Mugu is one of Nepal’s most rural and isolated districts. Due to the region’s limited road network and mountainous terrain, 93% of people in Mugu are reliant on the crops they can grow at home to support their incomes. However, high altitudes and a harsh regional climate make agriculture increasingly difficult and food scarcity is common. Malnutrition in Mugu is widespread; the UN reported that food poverty is as high as 61% in some villages. Since April 2018, PHASE Worldwide has been delivering a three-year project funded by the FCDO, which aims to address the underlying causes of malnutrition in Mugu. This project has now passed the Year 3, Quarter 3 milestone.
Ganga Devi Rokaya lives in a village in Mugu with her family of nine. Ganga and her family rely on the produce they can grow on their farm, typically wheat, buckwheat, millet and potatoes, which they then sell from their small shop in order to make a profit. However, the annual harvest only lasts 6-7 months in Mugu, and so for the rest of the year Ganga and her family, like many others in the community, are dependent on subsidies from the government in order to buy food from the local market. This means that many families do not make any income from their farm during the off-season.
Recently, Ganga became an active member of the Janajagaran Women’s Group, which is supported by PHASE. At the Women’s Group meetings, PHASE Nepal staff delivered training exercises to inform the women of different ways in which they can continue to grow crops during the off-season, including the correct way to manage nursery beds and how to plant different types of seeds to improve yields. Through these meetings, Ganga received a supply of seeds as well as materials to build a poly-tunnel. With support from the PHASE team, Ganga managed to develop a fully functioning tunnel which enables her to grow and sell cabbages, peppers and tomatoes in her shop.
Ganga shared: “I feel stronger now that I can sell my products in my shop and add a little more income to my family. My efforts have helped me to meet the needs of my family. Tunnel farming has helped me to beat the challenges of our climate. This is my first experience of tunnel farming, and it is amazing. I am planning to rent my neighbours land and add one more tunnel to increase my vegetable farm.”
Ganga’s story demonstrates how our project has been successful in tackling malnutrition in Mugu by achieving year-round access to locally produced food. To further achieve this goal, PHASE has supplied 256 seed packets to farmers, 26 sets of poly-tunnels, and 25 60-litre water drums to improve irrigation. Socially distanced training workshops were conducted to strengthen the knowledge and skills of off-season agriculture for two farmer groups. Follow-up home visits were also organised to make sure that participants were correctly implementing their new skills.
Alongside improving food production in Mugu, the project aims to tackle malnutrition by spreading awareness of the benefits of nutrition and eating a healthy, balanced diet. Regular nutrition workshops have not been able to take place in the recent quarter due to the risk posed by large gatherings. Instead, PHASE staff have reached 425 community members through home-visits to offer support and advice on household food consumption. 244 of these community members belonged to women-led households.
The number of people directly involved in the project in Mugu has reached 1,024, surpassing our initial target of 800 people, which was set in 2018. Ganga’s story is just one example of how our projects can produce sustainable, long-term change and provide vulnerable communities with the skills and knowledge necessary to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition in the region.