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18 Jun 24

The Start Strong Project – Agricultural Livelihood Support.

Meet Bimala – Junior Agricultural Technician (JTA) in Rugin, Bajura, Far West Nepal.

Bimala hails from No 6 Province – Rukum District. She has been working for PHASE for 4 years but has 10 years previous experience with another NGO in Nepal. She was a Social Mobilizer for 3 years before training to be an Agricultural Technician. She has worked in Mugu, Bajura, Sindhupalchok and Gorkha. She has now been in Bajura for 3 years.

She is based in Rugin, one of the Start Strong areas (as well as Bichhaya) and travels a lot in her role – along with Prakash the Social Mobilizer she visits the different communities she is working with and stays in each community for at least 3 days, sometimes a week.

She supports our Start Strong Female Farmers with mushroom cultivation (in Year 1 and 2) and poultry (chicken) rearing and vegetable growing and polytunnel management as well as kiwi cultivation for the complementary ADA project that completed at the end of 2023 in Bajura.

She supports mothers improve their farming skills through individual support and group training, with additional responsibilities for coordination and cooperation with local literacy classes organised by PHASE when combined with project activities.

Bimala shared: I enjoy everything in my work, but poultry support is my favourite. Chicken farming creates income generation, this makes farmers very happy and provides eggs for malnourished children to eat.

Rugin is a challenging area for agriculture. It is difficult to grow vegetables off-season and there is no irrigation system. There is only 1 waterpoint in Rugin village. The volume varies and sometimes you have to draw water from the river instead. Cabbages, cauliflowers and onions use the most water, more than even tomatoes!

I support the Start Strong mothers to grow a wide range of vegetables from seed such as bitter gourd, beans, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, cabbage, cauliflower, onion, tomatoes, radish, spinach, coriander, turmeric etc. In previous projects I have also supported mothers to grow garlic and ginger. (PHASE agriculture projects always support a minimum of 5 vegetables to increase dietary diversity).

We follow the growing calendar in this part of Nepal –

Spring

Squash, cucumber, tomato, bitter gourd, coriander, beans and radish.

Summer

Radish, cauliflower, spinach, carrots

Autumn

Cauliflower and cabbage

Winter

Cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, coriander. If you have polytunnel you can also grow squash, pumpkin and tomatoes sometimes.

We asked Bimala about becoming an Agricultural Technician… She shared:

To become an Agricultural Technician, I had 14 months intensive practical training then an exam and assessment. We trained together as a group. It was challenging to learn all the scientific names of the crops. We learnt how to teach groups and support individual home visits. We would visit farmer’s homes every day – 4-5 different farmers to learn our skills.

We studied mushroom cultivation and vegetable farming in steps – building a nursery, planting, insect management and harvesting. We were trained on poultry rearing – how to look after the chicks, how to medicate them, how to manage the chicken coop, how to provide home-made food for the chicken – materials and quantity and signs of disease and ill-health and awareness of bird flu. This is not an issue in rural areas yet, only in big cities.

It is important to manage expectations re chicks (PHASE provide 15 chicks per eligible farmer) as not all always survive. Farmers tell me that they are sad when one dies, they know that if one dies, it will not be replaced so they take great responsibility for taking care of the opportunity they have.

All the farmers in the Start Strong project receive vegetable support, but not all receive polytunnels for off-season growing. The members of the Farmers Groups decide who receives what support according to their needs. Each Farmers Group consists of 15-20 mothers. We provide resources from polytunnels to watering cans and sprinkle hoses to spray hoses for organic pesticide. We create this from local plants, mixing bitter, hot, sour plants and animal urine together and leave in a closed can for 21 days to mature.

Mothers bring their children to trainings and Farmers Groups, usually babies and children U5. Some of our beneficiaries have disabilities or are supporting family members with disabilities.

My dream for the future is to study Agriculture Science – it takes another 3 years training to become an Agricultural Officer.

“Thank you to people of the UK, and PHASE Worldwide, your support gives a job to lower middle-class family like me. I have a chance through PHASE to work with the people of Rugin. I am pleased to share what I know with the female farmers of Rugin and pleased and thankful to PHASE for the training and learning they give me. I am very satisfied and happy with my work. I enjoy every minute and working with PHASE in a rural area.”


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