HORTICULTURE IN SAARC COUNTRIES
Ratna Dhwoj Shahi
SAARC, a regional cooperation organizationestablished in 1985 with its headquarter in Nepal, consists of eight member countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It aims at working together in a spirit of trust and friendship for accelerating socio-economic development in member countries. These countries have their own natural topographical and climatic conditions based on which a number of horticultural crops such as fruit, vegetables, roots and tubers, ornamental, medicinal and aromatic plants, plantation crops, spices and others are grown. This region has enormous opportunity to grow tropical, subtropical and sub-temperate to temperate horticultural crops of commercial importance. All these countries are trying hard to improve the income, nutritional, financial and food security of millions of poor people. Horticulture could be a vital sector to bring positive change in the socio-economic life of the millions of people living in SAARC countries. However, there are still numerous problems being faced by these countries and they have not been able to fully exploit the enormous potentiality of horticultural development in the region, and with the development of regional co-operation among each other, there is every chance to increase the productivity of commodities to a substantial amount. Therefore, there is an urgent need to deal with cooperative activities in the following fields: i) exchange of new germplasm in developing new crop varieties; ii) seed policies to facilitate the development and importation of hybrid seeds; iii) exchange of experts in different fields; iv) joint ventures in seeds and planting material production; v) joint ventures in processing industry; vi) exchange of technologies in production of farm machinery and equipment; vii) training programs on hybrid seed production, post-harvest handling, processing, socio-economic data collection and analysis; viii) setting up of a regional information network, etc.