Stories on GreenGrowth
Photos: Devaki Bista
Far West region is renowned for remoteness in Nepal where district can be considered as a showcase of remoteness due to its difficult geographical condition, extreme poverty and isolate from eyes of development. Until few last years, due to lack of irrigation, inputs and technical know-how of commercial vegetable farming, majority of the land used to be cultivated by maize in one season and grazing land for rest of the season.
As said, change comes with development when development organizations were sprouting in Achham and the slow growth of change seen at Badakhola. In the year 2013/2014, when Helvitas- Nepal and District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) Achham, supported 3 water collection ponds then WAC Nepal (LNGO) facilitated Badakhol Farmer Group to approach with High Value Agriculture Project (HVAP) to support on commercial vegetable farming. In the same year, HVAP provided PPF fund to group to produce off season vegetables.
The progressive improvements in farming systems and livelihood mechanism seen at Badakhola through improvement in agriculture infrastructure, enhancing skills/technologies (plastic house, pipe irrigation, preparation of organic manuring, ease access on farming tools, developing marketing mechanism, promoting off season vegetables and technical trainings, etc.) at the subsistence level to successively improved on the existing farming practices. They found changed on their mind-set and did some revolutionary workout such as controlled on haphazard grazing, convereted barren/abandoned land into vegetable pocket areas. From such key factors of progression, it was very urgent and important that another intervention approaches should be in like to shift them from semi-commercial to commercial. Hence, they were able to secure value chain fund (VCF) W2.
The intervention approaches has become very effective since the project areas was largely dominated by smallholder, resource poor and marginalized farmers (12 Dalit, 3 Janajati and 67others – Total 82) who were suffering from less production and low income from their farming practice, were lacking in irrigation, transportation, market information, mechanisms, basic inputs (seeds, seedlings, tools) and improved technology as well. At the beginning, the 25 group members initiated vegetable farming on 15 ropani land under PPF fund. After conversion into VCF fund, total 51 group members producing various off season vegetable products such as cauli, cabbage, tomato on 62 ropani of land. On the first season, they earned NRs. 11822 selling 15610 kg vegetables. Now, they seems very well organized and well equipped as 10 households improved manuring, 25 households producing organic pesticide as they have constructed 15 plastic house, and 4 spray tank, 25 hajari is in group.
“The successes of VCF fund shift majority of farmers into commercial off season vegetable production that increased food-security at households’ level, facilitated access to finance, increased investments in agriculture, and further strengthened market linkages. Most importantly, the project was also crucial in connecting farmers to microfinance institutions for access to credit, supporting the purchase of irrigation equipment, and reinforcing agricultural best practices”, says Prem Buda, Chairperson of the Group.
Goat as a small ruminants is highly potential for smallholder farmers in terms of raising income and uplifting livelihoods. The presented case study entails the story of Ms. Kalpana Devi Bayak-39, a mother of 4 children from Turmakhad VDC-9, Achham district. The region itself belongs to resource poor area and geographically isolated from all the means of development where the story of Kalpana Devi is much more awful.
Raring of small ruminants and cattle farming is not new for Kalpana Devi and other community people. At the beginning, she had 5-7 goats which can be counted as main source of income. Income from the goats was not sufficient and she had to look for other labour work to feed her kids.
Her story on the commercial goat farming starts when Thulo Community Forest User Group (TCFUG) approached to High Value Agriculture Project (HVAP) on Goat Value Chain Sub-Project with the close coordination and facilitation of WAC Nepal two years ago. Journey of her involvement on various social development activities has begun then after.
She got support for goat shed management, vaccination and involvement on Business Literacy Class that groomed her to be a successful goat entrepreneurs. She had 15 goats when she thought she would be doing goat farming as a business. Now, she has more than 50 goats from which she has been earning handful amounts of money. Only this year, she earned approx. NRs. 200,000.00 (in words: Two Lakh) from goats and still she has got 35 goats left at her sheds. From these days, she does not have to look for buyers anymore because she found market at her own shed as the traders from various places such as Surkhet, Nepalgunj and even from Pokhara her goat farm. She says, she can earn more than 2 lakhs per year from the goats. Currently, goat market is getting bigger and bigger, it even supply to Kathmandu from her places. “Life became much easier”, as she said. To manage basis needs and necessity such as schooling to her kids, managing family health and buying necessary things became ease for her. Currently, her son is studying in Surkhet and regularly medical check-up her daughter who has health problem since long is being managed from the goat income.
.“Now, she became a means of inspiration at her village. She even encourages others to do similar business so as to improve living condition”, as mentioned by her community.
Jajarkot, is one of the highly war faced district from decades long Maoist war in Nepal. Even within Jajarkot district, People from Jyamire Village Development Committee (VDC) faced all sorts of torture i.e. physical and mental torture from the both sides (Maoist and Government) of people. “Life was miserable and they were kept like a prisoners within their own home. Police and army used to come and go torturing till the last breath and Maoist used to come and go looting everything” ; says, Man Bahadur Rana. Now, they do not have single second to think about those terrible moment as they keep doing busy to cultivate vegetables.
Mr. Man Bahadur Rana was the first to initiate production of vegetable as a commercial basis in Jyamire VDC where approx. 18 households residing. I became like an idiot and people considered me as if I have lost my mind when I first converted my paddy and maize fields into vegetable area. People made fun at me saying that conversion of productive land for paddy and maize is my stupid idea and my initiation to produce vegetable will be effortless” utters, Man Bahadur. Now, the time has changed and with the run of time, community people exposed with ground reality. People learned from him to be the commercial vegetable producers. Approx. all the households of Jyamire being involved in commercial production of seasonal and off season vegetable. “Now, almost all the households earning NRs. 50-60 thousands by selling vegetables in one season” says, Ms.Bhabita Rana. “We have been gaining far better income from vegetable production comparing to our efforts and investments that we used to do for maize and paddy production” says, Ms. Rana cheerfully. “We could hardly be sustained from the production of paddy and maize. Now, we have handful of cash that even can be saved while sufficiently spending for schooling kids, buying cloths, purchasing meat and food items” further elaborate, Ms. Rana
It even did not take a year to recover them from the trauma. As a saying like “Good Intention Always Needs a Little Push” High Value Agriculture Project (HVAP) came up as a push factor into their life to bring a progressive change. In the year 2014, the project provided small grant (Post Production Fund-PPF) with of amount of NRs. 2,90,000 for commercial vegetable production. They have shown such a remarkable changes on production and improve livelihoods from such small support. Further commercialization and collective production and marketing, the project provided value chain fund of NRs. 7 Lakh 46 Thousand.
Now, each individual houses increased their land of production from 2-5 ropani where each individual houses earning 50-60 thousands in one season. Increased income from the not only increased their income but also improved their food culture. As an example, the initiator- Mr. Man Bahadur Rana and rest of the people used to eat rice and breads with salt and chillies. Now, the fresh vegetable can been seen cooking during lunch and dinner. Mr. Rana has been producing vegetables in 5 ropani land from which he is earning more than 3 Lakh in a year. With this income, he added 14 ropani land in potential area of Khalanda-Rimna road corridor.
Marketing of vegetables is major constraints in Jyamire due to difficulty of road connection. Currently, they are selling vegetables in closest market at Rimna on their own. Selling individually while carrying in a Doko is a time consuming, says Rana. Hence, the entire group of people struggling to connect their village with road and increasing vegetable production land so the regional traders at Surkhet could come and proceed for bulk trading in their locality.
A Case Study of Zero Energy Cellar Store Promoted by High-Value Agriculture Project
While analysing the district wise context in Nepal, Jumla is one of the remote mountainous district facing massive post-harvest losses especially on Apple. For the livelihood subsistence, apple is the most important crop in terms of area, production and household economy in Jumla. But most production units are small and often located in isolated and inaccessible areas where infrastructure such as roads, irrigation and storage facilities are inadequate or completely lacking. With the present increasing trend in the connectivity (road network) in remote high mountains and inaccessible districts such as Mustang, Jumla and Kalikot, there is a great potential for increasing area and productivity of these fruit crops.
Among them, on farm storage of fruits and vegetables (mainly apple) was a major concern in Jumla from value addition prospect. Maintenance of temperature and humidity is a great problem in a mountainous region. In fact, Nepal has been struggling to make radical progress in the field of food preservation (building of cellar store, cold storage, modern collection center,etc;) where R&D in this field has been less. Refrigeration is energy intensive, expensive, not so easy to install and run in remote areas and not always environment friendly. Due to lack of cellar store, substantial amount of apple used to decay after production in Jumla. Market price was not so encouraging.
Hence realizing the critical aspect of apple production, High Value Agriculture Project (HVAP) planned to established apple cellar store at Jumla district. Considering acute energy crisis, the project design and build an economical, eco-friendly, effective and efficient zero energy cellar (a structure which is designed to keep mainly apple then vegetables and some fruits at a stable, temperature and humidity which will prevent them from rotting) by using renewable source of energy (earth) for the community for preserving their farm products for their future use. Hence, the project established zero energy cellar stores at 3 different groups/cooperates i.e. at Mahila Falful Tarkari Krisak Samuha at Taliom, Omgad, Danfe Kalika Krishi Bahuudesiya Sahakarki at Karthik Swami, and Mahila Krishi Bahuudesiya Sahakari Orthu Patmara in Jumla. These constructed units on these area consist interior wall is actually a double wall. Between the two walls there is a layer of gravel and sand. The perimeter of the roof is lined with water pipes. When the water is turned on, it drips down into the sand, which retains the moisture and brings the temperature inside the building down by just a few degrees.
It’s this small temperature and humidity change that makes a big difference. Amazingly, fruit especially apple stored in Zero-Energy units stays fresh for additional five to six months, allowing farmers to sell it well after the harvest period, garnering more profit.
Zero Energy cold storage units are one major part of an overall apple value chain intervention of the project that has directly benefitted 100 households from 3 particular groups and cooperative in Jumla. Ms. Ramila Bhandari (Picture above), is one of the beneficiary who is a pioneer apple producer and active group member of Kalika Krisi Bahuudesiya Sahakari at Kartik Swami, Jumla. According to her, it was very difficult for them to sell apple in local market in the past. They had a practice of feeding unsold apple to their livestock, offering to neighbour and forceful consumption as a main food item. “We had to wait a whole day to sell one doko (30-40 kg) apple and even if, we find someone to buy though the price used to me very nominal (Rs. 10-15 per kg)” she responded. “Now, the project constructed apple cellar store in our group where majority of us (24 households) store apple. I have stored 1.8 tons apple for 4 months and now I have sold NRs. 120 per kg is which is significantly higher than the seasonal price (normal seasonal price-Nrs. 20-25). It is hard to believe”, as she mentioned.
“This is particular change that we found at the individual household level through establishment of cellar store. In addition to this, we have found remarkable changes on apple orchard management, process of consultation with district and project based technician for technical support and increasing apple farm production,” says Mr. Gopal Prasad Shrestha, HVAP, Agriculture Technician. “In an average, each household has been earning Nrs. 20,000 to Nrs. 25,000 from the apple stored in cellar store”, he further adds.
So while the farmer/producer they can’t go back and reclaim their loss of the past. What we can assure that they can recover their loss in the present with increasing volume of production and with effective use of cellar store which increase their net income in general and build better futures particular.
Ms. Laxmi Giri can be considered as one of the happiest farmers at her village due to her knack to bring changes into her life in general and family in particular. Her neighbour says, she has a magic at her hands mainly to grow/produce various off season vegetables at her farmland. Just with a small patch of land, it is remarkable to see her making fortunes, winning laurels and becoming an inspiration for other group members at her village. She is one of many farmers in Pragatisheel Mahila Krisak Samuha (Progressive Women Farmer Group) of Badalkot-1 Baratu, a village in the Kalikot district, who has made a sound return from off-season vegetable production.
Ms. Giri proudly shows her 2.15 ha small farm full of vegetables (tomato, potato, cauliflower, chillies and radish). She explained the story of how a small patch of land became a way of better living for four member’s family. She adds “The maize, wheat and barley could hardly feed my family for two-three months,” and her husband was compelled to work as a wage labourer for many years just to make ends meet.
Laxmi and her husband, both are poorly literate. They hardly can read and write and living under extreme poverty in such circumstances had pushed laxmi into the verge of misery. She was doing vegetable farming for household consumption along with other crops such as maize, wheat and barley. She adopted vegetable farming as a business once the group- Pragatisheel Mahila Krisak Samuha she involved receive support under High Value Agriculture Programme (HVAP). Then, she started participating in various trainings as vegetable production, pest and disease management including marketing that changed her from subsistence to commercial. She says, “I have received improved seeds (off season-Tomato, Cucumber, Cauliflower, Chillies and Bitter Gourd) and financial supports through the group”. She adds, she earned NRs.35,080 by selling vegetables during the year. My family’s happiness knew no bound during that time. The earnings gave new inspiration to my family and it has even encouraged my husband to pursue it further. The next year observed sharp increase in my income to NRs 55,800 only from vegetable production. It offered me more motivation to engage in vegetable farming. Since then, I have never looked back in life because it makes me feel like I found my happiness in my vegetable garden. I continued to raise my production levels 610 kg to 1700 kg per season and generate more earnings, helping me to educate my children. Most importantly, I have renovated my house which increased our social status. Now, it looks new, strong and quite beautiful life. The off season vegetable farming business has now become a main source of income of ours. “Me and my husband truly enjoy working together in the farm, she reveals”.
Most similar with the story of Laxmi Giri, there are other 36 progressive women farmers involved on commercial vegetable production with the support of HVAP where they earn from NRs. 40,000 to 1,000,00 in a season.
As she believes, with support comes success and success brings happiness and prosperity. These remarkable successes from the Baratu, Kalokot prove that when women are economically and socially empowered, they can become a potent force for change poverty reduction. However, they cannot do it alone. What they need is inspiration that comes as a way of investment and support for agricultural and rural development, creating favorable conditions for the rural people to move out of subsistence farming toward commercial marketplace. In context of HVAP’s Inclusive Business Approach, two things have become increasingly evident; the first is that farming at any scale is a business, and smallholders and producers must be treated as entrepreneurs. The second is that promotion of women friendly farming practices can endorse growth and opportunities for livelihood promotion, thereby reducing poverty, food insecurity, vulnerability and inequality in rural areas. When these links are in place, wonderful things begin to happen.