Harkamaya KC from Khatamma used to walk through a forest every morning to fetch water from a river nearly an hour's walk away form her home. One day, while collecting water, she witnessed a tiger killing a fox. Every day after, this memory haunted her as she made the same terrifying journey with no other option. For other community members in Khatamma, fetching water wasn't any easier. Desmaya Darji and her husband, both ailing elders, hauled water from a far-off source. And Sujata Nepal, though young, still had to walk half an hour to get water.

Sujata transporting water from a faraway source
Sujata transporting water from a faraway source using a traditional vessel 'gagri'

Access to water is a fundamental human right, yet for many in Nepal's mountain communities, this right remains unfulfilled.

Though Nepal is rich in water resources, they are distributed inequitably across the country. The country’s diverse geographical features make water distribution across mountain communities more challenging. Many of these communities are high in the mountains, and the rivers and streams they access for water are often at the bottom of deep valleys and gullies. Some community members rely on closer sources that are frequently exposed and contaminated. In contrast, others rely on small safer brooks originating from mountain springs, which can take several hours to collect and transport. This restricts the amount of water families can use, not just for drinking but washing and hygiene, because they cannot collect a significant amount of water at once. 

A woman in Maheswori, Khotang district gathering water from unsanitary source
A woman in Maheswori, Khotang district gathering water from unsanitary source

dZi invests in gravity-run drinking water systems with durable piping systems and reserve tanks that ensure a steady supply of safe and sufficient water to our communities. This brings much relief to community members like Harkamaya and Desmaya, who now can access safe water right in their homes. While our drinking water systems safeguard people's right to safe drinking water, other challenges remain.

In this region, where access to drinking water is already a significant challenge, obtaining water for irrigation is an even greater hurdle for many rural farmers.

Many farmers in our mountainous partner communities depend on seasonal rainwater or water from nearby streams, which can be unpredictable and inadequate for crop cultivation. The shortage of water for domestic use and agricultural production during the dry months is particularly concerning. The community members attribute the drying up of springs in the area to the change in climate: the decline in rainfall levels over the years and the irregular rainfall pattern. Due to the unavailability of a dependable water source, farmers find it challenging to produce enough food to meet the needs of their families and communities. 

Limited water supply in a farmer's field in Maheswori, Khotang district, hampering the growth of mustard plants
Limited water supply in a farmer's field in Maheswori, Khotang district, hampering the growth of mustard plants

dZi Foundation's holistic program aims to provide sustainable solutions to the challenges faced by rural farmers, including access to water for irrigation. dZi's agriculture program has gained widespread acceptance and appreciation among the local populace due to its exceptional reach and effectiveness. Nevertheless, the absence of necessary infrastructure can hinder the effectiveness of agriculture programs. Therefore, it is crucial to develop sustainable solutions to ensure water availability for irrigation to maximize the positive impact of our agriculture programs. 

One of the primary ways that dZi is helping farmers access to water is by constructing pipe irrigation systems. These systems transport water from nearby streams or other sources to the fields where crops are grown, ensuring that farmers have a reliable supply of water for their crops. Parkhi Dhan Rai, the then chairperson of one of our partner NGOs, oversaw the construction of Bung’s Tribeni Pipe Water Irrigation Project in 2019. He noted from his experience that the pipe irrigation systems are designed to be low-cost and easy to maintain, making them a sustainable solution for rural farmers. 

Along with pipe irrigation, dZi has supplied sprinkler systems to farmers upon their identification of a need for them. These systems use less water than traditional flood irrigation and are more efficient, helping farmers to conserve water while still producing healthy crops. By this method, water enters the roots of the plants slowly, which leads to good plant growth. Supplying water to plants through this method eliminates dust particles from the surface, which enhances photosynthesis and ultimately leads to increased crop production. 

Dilu Maya Rai in Maheswori is all set to make use of a sprinkler in her kitchen garden
Dilu Maya Rai in Maheswori is all set to make use of a sprinkler in her kitchen garden

Dilu Maya Rai from Maheswori, Khotang had been farming since she can remember, and it was always a struggle to get enough water to irrigate her crops. But ever since she installed the sprinkler irrigation system on her farm, things have been different. She said, “This has eased my farming, and the crops are now more abundant. I no longer worry about dragging hoses or manually watering the crops.” 

Farmers in our partner communities have adopted technologies such as drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting to enhance water conservation and efficiency in their communities. Drip irrigation delivers water directly to the plant roots, minimizing water loss due to evaporation or runoff. Rainwater harvesting involves collecting rainwater in tanks or containers for later use in irrigation or other purposes. This technique can significantly improve the irrigation capacity of areas that rely on rainfall and have limited water resources. dZi recently helped pilot the construction of rainwater harvesting ponds in Dobhane, Bhojpur District, as part of this initiative. 

In addition to providing drinking water, dZi's Drinking Water Project has played a vital role in irrigating the kitchen gardens of farmer groups' members. The water supply is ample and meets their daily needs, such as drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Moreover, farmers like Gopi Rai utilize the water to irrigate their nearby fields and kitchen gardens as they usually have more than enough water for their daily needs. 

dZi Foundation's partnership with rural farmers to bring innovative solutions to address water problems in mountain communities of Nepal are making a significant difference in their lives. With the introduction of technologies like pipe irrigation, sprinkler systems, drip irrigation, and rainwater harvesting, farmers in rural hilly villages of Nepal can now grow crops more efficiently and sustainably, ensuring food security for their families and communities. These solutions are cost-effective, easy to maintain and designed to provide a reliable water supply to farmers. Farmers can now look forward to a brighter future with access to the water they need to thrive.