For the first time in my life I sold tomatoes and earned NRs 8,000 this year. From the money, I bought myself new clothes and a new shawl. I gave away so many tomatoes and cabbages to my friends and neighbors, there’s no keeping track.
Namuna Farmer’s Group, Dipsung
Income generation is a crucial component to our Deep Development model. Supporting health, education, and culture makes a tremendous difference in people’s lives, but providing them with a means to earn money can be truly empowering. The approach to our agriculture program is simple – we listen to farmers and to nature, and we bring the markets to the farmers’ doorstep.
1. Listen to the farmers
Each year, we plan our agriculture strategy around what the farmers want to grow and want to learn. Farmers know their soils and their communities, and they are aware of market trends. We may suggest new varieties or techniques, but all of our activities start with local demand.
We also look at which crops are feasible for which particular micro-climate and altitude. We encourage farmers to follow organic methods of controlling pests and diseases. For some of the crops whose geographical feasibility for that particular area is unknown, we introduce them as “trial crops” in limited quantity to test their viability.
Flower Power! Farmer Anju Nachhiring smiles besides her almond tree that has started blooming in the first year of plantation. We have introduced about a dozen almond plants in our working area of East Nepal to see if it can be a success. Anju is among a few pioneers who wanted to try this new “exotic” fruit.
Bishnu Karki had a very successful year from his “Akbare” hot peppers in 2015. He shares with us that he added some 20 plants of his own in the 30 that we supported him in the first year and earned about NRs. 8,000 from them. “Akabare” peppers are incredibly spicy, and a very lucrative cash crop in rural Nepal.
Another great benefit of our agricultural programs are that farmers are eating fresh vegetables when previously such were not available locally. The women members of our farmers’ groups share that it has been especially easy for them when guests come as they do not have to fret over what to cook anymore. They just have to get to their kitchen garden where a variety of herbs, spices and vegetables can be found year round.
Before our programs started, many farmers could only eat cauliflowers, broccoli, parsley, tomato, turnip, carrot and other green vegetables when they traveled to the large cities of the southern plains or Kathmandu. Thanks to our work, these delicious and healthy crops are available right there in their doorstep, growing in their yard.
Happy to be growing vegetables in his yard rather than toil in the heat of Arabian desert. Bharat Kulung, one of our newest agriculturr group member, worked for many years abroad, but now has come back to his village in Gudel for good. He says that he now wants to go into commmercial farming activity. Good luck Bharat.
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There are also many challenges and hurdles that come our way. They are what keeps us grounded, learning, and continuously on our toes. Some of the main challenges is lack of water sources for irrigation in many places. Then there are also the issues of bio-pesticides not being enough to control many harmful pests and diseases. This is a global problem with organic agriculture but we are patiently experimenting with our farmers to develop an optimal system for pest management that relies upon local techniques and ingredients. Our farmers are scattered throughout the difficult hilly terrain and it is also a challenge for our small team to regularly make house visits and monitor their vegetable plots.
In response to community demand, we have set an ambitious goal – to more than double the scope of our income generation programs – thus bringing new sources of income and better nutrition to 4,000 families in some of the poorest communities in Nepal. We will be increasing the number of our farmers group, and also expand to several other neighboring communities throughout 2016 and 2017.
You can learn more about our agriculture program in detail including the challenges in our 2015 evaluation report.