Climate change hits Himalayan rice

“Due to climate change, some of the varieties that were performing better are now more prone to diseases, insects, and pests,” says project manager Shree Prasad Neupane. “We aim to breed seeds that are more stable in production, less prone to diseases and higher in nutritional values.”

Local farmers have also noticed that while non-local improved seeds do result in higher yield in certain parts of the year, this is not consistent. But seeds bred with evolutionary methods have adapted to changing conditions and can also withstand diseases better.

But it is not just the quantity that matters in these rugged mountains of western Nepal. Historically neglected by the state, Jumla and surrounding districts are lowest in the human development index in Nepal, with a high rate of malnutrition among marginal and small-hold farmers. 

Which is why protecting varieties rich in nutritional values like Jumli Marsi is even more important. New hybrid seeds lack important micronutrients. 

Evolutionary Plant Breeding is also different because it empowers farmers to select the varieties for breeding based on their experience and local knowledge. Communities themselves are breeding the most resilient varieties against production instability, diseases and lack of nutrition, all the problems exacerbated by the climate crisis. 

 Adds Shree Prasad Neupane: “Farmers decide where to plant the seeds and which seeds to plant, which one is better to retain and multiply. And we leave the rest to nature to choose the most suitable one for the subsequent generations.”

Erica Wu

Read more: Agroecology, Nepal’s answer to climate change, Zachary Barton

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