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17-03-2021 | Issue 6/2021

Environmental Management 6/2021

Agricultural Land Abandonment in the Hill Agro-ecological Region of Nepal: Analysis of Extent, Drivers and Impact of Change

Journal:
Environmental Management > Issue 6/2021
Authors:
Yuba Raj Subedi, Paul Kristiansen, Oscar Cacho, Roshan Babu Ojha
Important notes

Supplementary information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00267-021-01461-2.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Abstract

Despite widely reported trends of agricultural land abandonment across many parts of the globe, this land use change phenomenon is relatively new in the context of Nepal. In recent years, rural farming communities in the hill region are gradually reducing the intensity of farming, leading to underutilisation and abandonment of agricultural lands. Adopting a mixed methods research approach, this study investigated the extent of agricultural land abandonment, its underlying causal drivers and perceived impacts in the hill agro-ecological region of Nepal. A structured survey of 374 households and six focus group discussions were carried out in three districts. The study revealed that around 40% of agricultural lands in the hill agro-ecological region have been abandoned and 60% of farmers have left at least one parcel of agricultural land abandoned. It was found that biophysical drivers (distance from homestead to parcel, slope of the parcel, land fragmentation, land quality and irrigation availability) and socio-demographic drivers (family size, higher education of the household members, domestic migration and out-migration) were responsible for agricultural land abandonment. Negative impacts of land abandonment were observed on the rural landscape, human-made farm structures, socio-economic systems, local food production and food security. In line with global studies, this research suggest that marginal land quality, demographic changes and rising alternative economic opportunities elsewhere contribute to farmland abandonment. This study also discusses land management approaches and policy implications to address the issue of agricultural land abandonment.

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