization in Nepalese agriculture: Potential knowledge gaps and significance," Working Papers 03, South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment.
  • Handle: RePEc:saw:wpaper:wp/18/03

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. A. P. Thirlwall, 1983. "A Plain Man’s Guide to Kaldor’s Growth Laws," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(3), pages 345-358, March.
    2. Antonio Andreoni, 2011. "Manufacturing Agrarian Change - Agricultural production, inter-sectoral learning and technological capabilities," DRUID Working Papers 11-13, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
    3. Hiroyuki Takeshima, 2017. "Custom-hired tractor services and returns to scale in smallholder agriculture: a production function approach," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 48(3), pages 363-372, May.
    4. Takeshima, Hiroyuki & Adhikari, Rajendra Prasad & Poudel, Mahendra Nath & Kumar, Anjani, 2015. "Farm household typologies and mechanization patterns in Nepal Terai: Descriptive analysis of the Nepal living standards survey:," IFPRI discussion papers 1488, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
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    Mechanization dynamics in Nepal; Current understanding and potential knowledge gaps;

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