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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Learning from adversity: Small-scale commercial farming in Nepal amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Adhikari, Binod; Gupta, Divya; Pandey, Parbati; Fischer, Harry


The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed various shortcomings in Nepal’s small-scale commercial farming system. Farmers who were transitioning from subsistence to a market-dependent model faced significant challenges during the pandemic. This has raised concerns about the well-being of these farmers, the sustainability of their farming practices, and their capacity to withstand future shocks. Our paper aims to assess the current resilience of small commercial farmers and identify factors that can enhance their ability to weather external disruptions like COVID-19. We use the case study in Ravi Opi, a farming village located in Dhulikhel Municipality, Nepal to explore the challenges experienced by the small commercial farmers during the pandemic and the strategic responses adopted at the household and institutional levels. Our analysis reveals that the small-scale commercial farming system demonstrated ‘buffering capabilities’ and ‘adaptability,’ but not ‘transformability.’ This is primarily because farmers adopted short-term responses that are necessary for addressing immediate crises, rather than responses that would facilitate longer-term transformation. We argue that there is a lack of adequate state support for farmers in Nepal, which worsened during the pandemic. As a result, farmers resorted to leveraging their community connections for help, which provided short-term relief, and aided in addressing only immediate but not their long-term needs.  Our observations underscore the risks associated with the current approach used by subsistence farmers to transition into commercial farming. Based on our findings, we propose that longer-term initiatives involving the government and other stakeholders are essential to strengthen the supply network and promote community-based agriculture extension services. We posit that these initiatives can potentially enhance farmers’ resilience and their ability to withstand future disruptions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Published in

New angle / Nepal journal of social science and public policy
2023, Volume: 8, number: 1