The humble kera (banana) comprises 60% of fruits in Nepal,” says Shiva Bahadur (Nuchhe Pradhan) Nepali. “But there is no research done on kera at all in Nepal!”
No research at all? “No research at all!” say Nepali.
Nepali did his Masters in Agriculture from Punjab Agriculture University and joined government service as a horticulturist. From 1977 to 1979 he was the Director General of the Department of Agriculture. He says, “When I was the Director General, we did a pilot project with USAID involving 24,000 hectares of land. The Americans were impressed with the results.”
He also asserts, “I was one of the architects of the first 10-year Agriculture Development Plan conceived back in 1975.”
So, what were the results? “It was terminated after 5 years. We made the mistake of bringing the Irrigation Department into the picture. They were only interested in huge schemes where there was plenty of scope for huge kickbacks and commissions.”
In 1981, he entered the ranks of FAO which had its headquarters in Rome. “I worked for 6 years each, in Yemen and Pakistan, and 3 years in Uganda. “
In 1991-1993, he was made the Executive Director of The Nepal Agri Research Council. “ During this time, I helped establish the Citrus Research Council in Dhankuta,” he informs.
Why citrus? “Because citrus should actually be the national fruit of Nepal,” he opines. “You know, suntalas (oranges) are grown all over the hills from the east to the west. There is a glut in production in the season.”
What about apples? “They are also good for Nepal. I remember, once I had mooted the idea of growing apples in Jumla. But my superior put it off with the flippant remark that ‘the man who can grow apples in Jumla is a good horticulturist but a bad economist.’” Nepali gets a bit worked up about this and says, “Apple farming and road building could have gone together and this would have helped in Jumla’s development.”
So, in his capacity as an expert, how does he see the development of fruit cultivation in the country? “It was good till 1980,” he says. “After that, it’s all downhill. Whatever little is being done is done totally by the private sector. The government’s role is zero.”