To start the implementation of the new Big Lottery Fund project to improve livelihoods in earthquake affected communities in Gorkha, Raj – the core programme manager at PHASE Nepal – visited the region in the beginning of May 2016.
The PHASE team led six focus group discussions in Kashigaun and Keraunja with 99 community members. Our health workers have built a good rapport with the local communities, who are showing a keen interest in the PHASE Nepal livelihood projects.
The majority of the communities have subsistence based livelihoods and are dependent on agriculture. Only two crops are grown during the year; wheat in the winter and maize or millet in the summer. Generally, families are only able to feed their family from their own land for 3-6 months using these methods of harvest; for the remaining part of the year they are dependent on rice they have to buy in Soti. Soti is a one-day walk from Kashigaun and a two-day walk from Kerauja. Communities are sometimes given rice from development organisations in return for work. To buy rice, villagers earn money from daily labour and from collecting Cordyceps (also known as Yarsa gumba) during a two-month period in the summer. Cordyceps are a high value seasonal forest product that is used for medicinal purposes.
Most of the farmers keep local breeds of poultry, but many die during the rainy season due to a variety of diseases such as Newcastle, Gumboro and Coccidiosis. Ensuring poultry are treated and vaccinated before the onset of the rainy season will help to minimize loss due to disease. Introducing improved, dual-purpose (used for meat and egg production) breeds of poultry like Austrolarp, New Hampshire and Griraj to the farmers would be a possible solution.
The communities’ priority for livelihood interventions is to replace the seeds used in propagating maize, wheat and potatoes. Improved seeds will be non-GMO, and give an increased yield for up to three years before the yield decreases and the seed needs to be replaced. Farmers have noticed that their yield has decreased from last year and therefore PHASE will be replacing the seeds soon.
Very few of the participating farmers knew about improved vegetable farming techniques, such as using plastic poly-tunnels to enhance vegetable production. They are quite interested in using this sort of technology but are unable to afford it. They also lack the know how to construct the poly-tunnels and to cultivate the vegetables inside them. PHASE will be working with farmers to educate and assist them with construction and cultivation methods.
In these villages, there is also a potential for fruit production. Citrus and banana cultivation in the lower belt of both of the VDCs and pear cultivation in upper part of the VDCs could see communities increase their own food production and nutrition while also providing them with another source of income.
As could be expected there are some challenges for livelihood projects:
Most of the farmers keep poultry and use them for ritual slaughter for religious purposes rather than generating an income by selling them.
The proposed project VDCs are far from road access, making it difficult to deliver materials or to take farm products to markets for sale.
The soil is fragile in Kerauja and suffers from erosion from irrigation and flooding, so alternative irrigation seems necessary for vegetable production. However, it is difficult to deliver alternative irrigation sets (drip irrigation) due to the restricted road access.
The path returning from Keraunja via Machhekhola and Lapu seems to be at very high risk of being blocked by the monsoon rains, as it runs along the river, below large landslides in several places (the old “summer path” hasn’t been fully restored yet). This means that PHASE should probably not consider any major staff movements along this route during the monsoon months.
The communities’ overall impression of PHASE’s project interventions was found to be very positive, especially appreciating the impact of health and relief projects. They found the medical support, CGI sheets and improved seed support instrumental in meeting their communities’ needs. Having PHASE staff stationed all the time in these communities has meant they have developed positive relationships built on high levels of trust with people from the communities.
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