Science, Technology And NAST

2014-04-05

The Rising Nepal

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Science and technology is the basis of development on all fronts. It has a significant role to raise the socio-economic status of people and the nation. Science and technology, thus, can be considered as an engine of socio-economic development of any country.

However, science and technology still has not received due priority despite its vital role to accelerate development activities in Nepal. Indeed, Nepal has not been able to properly utilize this sector in order to fight poverty and uplift the socio-economic status of the people. But it is an undeniable fact that science and technology can play a key role to fight poverty, raise economic status of the people and even check environmental degradation. Priority, therefore, should and must be accorded for the development of science and technology.

It may be recalled here the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) was established by a Royal Charter in December 1982 with a view to utilize and enhance the capabilities of science and technology to accelerate the development activities of Nepal. It is an apex body in the field of science and technology of Nepal. NAST conducts in-house innovative research in priority areas of science and technology in collaboration with national and international agencies. In this regard, NAST is currently conducting research in the areas of alternate energy, biological resources, environment and climate study, molecular biotechnology and natural product chemistry. Besides these research activities, the establishment of well-equipped science laboratory and science learning center, study of wind energy feasibility and more supportive programs to lessen the growing trend of brain drain by providing considerable technical and financial assistance to the graduates and post-graduates in the country are some of the important programmes endorsed by NAST.

Likewise, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) was established in 1995 with an objective to promote, facilitate, provide necessary guidelines and extend cooperation to various science and technology institutions involved in research and development and coordinate between national and international agencies and effective mobilization of resources for socio-economic development of the nation. The Ministry should, therefore, come forward with concrete actions and long-lasting vision for the overall development of science and technology in the country. In the meantime, the Ministry should specify, monitor and coordinate the works of different organizations involved in the area of science and technology. This is because most of our national science and technology institutions function either in isolation or sometimes leading to unnecessary duplication of works. The Ministry should, therefore, take the lead role for the development of science and technology in the country.

Talking about the objectives and roles of NAST, we should always keep in mind that Nepal is predominantly an agricultural country. In fact, agriculture is the backbone of Nepal’s economy. More than 80 per cent of people rely on agriculture for their survival and 66 per cent of the gross domestic product comes from agriculture. Despite such a big role in the national economy, agriculture productivity has not been significantly improved. And this is because agriculture has not been modernized. Many farmers still rely on traditional methods of farming. Nepal used to be a net food exporter until a couple of decades ago. But now the country has turned into a food importer. This is mostly because of the failure in raising agricultural production in proportion to population growth.

Although Nepal is striving hard to alleviate its mass poverty and unemployment through various programmes and activities, this goal cannot be achieved unless we raise agricultural productivity and make the nation self sufficient in food production. For this, agriculture needs change from subsistence farming to a profitable venture. It is estimated that about 38 per cent of the population is below the absolute poverty line and 16 per cent is below the extreme poverty line. Ninety percent of the population, most of them women and children, live in the rural areas. Women suffer more from hunger even if their contribution to agriculture output is 25 per cent more than that of men.

Under such circumstances, NAST should play the primary role in modernizing the agriculture sector because without modernization and development of agriculture, Nepal cannot achieve the goal of social and economic development. Modernization and development of agriculture, indeed, helps increase national production and ultimately eradicate mass poverty. In this regard, modern method of farming, improved seeds and modern tools need to be promoted for modernization and development of agriculture and this is possible only through a better use and application of science and technology. In the meantime, NAST should also give due consideration to how the achievements made in the field of science and technology in the world could be utilized in nation building.

It may be recalled here that the government had announced a comprehensive Science and Technology Policy in 2005 for the development of science and technology in the country. The stated policy was introduced with a view to produce essential human resource for the basic infrastructure development in the country, expedite economic activities and expand scientific institutions in different spheres that are directly related to national development. It also sought to ensure national food security and promote agro-based industries through the acceleration of agriculture development. The policy had underlined the need of science and technology for sustainable development of the country. As mentioned in the policy, the government was entrusted to play the role of facilitator, promoter and coordinator among the science and technology organizations existing in the country. The policy also required the government for creating a conducive environment to keep up the morale of the scientists, check the growing trend of brain drain and attract the Nepali scientists working in different countries across the world.

The policy, as claimed by the concerned authorities, had come up with well-defined strategies for conducting studies and research on development activities in agriculture, forestry, water resources, education, health, industry, climate change and environment, bio-energy and bio-technology, atom science and bio-diversity effectively by striking coordination among the concerned line agencies. The policy had also stressed on the need to extend science and technology at the rural areas by mobilizing and utilizing indigenous technology, resources and means. And it also sought the role of the private sector as the main stakeholder in the overall development of science and technology. But due to the political instability in the country, the policy could not be implemented effectively and it is perhaps gathering dust in the drawers of concerned authorities.

Needless to say science and technology is a must for the social and economic development of the country. For this, the national science and technology organization like NAST needs to be strengthened with sufficient budget and other resources. But the efforts of the government alone may not be sufficient in this regard. So it may be advisable that NAST should extend its hands for mutual cooperation with the business community based on the concept of public-private partnership so that its research activities and innovative technologies can be properly exploited for public benefit and income generation. If NAST is willing to work with the business community on the issues of science and technology, the business community, as Kush Kumar Joshi, the president of FNCCI, has pointed out on many occasions, is always ready to invest in the field of science and technology.

(KC is Promotional Officer at NAST.)

(Source: The Rising Nepal)