"Improving Livelihood of Farmers through Environmentally Harmonizing Agriculture in the Hilly Areas of Sindhuli District" *Ended in 2015
This project supported farmers in the hilly areas of Sindhuli district, located south of Kathmandu, in producing vegetables appropriate for the climate, such as tomatoes, oranges and highland vegetables. It also helped set up a suitable environment for sustainable production, such as creating composts to improve soil nutrition and building a small-scale irrigation system.
Agriculture in Nepal
As much as it is a beautiful country that is full of nature, it is the lowest ranked South Asian country in terms of income level and is burdened with various development issues including the geographical restrictions as a hilly, land-locked country; low infrastructure level including electricity, roads and irrigation; and lasting political turmoil. While more than 60% of the country's population is engaged in agriculture and it is one of the largest sector in the country comprising 30% of its GDP, the levels of productivity, infrastructure and income of farmers and farm labors remain low partly due to the steep topography. As making a living from farming is difficult, increasingly more people, particularly the younger generation, are leaving the country to earn income elsewhere, so much so that remittance now comprises 20% of GDP. This trend has not been beneficial for the agriculture sector, unfortunately, since with less people more farmlands have become ruined. Thus, increasing the agricultural productivity and income of farmers is now one of the biggest challenges for the country.
Project site: Kuseswor Dumja village
Sindhuli district, within which Kuseswor Dumja is located, was ranked 51th out of the 75 Nepali districts in terms of a development index. The town still has no access to electricity, although it is now possible to access Kathmandu from Kuseswor Dumja in a few hours thanks to Sindhuli Highway that was built by the Japanese Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).
Small villages are dotted between the altitude of 600m and 2,000m, and more than 70% of the 5,800 residents are indigenous or lower caste people. Most of the villagers cultivate small patches of farmland in the steep mountainous area to make a living, but without the chance to receive adequate skills training. It was necessary to make farming more market-oriented by introducing more efficient produce and improving farming practice. Also, soil degradation due to deforestation and land reclamation was seen here and there.
The overflowing energy of the villagers
GLMi held a meeting to learn the needs of the community members in Kuseswor Dumja to help improve the standards of living. The villagers were enthusiastic about making improvements with their own hands and mentioned: "We are full of manpower and energy, but there is no way to use them. We would like to introduce more technological and commercial agriculture and spend our energy on it." They also said: "With the Sindhuri Highway in place, it is now accessible to the Kathmandu market, which was unthinkable until recently. Going forward, we would like to learn how to cultivate market-oriented produce and improve our livelihood."
Summary of Activities
Finding problems together with the community
We held workshops in 8 communities in total right after the commencement of the project. In groups, the villagers depicted their daily farming activities and the challenges they face in diagrams, which they shared with one another through short presentations. The challenges presented included the selection of crops appropriate for the climate, measures against livestock diseases, and water deficiency during the dry season, among others.
Spreading the skills to produce highly value-added vegetables
After holding the workshops, the selection of crops was done through interviews with the community members. Satsuma mandarin orange, persimmon, broccoli, and cauliflower were selected for the villa at the highest altitude, and house tomatoes for the areas just above the foot of the mountain. Skills development for growing these crops in each area progressed well and some farmers started earning income from the new crops just soon after they were introduced.
There was also a positive influence to the neighboring villagers, as they started cultivating new crops out of their own will after seeing our target villagers do so. Moreover, skills development for livestock farming and milk production to diversify income sources, as well as training on using silages (grass crops fermented in silos for long-term storage) to reduce cost for purchasing feeds, were held.
Conservation and strengthening of the production environment
Napier grass and mulberry were also selected to prevent soil degradation and to provide feeds, and at the same time contour cultivation was promoted as well. Furthermore, skills development for creating liquid fertilizers using earthworms and livestock urine was done. To ensure continuous water supply for agriculture in the dry season, moreover, a small-scale irrigation system that utilizes the water sources on top of the mountain was established. With regard to designing and managing the irrigation facility, we held workshops for the communities to ensure a participatory, community-based approach is upheld.
As a result of the project, the target villa firmly established the foundation for producing highly value-added produce by using the resources sustainably. To ensure the continuous income flow of the community members and the sustainability of the environmentally-harmonizing agriculture, we established a brand called "Green Dumja" as well as a marketing support system to ensure effective marketing of the highly value-added produce.