In the remote and isolated hills of eastern Nepal, subsistence farming has been a way of life. For a long time, communities have relied on traditional farming methods to grow crops like millet, maize, barley, and potatoes. These staples provided sustenance in their challenging landscape, but with limited knowledge of nutrition and little access to modern agricultural techniques and tools, farmers often struggled to grow enough nutritious food to meet their family’s needs.

For over a decade, dZi has been working in partnership with local communities to revolutionize agriculture in the region. Recognizing the importance of diversifying crops and empowering farmers with knowledge, dZi initiated various programs aimed at promoting sustainable farming practices and improving food security.

One of the key initiatives undertaken by dZi is the establishment of kitchen gardens at each household in the community. By providing vegetable seeds and offering training on cultivation techniques, organic composting, pest control, and entrepreneurship, dZi has enabled communities to supplement their diets with nutritious greens while generating additional income.

The impact of this collaboration has been profound. Previously unaware of the year-round potential for vegetable cultivation, community members in the Salpa Silicho Rural Municipality now grow thriving kitchen gardens that yield produce throughout the year. This newfound knowledge has enhanced food security and instilled a sense of empowerment among farmers like Usha Rai. "Before, we only planted a few vegetables like mustard, radishes, and potatoes once a year," says Usha. "But after enrolling in dZi’s Agriculture Program, I can cultivate a variety of crops year-round. My compost quality has also improved, and I'm seeing better yields due to my hard work."

Usha Rai showing her onion plant.
Usha Rai with her onion sprouts

Farmers in Mahakulung Rural Municipality never thought vegetables like cauliflower, carrot, and cabbage could be grown on their farms. Bhakti Maya Kulung recalls seeing tourists eating vegetables like carrots and cabbage while trekking from Mahakulung and thinking, what food is this? However, now she grows it herself and sells the surplus.

Indeed, the benefits extend far beyond the dinner table. With improved access to nutritious food, community members are experiencing better health outcomes and stronger immune systems.

Kabita Kulung Rai, president of the dZi-formed Gatel Farmer’s Group, emphasizes the importance of nutrition for physical well-being. "Nutrition is vital for our health and growth. We now understand its significance and are better equipped to provide ourselves and our families with green vegetables”. This change was observed after farmers participated in an orientation on inexpensive ‘junk food’ that newly built roads have brought to rural communities for the first time.

Kabita Kulung Rai working in her kitchen Garden
Kabita Kulung Rai working in her kitchen garden

Moreover, by promoting local snacks like potatoes and squash, dZi is encouraging healthier dietary choices. Through their partnership with dZi, community members are reaping the benefits of their labor and sowing the seeds for a brighter, healthier future. With continued support and collaboration, the hills of eastern Nepal are ready to become vibrant hubs of agricultural innovation and prosperity.