Blogs tagged as agriculture

  • Odyssey to the far west- In search of stories

    Far western region is arguably one of my favorite places in Nepal, regardless being considered one of the most remote and under developed regions of Nepal.  The place never ceases to amaze me.  I was really fascinated by the natural beauty, cultural diversity, ancient heritage and the rural traditions it had to offer.  My first trip was back in 2014 with the ROJGARI project.  So much had changed in the past couple of years; the rough gravel roads had been blacktopped, a tea house had been transformed into a full menu-set restaurant, and a dormitory had been replaced by a standard room with attached bathroom.  It was just surreal.  The beauty of the place was still there albeit the transformation.  Nonetheless, it brought a smile on my face to see development in the region.  Thanks to the effort of all the development agencies involved in bringing the change.  I feel blessed to be exploring the far west yet again, this time for Building Inclusive and Sustainable Growth Capacity of CSOs in Agriculture and Forest Sectors (BICAS) project.  I will be on the road  for the next one week documenting and collecting stories from the project sites.

    Dadeldhura right after the shower– Dadeldhura is the most developed district as compared to the rest of the hilly districts in the far western region of Nepal.  Due to the elevation differences, Dadeldhura has a different level of temperature.  We were welcomed by heavy rain followed by cold misty weather.

    Dadeldhura by night– The solar street lamp shining bright; breaking the dark abyss down the road.

    Good morning Dadeldhura– The almost perfect view right before the rain.

    The unpredictable weather of the far west– The weather changed so dramatically (within a couple of minutes) it rained cats and dogs.  After a heavy downpour for almost an hour, spotted this cool looking motion of clouds.  The clouds started dancing gracefully clearing the view of Mount Saipal.

    What is a success story?– A two and a half day workshop on “Telling better stories” was organised in Dadeldhura to capacitate the staff of BICAS project.  One of the topics of the workshop involved ‘storytelling’, which was presented by Sanjib Chaudhary.  The workshop included a wide range of topics from story writing, photography, videography to social media.

    The quest– The beautiful Mount Saipal greeted us with a smile as we embarked on our week-long journey to collect stories from the BICAS project sites.  BICAS project is funded by the European Union and Jersey Overseas. The project aims to build the capacity of 45 local organisations to promote inclusive and sustainable growth and increase the income of 7,000 households from agriculture and forest based enterprises in the remote mid and far western districts of Bajhang, Bajura, Jumla, Kalikot and Mugu.

    Wheat field in Achham– On the way to Bajura, spotted this amazing field covered with wheat.  According to CCAFS report, the wheat production in Nepal is expected to increase by 2.6 per cent (1.78 million tonnes) in fiscal 2016-17.

    The intermediator– Shanti Katuwal serves as an intermediator in bridging the gaps between the farmers and the market.  Goods are often collected at her collection centre in Bamka Bazaar which are then transported to the market areas.  Katuwal’s collection centre is centrally located which makes it accessible for both the farmers and the buyers.  She makes NRs 15000 (115 GBP) per month from her collection centre.

    Barefoot– Ganesh Bahadur Thapa is the most in-demand man in the village, wandering from door to door treating animals.  Sometimes he gets dozens of calls; he hardly finds time for himself.  His service as a barefoot is highly recognised and appreciated in and around his village.  Thapa is content with life.  He is able to send two of his kids to school in Kathmandu.  In the future, he hopes to learn artificial insemination, so that he will be able to offer more services to his clients and make more money.

    A happy farmer– Gokul Giri of Budhiganga Municipality- 6, Bajura received commercial farming training from the BICAS project and started growing chilly, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, tomato and peas.  This year he hopes to make around NRs 200,000 (1540 GBP) profits in total.

    Vegetable farming under a poly house– Kailasmandu VDC-5, Bajura was deprived from water facilities until the intervention of BICAS project.  The Multi Use Water System (MUS) project provides farmers the access to safe drinking water and irrigation facilities.

    Agrovet– Dambar Saud supplies quality seeds and agricultural inputs to almost 10,000 farmers.  His service is well received in Bajura district.  With the support from BICAS project, he was able to expand his business by starting an agricultural produce collection centre and a poultry farm.

    Smooth operator– Prem Saud of Badimalika Municipality, Bajura is the proud operator of gravity goods ropeway.  Before the intervention of BICAS project, the produce of Bajura district used to go waste, only very few produce used to reach the market due to lack of transportation.  However, after the installation of gravity goods ropeway the community is taking full benefits of the ropeway.  The produce reach the market on time, likewise, the goods and basic amenities are easily transported back to the communities.  Saud collects NRs 20 (15 pence) for every 10 kilograms of goods transported.  The money collected is for the maintenance and sustainability of the ropeway.

    Face of Bajura– A beneficiary of BICAS project.

    Face of Bajura– A beneficiary of BICAS project.

    Dry tree– Waiting for the spring to come.

    Face of Bajura– A beneficiary of BICAS project.

    A lead farmer– Tek Bahadur Thapa of Triveni Municipality- 8, Bajura built a multi-use water system with support from BICAS project.  He was recently awarded the best farmer of the region.  Thapa has been an influential figure in making his community a vegetable production pocket area.

    Daily chores– A beneficiary of BICAS project with her baby on the back grazing cattle in the field.

    Family business – Deu Singh Saud of Budhiganga Municipality- 10, Bajura (first from left) attended training on vegetable farming facilitated by the BICAS project, and soon after, along with his brothers and sister in law, started onion farming as a family business.  He recalls the times when he struggled a lot finding good quality seeds, they did not have any agro-vets in the area but after the intervention of BICAS project, his life became much easier, he can easily get quality seeds from the nearby agro-vet (in Bamka Bazaar). Saud spent 17 years in India working as a daily wage labourer before starting his own business as a lead farmer.  He is very happy with how the life is treating him at the moment.  Last year his profit was NRs 100,000 (770 GBP).  He is earning more than what he used to earn in India.  He is glad that he made the right decision to come back to Nepal and thankful that he does not have to go back to India anymore.

    Mother and daughter– Beneficiaries of BICAS project.

    Mother and daughter– Beneficiaries of BICAS project.

    The young guns– Beneficiaries of BICAS project.

    Them innocent eyes– Beneficiary of BICAS project.

    Ready, steady and go– Wait! I am not ready yet. Let me fix my hair first before you take my picture.

    Resting in the shade– An elderly woman resting by the side of a road on a sunny day.

    The road to home– After a long week on the road, finally the time has arrived to go back home.  I shall definitely come back to document more of the progress of the BICAS project.  Until then I bid adieu.

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  • With improved agricultural practices, farmers in far-western Nepal are avoiding the seasonal exodus to India


    May 25th, 2017

    The scene was heart-breaking. A group of women and children were running after a bus while the men were waving goodbye from the vehicle. I was witness to this scene almost two years ago during a field trip to Achham in far-western Nepal. The women and children were crying and so were some of the men. They kept on running after the bus till it was out of sight.

    Relatives of foreign-bound men running after a bus carrying the seasonal migrants. (c) Bishnu Paudel

    According to my colleague Bishnu Paudel, the men were leaving for India. He said, “The belief is that the more people come to see off a foreign-bound man, the more fruitful will be his stay in Mumbai and other cities in India.”

    It’s not an unusual scene here in this part of Nepal where hordes of men leave for India every year to earn a paltry income. This practice of seasonal migration hasn’t done much good to the people of this region. In India they engage in and hold petty jobs of a janitor, dishwasher, porter, and a factory worker among others and get harassed, despised and scolded at a drop of a hat. When they return from India, they bring a meagre amount of money but also the dreaded HIV and AIDS with them, not to mention the Hindi words and accent that’s ubiquitous in the far-western Nepal.

    This year, when I returned to Bajura district, the scenario was a bit different. I interviewed some beneficiaries of BICAS (Building Inclusive and Sustainable Growth Capacity of CSOs in Agriculture and Forest Sectors) project. They have resolved not to get back to India but to work in their own land for a better future.

    Here are their stories – straight from the horse’s mouth and how the project has supported them to lead a dignified life.

    Dambar Saud chose to stay in Nepal. (c) Practical Action/ Prabin Gurung

    Supplying quality seeds and agricultural inputs to farmers

    Dambar Saud, an agro-vet at Bamka Bazaar, chose to stay in Nepal and start a business selling agricultural inputs, equipment and pesticides. With support from BICAS, he expanded his business and later diversified his business by starting an agriculture produce collection centre and a poultry farm. He now earns enough to lead a contented life.

    I was lured to go to India but now I’m happy with my income,” he said. “My peers want to copy my ways.

    Providing technical support to farmers

    Chitra Bahadur Bishta, a farmer from Bail of Budhiganga Municipality-7, went to India 22 times and each time he worked in different localities as a watchman staying awake throughout the night and washing vehicles. He also worked in restaurants.

    When everyone slept, I had to stay awake and many times I cried,” he said.

    However, he hasn’t returned to India after he started growing vegetables one and half years ago. Having received technical support from BICAS, he has been growing tomatoes and other vegetables.

    Now I feel happy to see the plants bearing fruit,” he told with a twinkle in his eyes.

    Tek Bahadur Thapa, an award winning lead farmer, is an inspiration to fellow farmers. (c) Practical Action/ Prabin Gurung

    Building irrigation facilities for better productivity

    When we went to Tek Bahadur Thapa’s farm in Triveni Municipality – 8, he was tending to the saplings of bottle gourd and bitter gourd. Nearby were rows of fruit trees.

    Thapa, a model farmer who recently received an award from the President for being the best farmer in the region went to India at an early age of 8 years. One night while he was sleeping, the ‘seth’ (master) he was working for knocked on the door but he didn’t wake up immediately. When he woke up, his master slapped him for not getting up on time. He was meant to drive a rat that was running around in his seth’s bedroom!

    He then returned back to Nepal. When everybody was leaving their homes during the Maoist insurgency, he started growing vegetables. And he hasn’t looked back since.

    We built a multi-use water system with support from BICAS,” he said, pointing to the reservoir. “We now have sufficient water for irrigation.

    The 25 families in the area are planning to turn it into a vegetable production pocket area. An inspiration to other farmers, he has vowed never to return India for work.

    Delivering services at doorsteps

    Deu Singh Saud, a lead farmer from Budhiganga Municipality-10, is farming vegetables with his fellow group members Dan Bahadur Budha, Kamala Saud and Buddhi Singh Saud. He worked in India for over 17 years and since the last 10 years he hasn’t returned back to India.

    Deu Singh Saud is happy with his group farming. (c) Practical Action/ Prabin Gurung

    According to him, when he started farming there was no agro-vet and it used to be a hard job getting good quality seeds. Then he started getting the seeds from Saud Agro-vet in Bamka. Thanks to BICAS, now he gets quality seeds at his doorsteps from barefoot agro-vets, paying only 20 per cent of the actual price. He also gets technical advice from these agro-vets.

    Although he can’t read and write, he easily earns over NRs 100,000 (1 USD = NRs 103) per year from the farming.

    It’s better to farm here,” he said. “I could only earn around IRs 2,000 (1 IRs = NRs 1.60) per month in India.”

    Ignorant of the seed varieties earlier, he told us name of several varieties of vegetables suitable for farming in that region.

    I can do anything here,” he quipped hinting at the long working hours in India. “I can work as per my plan and I can rest whenever I get tired.

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  • Lights, Camera, Action: Reflections from the Access Agriculture video training in Bangladesh

    It is very easy to make videos with your mobile phone but when your aspirations are to share the film globally, and with a specific audience in mind, it is not

    Over the last two weeks colleagues from Bangladesh and Nepal participated in a video training workshop provided by Access Agriculture in the Northern part of Bangladesh. Access Agriculture are a key partner of Practical Answers, our technical information service, providing and sharing technical solutions to solve agricultural challenges!

    Practical Action staff learning how to use video

    The training took place over a 12 day period. Four trainers, from England, Belgium and Kenya, led the course- they were very friendly, and ensured an engaging and insightful experience for all involved!

    Prior to the training we selected, among our colleagues, three video topics: 1. Rearing sheep and goats on a raised platform, 2. Mango grafting and 3. Sorting and storing pumpkins. Before filming it is important to have a good script ; we discussed our prepared scripts so that we could receive feedback from the group.

    The video production process consists of:

    • Issue selection
    • Research desk work
    • Script writing 1st draft
    • Feedback from specialist or relevant persons
    • Recce (the process of visiting and quickly looking around a place in order to find out information)

    The recce process was  very new to me. After visiting the site we revised our scripts as we had gathered new information that would enhance the original drafts. In between this time we prepared some questions to take to interview: why should you store pumpkin, which pumpkins can be stored, how to protect pumpkins during storage etc. Then we went for filming.

    Around 280 clips of footage was collected in four days, ranging between 2-8 minutes in length. At this stage 70% of work is completed within the production process. The remaining 30% consists of:

    • Input footage-logging/selecting
    • Transcription
    • Translation of audio
    • Incorporating translations into the revised script
    • Record voice over
    • Final edit

    We used an editing software called Light Works, it is interesting as tasks are auto-saved. However, before editing we need to arrange the files into a specific computer drive. We learnt that for structured content it is important to consider using subtitle, voiceover and interview-translation using different voices. When using graphics you should consider cutaway pictures and moving shots. You should be aware of issues such as the height of the camera and ensuring there is action in the frame. You should also consider having music, title captions, name captions, background sound and edit credits.

    When taking footage it is important to understand the different types of shots, they are:

    • GV: General View
    • VLS = Very Long Shot
    • LS = Long Shot
    • MLS = Medium Long Shot, it also call 3/4 shot
    • MS = Mid Shot
    • MCU = Medium Close Up
    • CU = Close Up
    • BCU = Big Close Up

     

    When taking a shot we used a tripod to ensure the filming was smooth, and not shaky!

    Our video on pumpkin sorting and storing will soon be available online in French, Bangla and English. This training course was a fantastic learning opportunity, and I look forward to putting my learning into practice! These newly acquired skills will allow us to better share knowledge in video format! Videos produced will be shared through the Access Agriculture network meaning our technical knowledge and experience can be used by many more practitioners.

    Visit Access Agriculture to learn more about work, and future training opportunities.

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  • From despair to dignity – emergency response project in Sudan


    May 24th, 2017

    Heavy rain that hit the eastern region of Sudan in the summer of 2016 and flashfloods, caused substantial damage to communities in Kassala state.  This posed unique challenges and exposed local communities to different areas of vulnerability.

    In response, Practical Action and Plan Sudan, working in the Aqua4East Partnership, a water  project in the region, developed a six months emergency response initiative to protect the  area from the negative impacts of the emergency situation. The priority was to help the affected communities respond to, and rapidly recover from this disaster, and to strengthen their resilience to future natural crises. Practical Action focused on addressing the life-saving needs of vulnerable affected people through a holistic water, sanitation, and hygiene programme.

    This story of Adam and his family is just one of thousands of success stories of families that benefited from the this project in Kassala, one of the country’s poorest states.

    Await village is 35km north of Kassala city. The region suffers from chronic poverty, food insecurity, lack of access to basic facilities, and limited support from state government. The people of Await are extremely poor; they lack the basic facilities of life; including education, health, and hygiene. The local culture and social restrictions imposed by the community keeps girls out of classroom education.

    Adam Mohamed Abu Fatima is a 45 year old man whose life has been a hard struggle for him and his family.

    I used to have no hope and was never able to help my family.

    His wife is terminally ill due to unhealthy food and lack of income. Adam really wanted to help her, but the costs of medicines, and seeing a doctor were too high. He has five children, two boys and three girls. The two boys and the youngest girl are enrolled in primary school. The two older girls help the family make a living, look after their mother, and take care of other domestic work.

    Adam’s story shows how much change can come about when a family works together and supports each other.

    Adam used to earn his living from carrying water  and fetching firewood.  He earned around his earning were on average SDG 20 per day (£2.30). Things started to improve when the water committee in Twaite purchased him a donkey cart fitted with two water drums to supply water on a daily basis to the latrines newly constructed by the Emergency Response Project.  These were built to reduce the practice of open area defection and subsequently reduce contamination and spread of diseases in the village. Adam also uses this donkey cart  to sell water to the community. His income has increased by SDG 100 (£12) per day, after putting aside enough to feed the donkey and keep it healthy and for cart maintenance.  He also makes a daily contribution of SDG 20 (£2.30) to the water committee.

    The donkey cart contributed by the project and managed by the village Water Committee

    Adam is so pleased about how things are changing for him and his family. He can now help his neighbours by supplying water for them.  His family learned how to keep chickens and have bought six chickens and one cockerel and are now breeding hens.  The eggs were great for the children and the rest are sold at the local market. His daughters look after the chickens, clean the house, and cook for the family.

    One of the three latrine blocks constructed by the project in the village

    The family works as a team, Adam’s elder daughter attended the farm training facilitated by the project and is now starting to cultivate her own small home farm, making use of the availability of water and the donkey’s manure to improve the fertility of the soil on her farm for increased crop production.  Neighbours are now coming to find out how they farm and they help others whenever possible, so the family, their neighbours and the community are all better off.

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  • 5 Simple solutions that llama farmers love


    August 5th, 2016

    Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to visit a number of Practical Action’s projects across Latin America. Not only was I overwhelmed by the colours, culture and pure grit of people living in some really challenging environments, but by the generosity and open friendship they showed when welcoming us into their homes.

    Martin Queso's prize winning llama

    Martin Queso’s prize winning llama

    At an altitude of almost 4000m, high in the mountains of western Bolivia is the Jesús de Machaca municipality. With a population of roughly 400 people, a tough four hour car ride from any major town along rough dirt roads, this is a remote and arguably hostile landscape to live in. There are few ways to make a living up here, and apart from growing limited crops such as quinoa, the environment means agriculture is largely restricted to farming camelids.

    Llamas and alpacas are hardy animals, which when cared for properly; provide a vital income for farmers. However; challenges of weather, uncontrolled breeding, inadequate knowledge of rearing livestock, along with often unfair access to markets means that farmers in the upland areas of Peru and Bolivia are struggling to earn a living to support their families.

    But, with the help of our kind supporters, Practical Action is changing this. Below you can read about five simple, sustainable solutions that are helping to transform the livelihoods of camelid farmers in Latin America.

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    Queso family standing in front of their Practical Action llama shelter.

    1. Covered shelters:

    The relentless push of climate change is causing the weather to be unpredictable in high altitude areas, and farmers in Bolivia are often caught out by sudden bites of frost, or prolonged rainfall. Martin Queso and his family showed us the open fronted shelter that Practical Action have helped him to build, he told us:

    “Before, my animals would just range freely. When the weather suddenly changed, with cold winds, ice or rain, they would get sick, often they would die, and I would have no way of making any income. I couldn’t afford to replace a lost llama, and my flock got smaller and smaller.”

    With the shelter, now the family can easily bring the herd inside for protection from the elements when needed.

    2. Rainwater storage, irrigation and water pumps and troughs:

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    Photovoltaic water pump and trough for livestock

    With erratic and unreliable rainfall, mountainous areas in Peru and Bolivia often go for periods of time where water is scarce. With the implementation of rainwater harvesting systems like this one is Nunõa, Peru, water can be collected and stored. Irrigation pipes are connected to the reservoirs, ensuring the surrounding ground remains green for grazing.  In Jesús de Machaca, the installation of photovoltaic water pumps and troughs means that livestock have access to fresh water all year round.

    “We didn’t believe it would work at first” Dalia Condori, a member of the local council told us, “but now it has brought water and a better life for so many”

    3. Breeding pens:

    We’ve seen them patch-worked into the countryside of the United Kingdom for centuries:

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    Rainwater harvesting and irrigation system and stone-wall breeding pens

    Dry-stone wall enclosures that hem-in herds, divide open grassland and mark boundary lines; but this simple method of livestock separation has only been introduced fairly recently to communities in the Nunõa district, near Sicuani in southern Peru. Enabling farmers to isolate certain alpacas from the rest of the herd allows for selective and planned breeding of the healthiest animals, in turn producing the highest quality wool fleece, returning a better price at market. It also means that young alpacas can be nurtured and protected for longer periods of time before being released to roam freely with the herd, thus boosting their fitness and increasing their chances of survival.

    4. Market access and product diversification:

    In the remote villages of upland Bolivia, getting a fair price for llama wool is tough – individual farmers can only sell for whatever the going price in the local area is, even though this may be much lower than what the fleece is actually worth. Practical Action is working with farming communities to create co-operative groups that can work together to access bigger markets for their products, and demand a higher, fairer price.  Llama farmers like Andrés are also encouraged to diversify their products in order to make a better income. Andrés, who has won multiple awards for his spinning and wool-product work, also makes and paints traditional Bolivian clay figures to sell at the tourist markets.

     

    Llama farmer and artisan Andres showing his tools for sculpting traditional clay figures

    Llama farmer and artisan Andres showing his tools for sculpting traditional clay figures

    5. Training and knowledge:

    Practical Action helps to provide training on basic animal husbandry and wellbeing. Farmers in Jesús de Machaca learn about the right type and quantities of nutritious food, how to administer medication for their llamas when they are sick, and how to maintain the grazing pasture land. The knowledge is then shared between farming communities by Practical Action ‘Promotors’ who help to teach others how to breed and care for their livestock effectively.

    It is vitally important to the families in these areas that the great work that Practical Action is able to do continues. Llamas and alpacas are strong and intelligent and are crucial for the farming communities in Latin America. Access to the tools and knowledge for breeding and looking after their animals provide families with a secure source of income. With just £47 you can help to support a llama farmer in Bolivia by buying a ‘llama lifeline’ Practical Present today.

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  • Determination leads to success


    August 1st, 2016

    Sushil Chaudhary, a 22 years old young farmer, is a model farmer for the youth who are migrating towards the cities and Gulf countries in search of jobs and better earnings, instead of generating self-employment using own resources.

    Sushil lives along with his seven-member family in Hikmatpur Village Development Committee (VDC) of Kailali district in Far-Western Nepal with a small land holding, i.e. 0.1 ha (10914.60 square feet). The family source of income was only wage labouring and subsistence farming that only partly fulfilled family needs. Sushil was forced to seek employment in the Gulf. But his family was unable to sponsor him for the cost required for employment in the Gulf.

    Sushil Chaudhary and his poultry and pig farms.

    Sushil Chaudhary in front of his poultry and pig farms.

    Because of this, he had no option other than wage labouring until he heard about the community library in his locality, which was helping community people improve their earnings and livelihoods.

    In 2015, he visited Tikapur Community Library to seek information for self-employment and a better livelihood. Sushil was advised on an integrated farming system for sustainable income which was suitable for people with small land holdings.

    With the guidance of a community worker and information from the library, Sushil began vegetable and pig farming. He participated in vegetable farming and animal husbandry training provided by the library. In the first year itself he was able to earn Nepali Rupees (NPR) 43,000 by selling vegetables and NPR 39,050 by selling two pigs (1 USD = 100 NPR). He expects more income this year as one of his piga gave birth to 10 piglets and all of them are healthy. Besides farming, Sushil is also pursuing his Bachelor’s degree and is in his second year of college.

    Sushil says,

    “Until I visited the library, I was unable to decide what to do for better earnings… The guidance and technical information in the library helped me make up my mind…”

    He adds, “On account of what I learned, I have adopted commercial pig farming along with vegetable farming as a method of income generation. I initiated with four pigs in the pigpen constructed by myself. Two of the pigs I had been raising were recently sold for meat at the rate of NPR 170- NPR 200 per kg for the net price of NPR. 39,050. Furthermore, one of my pigs recently gave birth to ten piglets. Not very long ago, I used to be unemployed but now I have a reliable source of income. Tikapur Community Library’s Technical Knowledge Service section has not only helped me but also a number of other villagers who didn’t use to have much knowledge about agriculture or animal husbandry.”

    Embolden by his success he is planning to expand his farming by leasing more land and rearing more pigs. With a smile on his face, he says,

    “I am helping other youths in the community by advising them that one can achieve a goal if he has determination and zest to seek the right help.”

    Practical Answers Service in Tikapur Community Library, Kailali, is supported by Nepal Flood Resilient Project (NFRP) funded by Zurich Foundation.

     

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  • 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.

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  • Impact of low cost irrigation technologies on livelihoods and women’s empowerment


    March 28th, 2016

    ICIMOD held an international workshop on water, livelihood and gender nexus recently in Kathmandu. We were also invited to share our experience.  The following is the full script of the presentation I made on the impact of low cost irrigation technologies (micro irrigation technologies) on livelihood and women empowerment.


     

    The impact of irrigation on livelihoods is obvious. However, the impact of conventional irrigation schemes on the livelihoods of poor and marginalised households is not that obvious.  Marginalised households often live at the edges of the settlements, mostly in small numbers, making it difficult for the conventional schemes to reach them.

    Google map

    This Google map shows a typical village in western Nepal. The main settlement constitutes about 60 houses. Five houses are below the main settlement, at about 20 minutes’ walking distance. These houses belong to the poor, most likely to Dalits. Conventional irrigation would target the main settlement as there is often  pressure to reach the larger population as better value for money.

    Extending the reach of the irrigation scheme to marginalized households is costly. The per unit cost would be very high and economically unjustifiable. Even if economic viability is discounted and the budget is not a constraint, the water is less likely to reach them, because there is not enough water, even for the main settlement.  Hence, some households will be left out.

    There are thousands of similar villages across the country. You won’t find any village, even in the remotest part of the country, where there is no irrigation scheme of some sort; however, you will find such left out households in almost every village. Hence, large numbers of marginalised households are deprived of irrigation facilities. We promote the low cost irrigation technologies to cater the irrigation needs of such marginalised households.

    The following are some of the  low cost irrigation technologies we have been promoting:


    So, how do the micro irrigation technologies improve the access of poor and marginalised households to irrigation?

    1. Low cost irrigation technologies fill the void left out by conventional schemes.
    2. They increase water efficiency. Our mountains and hills are dry.  Limited resources we have are also shrinking gradually.  Hence, it is very important that we use our water resources wisely and efficiently. These low cost technologies help achieve this.
    3. Studies and our own experience have shown that low cost technologies are more sustainable. They have small and homogenous users. Hence, all the users have equal say in decision making and the distribution of water is more or less equitable. This ensures more ownership towards the technologies which help to improve their sustainability.
    4. Low cost technologies are affordable and simple to operate and maintain. This improves access of marginalized households to the technology.
    5. Low cost irrigation technologies also help in women empowerment.

    IMG_0241

    This is Tula Devi Saud from Bajura. She literally had to beg to her husband to let her to grow vegetables on some of their land. In the rural areas, women rarely own land. Hence, they have little say in deciding how to use the land.  After much pleading, however, her husband agreed to let her cultivate vegetable in 0.5 Ropani (1 Ropani = 508.72 sq. m) of their land. But, there was no irrigation facility in their village.
    She had to fetch water from a well about 20 minutes walking distance from the village. It would cost her 2-3 hours daily. Hence, she would produce only about 50-60 Kg of vegetable in a season which would earn her merely about five thousand rupees in a year. Thus, she was solely dependent on her husband for all kind of expenses.

    Two year ago, they constructed an irrigation pond in the village. She actively participated in the construction. Now, she grows vegetables on 2.5 ropani of land. It takes her only about an hour to irrigate her plots. Now she sells 1200 kgs of vegetables a year. Last year, she made Rs 45000 from selling vegetable. Now, she supports her husband financially.  In fact, she gets her husband to porter the vegetable to the market whenever he needs pocket money.  This story pretty much explains the significance of micro-irrigation to women’s empowerment.

    We can summarize as follows:

    • While the conventional irrigation schemes are more concerned with cereal crops, the low cost technologies are often used for cash crops, mainly vegetable farming. Often, vegetable farming is the only prospect for rural women, who are mostly illiterate, to earn money. So, the low cost irrigation technologies help.
    • Rural households have multiple water needs. And women are responsible for meeting the needs. Statistics tells us that 80% of the water needed in rural Nepal are met by women. The micro-irrigation technologies help to meet the multiple water needs. For example,  water in the jar or the irrigation pond can be used for irrigation, for cattle and maintaining household sanitation.
    • The low cost irrigation technologies bring the water closer to the house, which reduce their drudgery and save time and energy. It also allows them to attend other household chores alongside irrigating their plot.
    • Finally, the technologies are affordable and simple to operate. Hence, women can own and operate them on their own.

    The 21st century is defined by technological revolution. However, its benefit is lopsided. The rich have greater access to technologies. The technological innovations are inclined to meet the desires of the rich than the needs of poor. However, it is invariably the poor who bear brunt of the negative consequences of indiscriminate use of technologies. In Practical Action we call this technology injustice, and seek to reduce it by promoting the low cost appropriate technologies. Micro-irrigation technologies are among the technologies which hold much promise for improving the livelihoods of the poor and supporting women’s empowerment.

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  • Local innovation in agriculture in North Darfur


    February 22nd, 2016

    Over the past few years Ibrahim Hamid Mohamedain, a farmer from Magdoub A in North Darfur, has been selectively breeding his millet crop, the region’s foremost staple grain. Like farmers across the region, Ibrahim has struggled with increasingly low yields of millet year on year. Whereas twenty years ago one mukhamas (equivalent of 1.25 acres) used to produce 6-8 sacks of millet, it now rarely produces more than half a sack. The reasons for the falling fertility of the sandy soils on which the crop is grown are many, chief among them is widespread deforestation across the region.

     

     

    Ibrahim realised that one of the (albeit lesser) causes of this deforestation was the practice of local farmers cutting down trees on their farm land, and uprooting tree seedlings, as a preventative measure to reduce the number of birds, seen as one of the main pests of the millet crop.

    As an environmentally conscious farmer, he sought a biological and natural form of bird control. One day, his wife Aisha Adam observed that a few of the millet plants grown by her sister were covered in small hairs and were thus resistant to birds and grasshoppers. He took some of these seeds back to his farm, so beginning his three-year endeavor to selectively breed a bird-resistant millet variety which would also have high tolerance to drought (essential in an arid area increasingly prone to rain shortages) and a high yield.

    In this attempt, he drew on his experience accumulated as a Practical Action trained agricultural extension agent (from 2004). In 2005 he participated in an exchange visit to neighbouring North Kordofan state with the State Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Corporation, where he was taught how to select and propagate seeds. More recently, he participated in a refreshment training course in agricultural production techniques for village extension agents, organised as part of the Wadi El-Ku catchment management project for peace and livelihoods.

    IMG_1063

    Close-up of Abu Suf (hairy) millet

    In the 2014 agricultural season he tied a strip of cloth around the first millet stalk to flower, considering this as an early maturing variety and resistant to drought. He also observed that as it grew, the millet head was the biggest, a sign of high production. Most importantly, he also he observed that the same millet head was covered in long hairs which made it difficult for the birds to eat. He observed a second millet variety with a compacted seed head with large seeds that made it hard for locusts and bird to dislodge and eat.

    He selected these millet heads and stored them as seeds for the coming year. This second crop was harvested in October/November 2015 with stunning results. Despite being one of the worst rainy seasons in many years, he produced a surplus of millet beyond his annual household’s needs, the only farmer Magdoub A to do so in 2015. The crop was virtually untouched by birds.

    Scaling up use of new millet variety

    Ibrahim invited Practical Action to attend the harvest, with the aim of seeking support to scale-up the propagation of this new millet variety. Practical Action, accompanied by a team from the State Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC), visited the farm to assess the seeds and to discuss with Ibrahim how his millet variety could best be expanded to the benefit of other farmers in the state.

    This scale-up began with Ibrahim training 250 other farmers in Magdoub, and from neighbouring satellite villages, in identifying, selecting and breeding seeds. The next step in the scale-up plan is still being discussed but the provisional plan entails distributing the seeds to 50 farmers in the state who will then grown the seeds; keeping half the crop and passing the other half on to a further 50 farmers. Practical Action also hopes to use these seeds to encourage farmers to adopt agro-forestry. As they no longer need to fear birds damaging their crops, planting Acacia trees on their sandy soils after 4 or 5 years will significantly improve soil fertility. At this point they can also benefit from the trees as Arabic gum gardens supplying reliable source of additional income, through the sale of gum Arabic.

    IMG_1017

    Aisha Adam harvesting her Abu Suf millet

    While this variety of millet is not new to Sudan as a whole, with other pioneer farmers developing similar locally propagated improved seeds in several states, his efforts show how with limited training and outside support, farmers can find locally appropriate solutions to their livelihood challenges.

    This is in line with Practical Action’s vision of promoting local knowledge that contributes to improving the livelihoods of poor communities. By connecting farmers with governmental institutions such as MOA and ARC, we encourage sustainable development.

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  • Will COP21 deliver a Paris Protocol?


    November 25th, 2015

    Have the global negotiations for a new climate agreement switched from a marathon to an egg and spoon race?

    We are now in the final leg of the marathon negotiations for a new climate agreement. At the last meeting in Bonn, the negotiators were expected to intensify their pace, but by the end of the meeting it was clear no one had sped up, if anything the pace had slowed. We are now entering the final sprint to the line. In 5 days the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will take place in Paris. Without a sprint finish it is unlikely that an effective Paris Protocol will be signed.

    Great Climate RaceThe Great Climate Race is just one example of what communities around the world are doing to tackle climate change. A fund raising run/walk to raise money for community solar power, because climate change is a race against time!

    So what are the core stumbling blocks in the way of delivering a Paris Protocol?

    The first barrier is a long standing one around whether developed and developing nations should be treated differently. The issue known as “differentiation” remains a significant hurdle. To be effective the new agreement must build on the original convention text around common but differentiated responsibilities. But it must update the text to match today’s reality and be dynamic to evolve as the world changes. Historical emissions must not be ignored, but the changing dynamics of global emissions means that the text must be flexible enough to respond to changing circumstances.

    The second barrier is around finance. For poor and developing nations allocating sufficient resources will be vital to deliver the agreement. At the Copenhagen COP in 2009 developed countries committed to mobilise jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020. A lack of clarity around these contributions, double counting of existing development assistance and the role of the private sector all continue to hinder progress in this respect.

    Egg-and-spoon raceThirdly, Loss and Damage continues to divide parties. Some countries hope to see it embedded within the heart of the agreement, while others suggested it should be removed. Lack of action to reduce emissions will lead to a greater need for adaptation. Lack of finance for adaptation will lead to accelerating Loss and Damage. The logic is clear, but still Loss and Damage fails to receive the recognition and importance it deserves.

    The Paris COP is supposed to light the way for governments to finally deliver an effective global response to the threat of climate change. However, to avoid another failed UN sponsored global conference it will be vital for politicians to put in the additional legwork to make the Paris Protocol a reality.

    We don’t just want an agreement, we need a robust agreement that delivers. Human rights, gender equality and the issue of a just transition must be central to the agreement. A human rights centred agreement offers a holistic approach that makes the connections between the economic, social, cultural, ecological and political dimensions, and links what we are doing to tackle climate change with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction.  Is this too much for our children to ask for?

    Further information

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