Menila Kharel

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Recommended reading: http://www.practicalaction.org

Posts by Menila

  • Molding the mud for better future agricultural extension

    June 21st, 2018

    Access to extension services is one of the critical constraints in agriculture. Only 15% of the worlds’ extension agents are women. Globally, women have limited access to agriculture inputs, technology, knowledge and practices. In case of rural areas of Nepal, due to existing socio-cultural norms, women have even minimal access to extension services.

    Reshma Shahi from Galje, Kalikot which is one of the remotest corner of the country would like to have more women extension workers in her village. She believes a woman can learn more from a woman than from man.  She is currently studying Bachelors in Education (B.Ed). Unlike many educated and aspiring youths in Nepal, she wants to pursue career in agriculture. She feels really proud to be recognised as a change agent in rural agriculture. She started growing vegetables last year. This year, she is growing vegetables in more land and selling all the surpluses in the nearby market. Each season, she makes up to NPR 80,000 (GBP 555) from vegetables.

     

    Reshma Shai working in vegetable polyhouse

    Reshma’s parents used to grow only cereals in their land. They thought vegetable farming was a demanding business since it requires more knowledge, care and investment. In 2017, Reshma got vegetable production and marketing training. She learnt about new varieties, farming practices, poly house technology and profitability of growing vegetables. Later, she attended other trainings, exposure visits and interaction meetings with vegetable market actors under the BICAS (Building Inclusive and Sustainable Growth Capacity of CSOs in Agriculture and Forest Sectors) project funded by European Union and Jersey Overseas Aid.

    After receiving training, Reshma tried to convince her parents to consider vegetable farming. First, they were sceptic but her multiple attempts to convince them, they finally counted in. Now, Reshma’s parents are delighted to see her educated girl growing vegetable and making money from it.

    “I contact either Local Resource Person (LRP) or agrovet if I need to know something about vegetable farming.”  We have only male LRPs in our area and women in our locality find women LRPs more approachable and comfortable to talk to. I have also acquired much knowledge about vegetable growing.  It requires technical education in agriculture to become a LRP. I want to save money to invest on my sister’s education. I want to make her an efficient agriculture technician”, says Reshma Shahi.

    Rhesma has good access to agriculture inputs, she has wonderfully using various irrigation techniques and she has great access to the markets. With the knowledge, skills received and the system established by the project, she is confident to continue vegetable farming and further enhance her farming skills.

    As a famous proverb says, “If you educate a woman, you educate a nation,” if we empower more women like Reshma, we will see a domino effect in agriculture extension in rural areas of Nepal. More number of women extension workers will substantially increase women’s access to extension services and will contribute more in food production.

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  • Solar powered irrigation is helping communities fight water scarcity

    June 8th, 2018

    By Menila Kharel and Sujan Piya

    The impact of climate change on water resources is alarming. Increasing temperature is causing higher evaporation which causes extreme drying of lands leading to droughts across the world. Melting snow in the Himalayan Region has been affecting fresh water resources in the plains. Erratic rainfall with high run-off affects ground water reservoirs. All these factors off-set the supply system of water, affecting agriculture based livelihoods in most of the hilly areas of Nepal. Jumla District, one of the remotest hill pockets in Karnali, is no different.

    Jumla holds huge agriculture potential. In fact, it is popular as first organic district, a super zone for apples and for the indigenous Marshi rice. Here, agriculture mostly relies on rain. But erratic rainfall and extreme winds have affected production in recent years.  Alternatively, the beautiful Tila River and natural water reservoirs are other sources of water. But communities have no means to use water from these sources. With the acute water shortage, the huge agriculture potentialities of Jumla has not been fully utilised.

    In this context, Solar water pumps are demonstrated in four areas (Dhaulapani-2, Kudari-1 and Raaka-1) of Jumla District along the bank of the Tila River under the Practical Action’s BICAS project, funded by the European Union and Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA). These pumps are irrigating 8 ha of land and directly benefitting 130 households. Farming communities have now started inter-cropping in apple orchards and vegetable farming. For the last few months, Solar Powered Irrigation (SPI) has brought smiles to the faces of Jumla’s farming communities. When it was first introduced in their district, they did not believe it could lift water and help them to irrigate their lands.

    “It seems like a miracle to us. We never had any idea about solar powered irrigation. With the regular availability of water, we are excited to expand apple orchards,”

    Min Bahadhur Thapa, chairperson of solar pump user committee

    Reducing drudgery  

    Agriculture is mostly undertaken by old people in Jumla. Youths have left the district either for education or for employment in India and the Gulf countries. The one and only way to irrigate lands was to manually carry water from Tila River – an arduous job. Solar pumps now have helped both men and women farming communities avoid carrying loads of water for irrigation. They have saved significant labour and their time can be used for other income generation options.

    Business model for sustainability “Pay for Water”

    There is no electricity in the areas where solar pumps are demonstrated. Thus, these have been good option for the farming communities of Jumla. Solar water pumps are easy to operate and maintain. The pumps are socially and economically sound as they are cheaper than diesel pumps in the long run and demand no virtual labour.

    Solar pumps lifting water high up to 102 m in  two stages in the hill in Jumla/Photo: Luitel A

    The pumps are demonstrated under the grant scheme. SunFarmer, a renowned private sector company for solar pumps supported the installation of the pumps and training for local people. The locally developed skilled human resource will take care of maintenance if needed. The SPI system also leveraged funds from Prime Minister’s Agriculture Modernisation Project (PMAMP) and mobilised the community to contribute labour. SPI is managed by a user committee consisting both male and female members. The chairperson of the committee is responsible for operating pump and distributing water for communities. Communities are adopting “pay for water” scheme. Under this scheme, each household pays a fee for using water on a monthly basis. The amount collected is deposited in bank and will be used for care and maintenance of the pump. This “pay for water” scheme will allow the community years of sustainable use of the solar pumps.

    Scaling up solar powered irrigation

    Simple to use, labour saving and cost effective solar pumps have high potential for scaling up in Jumla and other  regions of Nepal where there is no electricity. Currently, the pumps are demonstrated under a grant scheme. Grant models are effective for demonstration or managing risk for farmers who have never used the technology before. The replication of such technology requires communities’ acceptance of the technology and willingness to pay, local government’s priority to promote technology and, more importantly, the private sector seeking a business incentive to expand their supply network. Financing such technology in rural hilly areas is a key issue for widespread use of such technology. Due to high transaction cost and higher risks, financial institutes rarely prioritise these areas for lending.

    Scaling up solar pumps will turn these barren lands to lush green fields/ Photo: Luitel A

    The payback period is often high when farmers invest but this can be minimized by adopting different business models like py-as–you-go, enterprise model of solar irrigation and water marketing, contractor model etc. The government of Nepal also provides huge subsidies for solar pumps. As per the Nepal’s renewable energy policy, farmers get 60 per cent grant, paying 40 per cent upfront. For women, the grant is greater – 70 per cent instead of 60 per cent, provided the ownership of land on which pumps are installed remains with women. After the pumps are installed, “pay for water” scheme ensures the sustainability of the solar pumps.

    The solar powered irrigation is a climate smart technology, helping drought-hit farmers to irrigate their lands and increase agriculture production in rural areas of Nepal.

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  • Hard work paid off!

    February 15th, 2017

    Chuunu Kathariya is a proud agri-entreprenuer who runs a commercial pig resource centre in Dodohara VDC, Kailali. Currently, he has 19 pigs in his resource centre. He makes a yearly income of NPR 7,00,000 (£5,243). Apart from the pig resource centre, he has recently started banana farming in 14 Kattha (4740 sqm) land.

    Chunnu Kathariya at his pig resource centre

    Chunnu Kathariya at his pig resource centre

    Kathariya  took us to his days back in 2011 when he had returned from Saudi Arabia after spending 26 months there as a labourer.  After his return, he was confused on what to do next in life. But thanks to wise advice he got, he didn’t remain in a limbo for too long.

    Practical Action’s staff from the ROJGARI (Raising Opportunities for Jobs in Gramin Areas for Rural Income) project advised him to invest in a pig resource centre. The idea worked well for him. Together with four friends, he initiated the enterprise. He partially received infrastructure support along with three day pig raising training from Practical Action. He still recalls how the support and encouragement brought a tremendous change in his life.

    Kathariya  clearly looks extremely happy and satisfied with the wise decision he took five years ago. He shared, “I have been selling piglets to Kailali, Doti and Bardiya. So far, I have sold around 700 piglets at the cost of NPR 3,500 (£26) per piglet. After the 2015 earthquake, I provided 42 piglets to affected farmers in Dhading District who had faced huge loss and damage. I was really happy to be able to support them. Besides selling piglets, I am also providing technical support to pig raising farmers. Many farmers have visited my place and have also sought technical support from me. This keeps me going on my business. I am very satisfied and happy.”

    Pig resource centre

    Pig resource centre

    Chuunu has realised that perseverance paid off. He believes support  comes to the door of those who keep striving for their aim. He will soon receive financial support of NPR 200,000 (£1,500) from the government’s pig and poultry promotion programme to further expand his business. He is thankful to Practical Action’s ROJGARI project who guided him to move ahead with this enterprise.

    I think Kathariya  is a remarkable outcome of Rojgari project. This project was implemented from 2011 to 2014 with the financial support from the European Union. The project aimed to provide gainful employment opportunities for rural youths in Nepal.  Looking at the experience of people like Kathariya  we realise ROJGARI has indeed transformed people’s livelihood.

    Two years after the end of the project, many enterprises begun during the projecthave accelerated momentum and are moving ahead sustainably. ROJGARI helped locals increase entrepreneurship skills, develop business plans, provided technical support and links with market actors necessary to lead a successful enterprise.

    Being a part of ROJGARI myself, I look back and think of all the hard work the team did to address youth unemployment.  We are now witnessing the positive change in the lives of people like Kathariya.  I can only say “all our hard work has been paid off.”

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  • Keeping hope alive

    December 27th, 2016

    In my more than a decade long development journey, I have travelled a lot. I have reached remote corners of the country and 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. The 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 three hours’ drive from district headquarters, 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.

    Radhika Shahi working in her vegetable farm.

    Radhika Shahi working in her vegetable farm

    “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.

    Growing vegetable in poly-house

    Growing vegetable in poly-house

    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.

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  • Farmers know better

    September 15th, 2014
    Women involved in group rice-duck farming

    Women involved in group rice-duck farming

    I was at field trip to rick- duck project sites in Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts last week to observe how well the farmers have been adopting the project ideas and approaches. But, as I concluded my trip, I came to the realization that the farmers know better. “Addressing Malnutrition through Integrated Rice-Duck Farming in Nepal”, is being implemented in Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts since April 2014. This is 1.5 years project funded by Grand Challenge Canada. The major objective of the project is to increase the income of the farmers and make the availability of protein rich duck meat to small holder farmers in order to address the problem of malnutrition.

    The principle behind rice-duck farming is integration of ducks in the rice field to exploit the symbiotic relationship between rice and ducks resulting into increased productivity of rice. The project has set a target to reach 1000 small holder farmers within its time frame.

    I was really impressed to observe that the famers are not only adopting the project ideas well but also bringing forth the innovative ideas themselves. Group farming was one of the ideas which caught my attention.

    Instead of doing individually, some of the farmers have chosen to be united in the group of twos, fours or fives to do the group farming. This was observed in many Village Development Committees (VDCs) including Khairaheni, Kathar, Kumroj, Kumarwarti and Nipeni. A group of five Tharu women: Draupati, Sunita, Krishna, Mina and Poonam in Kathar became enthusiastic when they knew about rice-duck farming through Practical Action. Four of them did not have rice field nearby their home due to which they were unable to meet the criteria set by the project.

    Where there is a will, there is a way. These four women finally came up with an idea to do it together in their friend’s rice field which is close to their home. Now, they are doing rice-duck farming together.

    The women expressed that rice-duck farming is superior to traditional rice farming in many ways;

    “We are happy to do rice-duck farming. In fact, it is more than farming. We love these ducks like our kids. We have also built the small shed inside the rice field to allow ducks to rest when it is very hot in the afternoon. We keep a vigil on the ducks whole day to protect them against predators. We have also placed a tin in the corner of the rice field. When we see some predators coming to attack ducks, we sound off the tin to chase them away.”

    They have found that group farming has yielded several benefits to them and all lead to saving the cost and labor of the production. Instead of fencing a small plot of rice field individually, fencing the larger field minimises the cost, time and labour for fencing.
    In the same vein, farmers can supervise the field turn by turn to protect the ducks against predators. They can do the things together like transplanting rice, collecting fencing materials and local feeds (sewar and karkalo) and taking care of ducks.  Farmers also expressed happily that learning and sharing is more pronounced while working together. The presence of ducks in the rice field has brought smiles on their faces.

    “They play in the rice field joyfully. Eat all the weeds and insects. It is incredible to see how they loosen the soil around the rice plant. It makes plant grow faster and also increases the number of tillers. We can clearly see the difference between ordinary rice field and rice-duck fields. Rice-duck field looks more green, clean and healthy.”

    Farmers thanked the Practical Action for bring the technology them, But, I felt they deserve it more  for coming up with new ideas to make rice-duck farming a better farming technology.

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