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13th Asian Maize Conference: Surmounting future challenges

The human population in the world by 2050 is predicted to be more than 9 billion leading to a high demand for food arable land (soil) and subsequent decrease in water resources. 

In the future, agriculture will face many challenges such as inefficient utilization of water and land resources, global climate change, lack of alternatives to the chemical use of pesticides and fertilizers, soil health and environment, etc. Hence, production is needed to be increased leading to declining in hunger and malnutrition. 

The record shows that the world’s poverty line and population under hunger have been increasing day by day. A total of 795 million people in the world are deprived to have enough food which is about one in nine persons on the earth goes to sleep hungry every day. In addition, the world’s hunger line reflects that the majority of people are living in developing countries. Unfortunately, among them, Nepal being the developing nation ranked high on the major line of poverty and hunger. 

The recent data shows about 5 million population of Nepal, is undernourished; which is quite miserable. Moreover, the results imply that half of all the children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition. About 31% of our population is under the national poverty line which constitutes 95% of poor living in rural areas of Nepal. Withstanding in these situations, being an agricultural graduate it is to be our happiest decision to fight against poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Therefore, increased agricultural production, gender equity and nutritional awareness are the valuable key-drivers to meet the sustainable development goals by 2030.  

Counting these in mind, 13th Asian Maize Conference 2018 in Ludhiana, India was another approach to inspire young minds and showcase their innovations regarding the increment on maize-based agri-products and research. It is well-known that Maize is considered as the staple food crop in the world but also as a major component of feeds and fodder for the farm animals. Of course, in the context of cereals, maize could bring innovative ideas for reaching zero hunger and stepping forward to ensure food and nutritional security. 

Nowadays, the demand for maize is shifting from traditional consumption to other areas. For foods, new types of maize-based products such as soups, vegetables, edible oils, snacks are in demands. In the meantime, an ever-increasing trend of poultry and livestock business along with increasing population and people`s buying capacity has demanded higher amounts of maize grains. Thus, the overall demand of maize for human consumption together with livestock feed is expected to increase by 4-6% per year over next 20 years as per maize demand was increased about 5% annually in the last decades. 

Thus, maize has come up as a new and promising cash crop and has become one of the best income sources to enhance the livelihood of rural people, especially in the Terai and Hilly region of Nepal. Despite an increase in demand, the productivity of maize is almost stagnant around 2-2.5 t ha-1 in the last decade. The farm level yield of maize (2.5 t ha-1) is not satisfactory as compared to attainable yield (5.7 t ha-1) in Nepal. Therefore, there is a big yield gap of maize as affected by various technological and socio-economic factors. 

The new approach regarding maize breeding, bio-fortification, the global craze for pop-corn and livestock feed were the key topics at this conference and expert consultation event. The active participation of more than 275 scientists, researchers and stakeholders from 23 different countries symbolize the new strategic plans and emphasized the need for equal implementation from the farm level to the consumer level. 

By 2050, the world may face the challenges by population growth, climate change and its global effect on the developing nations may stand as the hindrance to meet the goal of sustainable development. Further, the conference was another scientific platform for the cause and reduction of different pathological attack to the maize production. For instance: Fall Armyworm and other pathological pieces of evidence. 

Therefore, the burning issue in many developing nations including Nepal is “Feminization of Agriculture”, another chapter to study and carry out available solutions. In Nepal, more than 50 percent of male youths migrate other countries for job and opportunities, whereas agriculture in Nepal is holding by female farmers. Hence, empowerment of women in the agri-business sector is must to achieve the goal of Zero Hunger. 

Regarding future sustainability and increase the cereal production: I have come up with two focus areas for Nepal:

  1. Use of information and communication technology in agribusiness to inform farmers/producers on weather condition, production, harvest, market, and climate-smart agriculture.
  2. Farmer’s market-because of poor information on the marketing system and the government’s reluctance to control the market, most of the farmers have suffered from product price. The farmers are getting less price and consumers are paying high prices for the same products. The market is dominated under the control of broker and middleman. 

So the farmer’s market can be a platform where farmers get higher price and consumers pay less price for the same product- A win-win situation.  For these, we need to be collaborating with youths, women, local government & non-government organizations and all other possible stakeholders to make it a more integrated approach.

In nutshell, one of the most beautiful and inspiring parts of the conference was the award ceremony for young scientists and change maker in the field of maize production, research and farming. I feel happy and gleeful to receive this award with other three fellows from Nepal, China and India.  I believe this appreciation is another inspiration for youths like us to fight against hunger and poverty. 

Finally, I believe 13th Asian Maize Conference added an important milestone to my motto- “HUNGER- A HISTORY “. Thanks a lot to CGIAR, CIMMYT, YPARD and sponsors for these outstanding opportunities as well as my colleagues, friends, well-wishers and community who always surrounded around me.