Agriculture is the livelihood for more than 80% of the population. Agriculture is the main source of food, income, and employment for the majority. It contributes to 35% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Nepal. Efforts to boost the agricultural sector by Government of Nepal and foreign aid agencies have focused on various issues but notably crop diversification and technical capacity building of farmers.
Strawberry and blueberry are high-value products that product that could bring in sizeable income to the rural villages in Nepal. Strawberry and blueberry are crops in which Nepal has a comparative advantage. Mid-hills in the altitude of 1500 to 2500 meter have suitable temperatures of 4-25 Celsius and up to 4000 ml annual rainfall for growing strawberries. Blueberries have incredible nutrition and health benefits.
Strawberries and blueberries are ideal companion plants, they can be grown together because both like acidic soil. While strawberries act like the cover ground to keep the soil around the blueberry moist and weed-free, in return, blueberries are pest and disease resistance berries.
Strawberry farming started in Kakani in 1991 when agronomist Matsuura Hiroshi brought six sample plants which flourished and spread among farmers. Strawberry farming is grown in about 1,300 hectares in Nepal, mostly in Nuwakot and Okharpauwa, producing 400 tons of strawberry annually. There are efforts to expand strawberry farming to other regions on Nepal such as Rasuwa, Sindhuli, Dolakha, Myagdi, Parbat and Pyuthan districts as well.
Unlike the strawberries, blueberry cultivation is still in its experimental stage in Nepal. There is every reason to believe that blueberry should thrive in Nepal because blueberry is a relative of the Rhododendrons which is the national flower of the country and grows wild on the hill slopes of Nepal.
Nepal is blessed with rich nature but lacks scientific planting methods which led to the inefficient strawberry farming in the past decades. The farmers need to learn how to build greenhouses, use drip irrigation in the arid slopes, use of fertilizers and pesticide along post-harvest fruit management. Training and consultation support is required to scale up and expand strawberry production in Nepal.