dZi Foundation has been at the forefront of agricultural development in eastern Nepal for over 15 years. Recognizing the pivotal role of agriculture in the well-being of subsistence farmers, dZi works in partnership with farmers to enhance nutrition, generate income, promote organic farming practices, and develop sustainable farmer groups. The goal is to empower farmers to transition from subsistence to commercial farming, enabling them to earn sustainable income and champion the success of sustainable organic agriculture.

In the community of Jaleswori, nestled amidst the remote hills of Khotang District, dZi's Agriculture Program has been a vital resource for farmers. Since 2019, staff have led numerous agriculture initiatives to catalyze positive change. Central to these efforts has been the formation of nineteen farmers’ groups, which serve as hubs of collaboration, knowledge exchange, and mutual support. These groups have provided a platform for farmers to learn from dZi’s Agriculture Technicians and facilitated the establishment of savings and loan programs where members can access capital at low interest rates. Farmers have mastered land preparation, composting, pest management, organic cultivation techniques, seed saving, and more. Together, farmers have gained new skills and knowledge and grown their capacity.

Tej Kumar Rai, a member of Chomolongma Farmers’ Group, expressed his happiness, “I received seeds and modern farming equipment and learned how to use them effectively. I earn approximately $1,120 to $1,500 USD annually, a significant improvement from my previous subsistence farming income. Now, I can cover family expenses and support my children's education.” Through comprehensive training sessions on organic farming and capacity building supported by dZi, farmers have gained invaluable experience with modern agricultural practices and hands-on experience. “Farmers who traditionally cultivated seasonal crops for personal use have now begun year-round vegetable farming and started selling their harvests, increasing their income,” says Satananda Upadhyaya, the Program Manager of dZi’s Livelihoods Program. “The transformation has been profound.”

Laxmi Rai, a farmer of Jaleswori showing cabbage in her kitchen garden
Laxmi Rai, a farmer in Jaleswori, with her thriving cabbage harvest

After five years of rigorous trainings and group management support, the nineteen farmer’s groups in Jaleswori recently graduated from dZi's Agriculture Program, poised to embark on their journey towards self-sufficiency. To ensure they continue to thrive, dZi handed over the support of the farmers' groups to the local government. In a ceremony attended by government officials, local leaders, and farmers, the community celebrated how much had been accomplished under dZi's Agriculture program and resolved to help farmers' groups continue to be a space for mutual support and knowledge exchange.

During the program, Durga Laxmi Rai, a dZi-formed farmers’ group member, shared her success story of increased vegetable production. In a country where few people view farming as a valuable profession, Durga was celebrated for the success and pride she demonstrated in farming. Her bountiful garden and increased income were a model for what could be accomplished with modern farming techniques and hard work.

Surya Bahadur Rai, a 71-year-old farmer in Jaleswori storing his garlic harvest
Surya Bahadur Rai, a 71-year-old farmer in Jaleswori, storing his garlic harvest

While dZi’s formation of farmers’ groups has been transformational for rural subsistence farmers, barriers to success still remain. Farmers like Durga can grow huge amounts of valuable, organic produce, but the long and arduous journeys to regional markets can make it difficult to earn money for their hard work.

Rakesh Kumar Rajbhandari, Vice Chairperson of Aiselukharka Rural Municipality, outlined the municipality's plans to address farmers' issues. By trying to establish cold storage facilities in strategic, centralized locations, rural farmers would be able to preserve their harvests until they could be sold. He expressed gratitude towards dZi for supporting the modernization of rural agriculture and reiterated the government's commitment to helping farmers thrive.

As part of the celebration, dZi recognized the three best farmers, five best entrepreneurial farmers, and three best farmers’ groups during the ceremony.

This year, 41 farmers’ groups from different communities are graduating from dZi’s Agriculture Program. dZi Foundation's work in eastern Nepal is a lesson in the transformative power of grassroots interventions in agriculture. Through sustained collaboration and partnership with local communities and governments, the journey towards agricultural empowerment continues, paving the way for a brighter and more sustainable future.