Agriculture census | Demography | Farm holdings | Mechanisation | Pesticides | Climate change

Image Source: NASA Applied Sciences
Image Source: NASA Applied Sciences


Highlights from the new census: The shifts in Nepal’s agriculture landscape

The new agriculture census provides valuable insights into the evolving landscape of farming in the country, showing changes in many variables over the period of 10 years.

By the_farsight |

The seventh national sample agriculture census (2021/22) is out.

Conducted every 10 years by the National Statistics Office (previously Central Bureau of Statistics), the new census is based on data collected from a sample of 330,112 farm households spread across the 753 local levels, between April 19 and June 2, 2022.

Here are some key findings: 

Increase in farm holdings, decrease in farm holding area

A total of 4,130,789 households are engaged in agriculture-related activities — accounting for 62% of all the households.

These farmers farm at a combined land area of 2,218,410 hectares.

In the 2011 census, there were 3.83 million holdings in the country accounting for 71% of all the households while the total area of holdings was 2.52 million hectares of land.

This shows that while the number of farm households has increased by 7.8%, the total area under farming has decreased by 12.2%.

Gender and age composition


How does land fragmentation look?

There were a total of 12,096,400 land parcels in 2011/12 which currently stands at 11,583,900, according to the census. 

On the other hand, the average number of parcels per holding has decreased from 3.2 to 2.8. Similarly, the average parcel size has also decreased from 0.21 hectares in 2011/12 to 0.19 hectares in 2021/22. 

Slight increase in irrigated land

The census shows that 54.5% of the land was irrigated (1.21 million hectares) out of which 72.7% of land was irrigable throughout the year. The percentage of irrigated land increased only slightly in the past 10 years by 2.5 percentage points.

However, utilisation of irrigation facilities by holdings grew from 2.47 million to 2.89 million, which is 70% of all holdings.

Plantation area: Decrease in cereal crop; Increase in vegetables

The majority of the farmed area — 1.730 million hectares — is used for temporary crops mainly including paddy, maize, wheat, and vegetables.

There has been a 16% decrease in the area used for paddy and maize plantation in the last decade while wheat plantation has declined by 12.7%. 

However, the area used for vegetable farming has experienced a substantial rise (27.6%).


Meanwhile, 145,400 hectares of land is used for permanent crops such as mango, banana, orange, lemon, and apple. The total land area used for such crops has decreased by 23,093 hectares in the last decade.

Another key finding from the census is that the area of temporarily fallow land has almost doubled reaching 60,000 hectares in 2021/22.

Diversification in farming

Farm households in livestock farming have risen from 3.3 million to 3.4 million in the past decade. Additionally, 10,375 farm households have ventured into nursery farming, utilising 597.7 hectares of land while 48,763 households are into fish farming utilising 10,383 hectares of land.  

Similarly, 17,554 households are into mushroom farming and 196,854 into bee farming, 

Agriculture mechanisation: The use of tractors doubles 

About 1.64 million holdings are found to be using tractors which was 845,000 in the 2011/12 census. The number of tractors in operation has reached from some 37,000 to 58,000. 

Similarly, some 30,000 holdings are found to be using milking machines while 471,260 are found using power tillers. There are some 3,400 milking machines and 117,991 power tillers in operation. 

Agriculture inputs: Use of hybrid seeds sees growth in paddy

More than half (56.3%) of the paddy farmers still use local seeds, shows the study. About 27.2% used improved seeds while 16.5% used hybrid seeds. The use of hybrid seeds was 5.4% in the previous census. 

Similarly, 76% of the holdings used chemical fertilisers in paddy crops, 59% in paddy, 49% in maize, 44% in potato, and 23% in vegetables. 

Use of pesticides: High use of toxic pesticides in vegetables

The new census shows that 47.9% of farm holdings grow vegetables out of which 26.7% use pesticides. 

Out of those using pesticides, 53.2% use slightly toxic pesticides while 33.2% use moderately toxic pesticides.

Meanwhile, 12% of vegetable growers use highly toxic pesticides, and 0.7% use extremely toxic pesticides.

Similarly, 45% of holdings utilised pesticides for their paddy crops, followed by potato (36%), vegetables (27%), wheat (28%), and maize (23%), according to the census.

Limited access to agriculture finance

Only 12% (483,208) of all the farm holdings have existing agriculture loans, shows the census. This ratio was 22% (around 836,000) in the previous census. 

Cooperatives are the major source of loans (39%), followed by relatives (14%) and women groups (14%). 

About 34% of the holdings — which translates into 1,414,997 holdings — are either in need of finance or seeking additional loans and 37% of these holdings are seeking loans/additional loans to finance livestock/poultry farming. 

In the previous census, 42% of the agricultural loans were received from cooperatives while about 37% of them needed finance for livestock/poultry farming.

Insurance penetration below 5%

Only 4% of the total farmers (182,441) reported taking agriculture insurance coverage. The majority of them took insurance for livestock farming (84%) followed by cereal crops (8%); poultry farming (5%); and others (3%).

Unimpressive reach of subsidy programs

Only 7% of the farmers (308,512) received government subsidies for agriculture activities, which were utilised for chemical fertilisers (46%); seed, seedlings, grass (35%); and agricultural equipment (15%), among others.

Climate change drives a decline in production level

This census also included climate change understanding and impact as variables for the first time. 

About, 43.7% of the farm holdings stated they are aware of climate change out of which almost 91% of holdings opined that they are experiencing climate change impacts. Most of the respondents shared that they are facing a decline in production due to climate change.

Other experiences include the proliferation of pests, increased frequency of drought and heavy rainfalls, and shift in the plantation cycle.

This work has contributions from Ashish Ghimire.

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