Nepal’s demand for nutritious food is increasing. Many farmers produce crops using chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides – products that increase short-term gains but harm the soil, beneficial insects, and human health. As people are becoming more aware of how their food choices influence their health, the demand for organic food has skyrocketed. In dZi's mountain working areas, farmers have traditionally followed the principles of organic farming and avoided the use of harmful chemicals. However, without organic certification, they weren't able to reap the full benefits of their holistic approach to agriculture.
With dZi's support, community members from Khotang and Solukhumbu Districts worked together to obtain their Organic Product Certification from Organic Certification Nepal (OCN), an internationally recognized certification body. The accreditation covers over 35 hectares in dZi’s working area – certifying that the land has been free of any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides for at least three years. The achievement is a first in both districts.
Rewati Rai, one of dZi’s Agriculture Program Coordinators, says, “We work in hard-to-reach communities. Farmers here do not have easy access to information; nobody knew about organic production certification and its benefits. It was only after dZi’s orientation that community people came to know about it.”
To provide farmers' harvest the value it deserves, dZi initiated the certification process in 2018. A one-day orientation was provided to farmers about organic production, its benefits, and the certification process. To help rural farmers gain organic certification, dZi supported the establishment of three committees: the Internal Control Internal Monitoring, and Internal Approval Committees to drive this process forward. Made up of local leaders, community members, and experts within the community, dZi guided these committees through the complicated certification undertaking.
The organic certification process takes three years. During this time, farmers must study organic standards, comply with procedures, plan production activities, be available for inspections, pay a fee, and keep comprehensive records. Every year, an external inspector from OCN visits our farms – ensuring that farmers were abiding by their organic farming committments. After relentless inspection and verification, finally, in 2022, two Farmers' Groups with 37 farmers officially transitioned from conventional agricultural practices and received their organic production certification. It took four years for our communities to receive this certification due to COVID-19 and nationwide movement restrictions.
The local government was very supportive in the certification process and hav agreed to conduct regular monitoring in their area to ensure the quality of produce. In Mahakulung Rural Municipality, the local government is ready to offer subsidies for transporting the produce to external markets – enabling farmers to expand their businesses and access new financial opportunities.
Rewati says, “After receiving the certificate, farmers are happy and their production rate has increased. They are motivated to do more production in the future.” Farmers have started expanding their farms and are tilling previously unused fields for cultivation. The organic production certification has helped mountain farmers earn more for their harvests, safeguarded communities from harmful chemicals, and contributed to shared prosperity in Eastern Nepal.