Learnings from a food security project in far-western Nepal


May 17th, 2016

When I look back, it still gives me a reason to visit the place again and again. The trip to far-western Nepal, our project sites, was a whirlwind – with all sorts of emotions jumbled up – getting me excited at each turn of the road.

Though harsh life in the rugged terrain is a daily affair for people living in abject penury, it is a moment of revelation if you are a first-time traveller to those areas.

The Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture for Nutrition and Food Security (POSAN-FS) project is being implemented in four remote districts of far-western Nepal – Achham, Bajhang, Bajura and Doti with an overall objective to contribute to enhance regional food and nutritional security.

Out of the four, we visited three districts and had chance to hear the real stories from the horse’s mouth.

Here are few nuggets of knowledge I gleaned from the tour.

If people find opportunities at home, they would never migrate.

Achham and other neighouring districts in the Far-Western Nepal suffer from a chronic disease of seasonal migration. No wonder, the district has the highest number of HIV cases in Nepal. People, from here, leave for India to earn a living every year.

Man Bahadur BK recently returned from Gujarat, India after spending 35 years there. Along with him was his wife, Chandra Devi BK, who had been with him in India for the last 10 years. Man Bahadur worked in a Bajaj motorcycles showroom for many years and later started a small business of his own.

Rearing chicken provides extra income to road-side shopkeepers.

Raising chickens provides extra income to rural shopkeepers.

After returning to his home in Achham, Man Bahadur has opened a shop – a mom and pop store selling items of daily need. To augment his earnings, he has kept three goats along with chickens provided by the POSAN-FS project. The project has also provided corrugated galvanised iron sheets for roofing the coop.

Man Bahadur also showed us a small patch of tomato farm by the side of his shop. The couple is affiliated with the Punyagiri group of farmers who cultivate vegetables and spices and use kitchen waste water for irrigation.

Though traditional crops are neglected, they are nutritious.

Talking with local people, we came to know that they had left cultivating traditional crops that are nutritious. With the awareness raised by the project and its support, they have been encouraged to grow neglected crops like yams, millet and buck-wheat among others.

Though yams are neglected, they are nutritious. Image by Flickr user Wendell Smith. CC BY 2.0

Though yams are neglected, they are nutritious. Image by Flickr user Wendell Smith. CC BY 2.0

Climbing down a hillock, we could see newly grown yam saplings on the erstwhile barren slopes. When asked, Project Manager Puspa Poudel explained, “Yams have been introduced as nutritious but neglected crops.”

Kitchen gardens are essential for food security.

Among the piles of problems, water scarcity is another ubiquitous problem here. People need to walk miles to fetch a pail of water. In these conditions, thinking of growing vegetables in kitchen garden is a far-fetched idea.

Reaching the Janalikot Village, we met with Saraswati Karmi, a young farmer in her early twenties working in her vegetable plot.

Saraswati proudly showed us the brinjals and chillies in her kitchen garden. Standing next to the vegetables was a healthy crop of turmeric. Nearby was a small ditch for waste-water collection from the kitchen. Though the area is parched with water scarcity, the small puddle stored enough water to grow vegetables, enough to eat and sell in the market.

Kitchen garden not only provides vegetables for family consumption, but is also a source of income to rural farmers.

Kitchen garden not only provides vegetables for family consumption, but is also a source of income to rural farmers.

Introduced to kitchen garden concept few months ago, Saraswati is self-sufficient, at least for vegetables. She doesn’t need to buy them from market any more. She now saves nearly NRs 1200 (around USD 12) per month, which else, would be used in buying vegetables.

Besides kitchen gardening, she has been raising chickens provided by the project. Out of the 19 chickens given to her by the project,10 were ready to be sold in the market. They looked like local chickens and would sell at least at NRs 800 per chicken.

The kitchen garden produce and chickens are taking care of the family’s food security. Now, instead of spending, they are saving!

Know more about the POSAN-FS project.

2 responses to “Learnings from a food security project in far-western Nepal”

  1. Barbara Gallagher Says:

    Great to hear about this project.

  2. Jane Preston Says:

    Exactly the right kind of project to enable people to live sustainably with dignity and hope. Aid to enable trade is always a better option.

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