In 2017, agriculture contributed around 27.04 per cent to Nepal's GDP. Agriculture is a major source of livelihood in the country. However, the agriculture sector is still in a nascent stage as far as technology and modern cultivation methods are concerned. Agriculture mainly engages smallholder farmers who continue to use traditional methods of farming. Nepali farmers can benefit from proper knowledge and access to quality inputs.
The crucial problems that affect the agriculture sector in Nepal include limited knowledge and access to quality inputs and outputs. Additionally, there is a limited commercial market for the farmers to sell their produce. Sahaj is working directly with public and private market actors to ensure that farmers have access to proper knowledge, quality inputs and high value markets.
Sahaj, also known as the Nepal Agricultural Market Development Programme (NAMDP), aims to facilitate increased engagement of smallholder farmers, especially women-led production units and people from disadvantaged backgrounds, in commercial agriculture. The project does this by making markets more accessible to smallholders, which allows them to improve their competitiveness and income from farming. It adopts an ‘Inclusive Markets’ approach, commonly referred to as the Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) or Market Systems Development (MSD) approach. Sahaj partners with different market actors and enables them to take the lead in co-designing innovative business models and implementing activities that increase farm-productivity and boost the marketing potential of the crops or livestock supplied by the poor farmers.
Sahaj is a joint initiative of the Government of Nepal and the Government of Switzerland. It is mandated by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The first phase of the programme started from March 2016 and will continue until June 2020. Sahaj is jointly implemented by Swisscontact as the lead agency, and the Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED).
The first phase of the programme works in three core sectors – goat, maize and vegetable – and two cross-sectors – crop protection and post-harvest. The cross-sectors, which focus on reducing crop-loss and adding value after production, have an impact across the Sahaj core sectors as well as other relevant agricultural sectors. The sectors were selected based on their growth potential, potential to increase income of the poor farmers and feasibility of conducting systemic interventions. A cross-cutting theme across the programme includes Gender and Social Inclusion (GESI), which focuses on creating opportunities for poor smallholder farmers, women and disadvantaged groups. Another cross-cutting theme includes Sahaj’s work in enabling agri-business environment at the national and sub-national level.
Rural smallholders, especially, disadvantaged groups and women-headed households, sustainably improve their livelihoods through participation in commercial agriculture and interconnected markets.