Many families in remote regions of Nepal depend entirely on agriculture for their livelihoods, yet a lack of awareness of modern farming practices is common and many people and have limited knowledge around crop selection. The earthquakes that shook Nepal in April and May 2015 were devastating and, in some areas, more than 90% of homes were destroyed along with agricultural land, crops and livestock. As a result many people lack access to nutritious food and malnutrition, particularly in children, is common.
Improving a community’s agricultural skills is one of the most powerful tools that we have available to reduce poverty and hunger. More effective farming practices can increase a family’s income, improve food security and benefit the environment, thus empowering people to rebuild their lives.
Following the earthquakes PHASE Nepal have focused on re-building communities and continuing livelihoods projects across the earthquake-affected areas. Livelihoods programmes range from basic agriculture and improved vegetable productivity programmes, to seed support and soil fertility improvement programmes
The Gorkha region was one of the areas that was hardest hit by the earthquakes. Landslides and poor transportation links following the earthquakes made the area difficult and expensive to reach. This has stalled the implementation of essential livelihoods projects.
The need for livelihood projects in the area is great and plans to reintroduce more intensive programmes in 2016 are currently under way: PHASE aim to have one experienced agricultural worker based in each village, supported by a locally recruited social mobiliser. PHASE will provide intensive support, including agricultural training sessions and nutrition awareness training, and will engage community based groups (including mothers groups, saving-credit group and forest users groups).
Activities may include kitchen gardens, chicken and goat-raising, cash-crop farming or fruit-tree cultivation, according to the priorities of local farmers. Fodder tree plantation and water source protection will aid disaster risk reduction and support environmental management and training sessions in fertilisation and irrigation techniques, as well as financial literacy and business planning, will build local capacity. These activities will also increase yields and diversify food crops, thus improving nutritional profiles and protecting natural resources. This will build resilience and create income for families across whole communities.
Case Study: Shanti – Shanti, a Junior Technical Assistant (JTA) with PHASE, helps to deliver livelihoods programmes in the villages of Kashigaun and Manbu in the Gorkha region of Nepal. She trains local farmers, mostly women, in better farming techniques, irrigation, seasonal vegetable production and how to improve soil fertility and vegetable seed production. She also trains communities in the nutritional properties of each crop and how crop selection can improve diet.
To optimise her training sessions, Shanti works closely with the community. She understands local farming practices and she loves the challenge of finding the best techniques suitable for the environment – this varies depending on where she is working, the altitude, the climate and the culture.
Shanti enjoys her work for PHASE because she is able to work in the community, explore new places and meet new people in different cultural and geographical environments. Soon she will begin a new livelihoods training challenge in Mugu, western Nepal (funded by the Innocent Foundation). With Shanti’s expertise we predict that the communities in Mugu will also achieve better outcomes from their farming and will look forward to a brighter, healthier future.
Sindhupalchowk and Kavre
Following the earthquakes (between July and October 2015) 700 farmers from Sindhupalchowk and Kavre were given basic agricultural training, and 630 farmers from these regions took part in seed support training. 30 farmers from Kavre also received plastic tunnels (see image below) and were trained in their use.
Case study: Devaki – Devaki is a young woman from Kavre. Her elder brothers left home to work abroad, leaving her to look after her parents. She used to go to school but had to drop out as her family could not afford the fees. Instead Devaki works on the family farm and in the house doing chores.
In Kavre the soil is not very fertile. This discourages farmers from growing more than the minimum amount of crops. PHASE’s livelihoods projects teach farmers in Kavre about soil improvement, irrigation and the environment. This supports them to grow more food which can be sold for additional income.
Through PHASE’s livelihoods programme Devaki has learned to grow pumpkin, cucumber, cabbage, peas and spinach. She also received training on how to use and cultivate seeds for the farm. With the help of her parents, Devaki has been able to care for her seeds and irrigate their land. This has allowed her to grow extra vegetables which she sells to support the family’s income. Devika is now a proud farmer, able to support herself and her parents.
Bajura and Humla
Bajura and Humla, in the remote far west of Nepal were fortunately unaffected by the earthquakes. However, they are among the least developed regions in Nepal – in Humla there is not a single road in to the region and there are particular issues with food security which cause numerous health problems.
Over the last year the livelihoods programmes in these regions have seen great success. Agricultural groups meet monthly to check on progress and seek further advice and support, and savings and credit groups have been set up to assist the farmers in understanding and managing their financial needs. One of the biggest successes has been the introduction of a higher breed stud goat in each location, resulting in 80 higher quality goat kids. Rearing goats and sheep for meat and wool is a traditional occupation of the people of the Humla. Goat milk also provides a good source of nutrition for the children in this area.
PHASE staff are also in the early stages of planning to expand the livelihoods programmes in Bajura and Humla. Possible initiatives to diversify the diet of the local community in this area (in order to improve health) include mushroom production, chicken rearing for meat and egg production and bee-keeping. Although income generation is not the primary purpose of the programme, surplus crops and access to markets will enable farmers to sell their excess products, allowing them to generate additional income and further improve their livelihoods.
Despite the challenges brought by the earthquakes, PHASE has continued to provide support, training and resources to families in most project areas. PHASE consistently evaluates its effectiveness and always looks for ways to improve its livelihoods projects.