When you think of visiting Jumla, obviously you don’t miss to visit apple farms and maybe apple garden be your first bucket list in your mindset. At present, Jumla and apple are synonymously used terms.
The apple from Jumla already hit the Nepalese market with the surging export in foreign countries too. Can you guess, how the apple came the first time in Jumla and how Jumla become the homeland of thousands of apple gardens?
In 1957 apple farm was established by the government of Nepal at Gauragau village of Jumla with the aim of producing and distributing apple sapling. Besides that, it encourages in the establishment of new apple nurseries, provides technical skills and knowledge on better orchard management to farmers.
Later in 1974 Horticulture research station was established at Rajkot, Jumla under the Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC) with the aim of producing and distributing temperate fruits, vegetable seedlings, and potato seed production.
After that, there was formally embarked on the journey of apple history in Jumla. The apple grown in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s started to bear fruits in the 1990s. However, at that time the district was not touched by road service as a result, the harvested apples were either piled up or feed to the animals. At that time, the apples of Jumla were truly suffering.
Now, with the connectivity of road networks apple from Jumla is no more suffering, instead, their demand in the local market is quite high and supply is still insufficient. This makes the farmers optimistic about the future apple production scenario in Jumla.
Apple is known as the king of temperate fruit. It can be grown at an altitude of 1800 to 3000 meters above sea level. Out of 25 species of apple, the majority of the species are wild while Malus pumila is a domesticated one.
Along with six districts of Karnali Province, few districts of Far west and Manang and Mustang of Gandaki Province are a potential areas of apple production. Due to favorable climatic conditions such as well-distributed rainfall of 1000-1250mm throughout the growing season, plenty of sunshine during fruiting time are the reasons for the bumper production of apple in Jumla.
Nepal is an agrarian country which provides employment opportunity to more than 65 percent of people with 27 contributions in national gross domestic product. The contribution of horticulture sectors in national income is 21.5 percent which is more significant to reduce poverty and to improve livelihoods.
Apple is one of the major potential agricultural commodities, produced in the mountain region of Nepal. In fiscal year 2014/15, the apple was cultivated in 5599.7 hectares with the production of 43502.1 metric tons. In the same way, the apple was cultivated in 5625 hectares and production was 41011 metric tons in fiscal year 2015/17.
As per the recent data of fiscal year 2016/17, the apple was cultivated in 3707 hectares with 19850 metric tons production and 5.36 productivity. The demand for apple at the Nepalese market is 150000 metric tons and 87150 metric tons need to be imported.
Out of six districts of Karnali Province, Jumla beats the highest apple production with 3500 metric tons in an area of 850 hectares. The climatic condition of Jumla is a natural boon to produce apple on a large scale. Despite climatic boon for apple production, still there exits lots of problems to produce the desired quantity and quality of apple in Jumla.
At present conditions, the apple-producing farmers are facing numerous hurdles such as unavailability of quality saplings, lack of organic fertilizers, lack of botanical pesticides, high incidence of disease and pest, inadequate physical infrastructures such as irrigation canal, lack of orchard fence, storage facilities.
On the other side, farmers lack technical knowledge, skill and practice on training and pruning, organic fertilizer applications, and disease pest management by using locally available botanical pesticides which are the major hindrances for the commercial production of apple in Jumla.
Jumla has already been declared as an organic district in 2007, and in 2009, the District Agricultural Development Office initiated organic certification of apples for three Village Development Committees, with support of organizations like SNV Nepal and World Vision. Also, improvements in nursery management, training and pruning, professional apple packaging materials, grading, and market linkage with wholesalers were promoted from 2009 onwards.
Due to the addition of the above value, the apple price of Jumla has increased than the past but still, it needs to improve more in quality to compete with the quality of imported apple especially from China and India. As Jumla, has already been recognized as an apple super zone area by Prime Minister Agriculture Modernization Project but the visible impacts of this project are yet to become out.
In order to reduce the import of apple and to increase the local production, the Nepal government in collaboration with other agencies implemented an apple self-reliant program from fiscal year 2068/69. However, in fiscal year 2017/18 Nepal has imported 92475.609 metric tons apple from America, India, China, Italy, and Thailand respectively.
After the federalization in Nepal, three tiers of governments are equipped with exclusive and concurrent power for the federal state-building process. Agriculture extension service comes under the exclusive power of local government as per schedule 8 of the constitution of Nepal, 2015. Therefore, being a close service provider local government need to coordinate with the federal, provincial government, Nepal Agriculture Research Station to implement the apple production program in Jumla.
There is more improvement than a decades ago, still more needs to be done for the commercial production of Apple in Jumla, such as introduction of good yielding, diseases and pest resistance apple varieties, adequate irrigation facilities, timely availability of saplings, botanical pesticides, bio-fertilizers, the practice of orchard management, better manuring helps to increase the apple production.
In the same way, local governments need to assess all service providers of the municipality and need to mobilize them such as cooperatives, farmers group, local resource person to provide immediate on-farm service and advice.
There is a lack of technical manpower in the municipality, so the use of the innovative farmers and resource person can be the best option to provide agriculture services at the local level. In the same way, cooperatives can be the business house for the postharvest management and marketing of the produced apple.
Connection with more wholesalers promotes the linkage network of cooperatives and sales rate of apple for those consumers who really want to pay a premium for organic certified apple from Jumla. The organically produced apple from Jumla can be the best enterprises to increase the income of farmers.
This blog is written by Roshana Gautam