In my more than a decade long development journey, I have travelled a lot. I have reached to remote corners of the country and have listened to the voices of marginalised people. No place compares to Karnali region in remoteness and marginalisation. I had heard about it but got the opportunity to experience it only in the last October.
I started my journey of Karnali from Kalikot district. Kalikot is often referred as ‘youngest district’ in Nepal as it was separated from adjoining Jumla district only few decades ago. It is also the district where the likelihood of people dying younger is higher than other districts in Nepal as the life expectancy is just 47 years. Majority of people in the district make their living from subsistence agriculture.
Galje is one of the many places I visited in Kalikot. It at is about 3 hours’ drive from district headquarter, Manma. Practical Action has been supporting a farmers group in Galje to embrace the commercial vegetable framing through its BICAS project.
The topography of Galje was challenging and climate was hostile. However, people were very welcoming. I was particularly impressed with the gender composition of the group.
After the observation of the commercial vegetable plots, collection centre and agro-vets, we held a discussion with the farmer’s groups to know more about their new initiatives. The vegetable farming was indeed a new endeavour for them as there is the monopoly of the cereal based farming in Kalikot district as in other districts of Karnali. There was good participation of females in the meeting. They were little bit shy at the beginning however as the discussion progressed they became more active. I believe my presence in the meeting also helped them to open up.
I encouraged them to share their stories and experiences, which they did turn by turn. Each had different and encouraging story to share. I was particularly impressed by the story of Radhika Shahi, a young and energetic girl of 21 years.
Radhika is a plus two graduate. Unlike many youths in rural areas who find little hope in their villages, she is determined to make a difference in her own village. She has chosen agriculture to make the difference.
“Though all the households in our village make their living from agriculture, it is often looked down as something for old and uneducated people. I wanted to break the stereotype,” she shared.
“Like other families in the village, we were only producing cereal crops in our land. We had little knowledge about the vegetable farming. Though we used to receive some vegetable seeds from the Agriculture Service Centre (ASC) sometimes, we never took it seriously as we didn’t have skill and technologies required for vegetable farming. Neither, we knew that the vegetable farming is more profitable than cereal crops,” Radhika continued.
“BICAS project convinced us about the benefits of the vegetable farming and provided technical trainings on the improved farming practices. It also introduced us to new technologies like poly house for off-season production. An agro-vet and collection centre has been established at the nearby market with the help of the project. As a result, we have easy access to seeds, fertilisers and pesticides from agro-vet. Likewise, collection centre has made the marketing of vegetable easier,” Radhika added.
Last season, she made a profit of NPR. 48,000 (1USD = NPR 107) from selling bean, cucumber, cabbage and tomato.
“I think if we have better technologies and the access to market, we can prosper from the vegetable farming. Gradually, other people in the village are realising it.” She looked more determined and hopeful when she said it.
Listening to Radhika’s story, I felt like Karnali is not without hope as it is often portrayed. Young and energetic people like Radhika are keeping the hope alive in Karnali.