Agriculture is Nepal's main occupation, and the livelihood for 65.6% of the country's workforce. Many Nepalese still live by subsistence farming, relying on what they grow to feed their families.
This leaves them very vulnerable to poor yields or natural disasters: an unseasonable drought can mean that whole villages go hungry.
Small farmers in Nepal are often poorly educated or illiterate. They learn about farming from their families or communities – which can be a great way to spread experience, but can also mean that farming families don't have the chance "think outside the box" about how they could increase yields or grow more varied crops.
More worryingly, there's evidence of widespread traditional farming practices in many areas of Nepal which can damage farmland and limit yields, such as the use of hybrid seeds, low-yielding crop varieties, dense planting (closer plantation), and haphazard use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In the best-case scenario, this means that farmers’ land doesn't yield its full potential and that soil fertility and productivity decrease – and in the worst, families can experience serious health effects from the chemicals they're ingesting.
Caritas Nepal is working with farmers in 16 districts of Nepal, to empower them to increase food security and generate income for their families via healthier, more environment-friendly farming methods and a more diverse range of crops, as part of our
- Integrated Pest Management Programme.
Our wide-ranging work, which has helped nearly 4000 small farmers over the last year, would not be possible without the generosity of our donor, Caritas Australia, to whom we offer our heartfelt thanks for their support.
Integrated Pest Management Programme
Small farmers in Nepal have little access to information about new agricultural technologies. Traditional farming practices proliferate in many areas: farmers make heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, plant seeds too close together to germinate, and limit themselves to only one or two kinds of crops.
As a result, yields of rice and vegetables in many villages are much lower than they should be, with some small farmers coaxing only 6 tonnes of vegetables or 2.9 tonnes of rice per hectare out of the soil.
Low yields mean poor food security, and it's common for farming families in remote areas to spend more than half of the year worrying about where their next meal is coming from.
Through its IPM programme, Caritas Nepal has been working with 3974 small farmers – 76% of them women – across 16 different districts of Nepal, to help them improve food security for their families, and grow the crops they need for a more nutritious diet.
The cornerstone of our work is training farmers in environment friendly IPM techniques, including proper irrigation, using organic fertilizer and manure, spacing crops appropriately and protecting them with plastic tunnel "greenhouses", and bio-control methods instead of pesticides to keep down harmful insect populations.
We're also encouraging farmers to channel IPM techniques to grow a more diverse range of crops, especially high-value vegetables, which they can use themselves as part of a more nutritious diet, or sell in local markets.
We've been delighted with our progress so far. Highlights have included:
- Training and funding 145 small farmers to start growing high-value vegetables. Those who took part in the training have increased productivity in their kitchen gardens by at least 21%, with some achieving a 110% increase!
- Follow-up "High value vegetable farming" support for 295 vegetable farmers who had already been trained in IPM techniques, which helped them to boost their incomes by Rs.8864-58,747 (approximately $85-565).
- Supporting 1210 small farmers across the districts to reduce their use of chemical pesticides by 52%
- Training 495 small farmers, 83% of them women, to use IPM techniques for growing rice
- Helping 1206 IPM-trained small farmers to put their learning into practice in their own rice fields, boosting their household food security by an average of nearly two months
- Supporting 91 small farmers to trial different varieties of maize, wheat and cereals in their fields, to maximize crop yields
- Assisting small farmers to set up 23 local, 15 district-level and one national-level network, through which they can share knowledge and advocate for farmers’ rights
Our relationships and networks with local farmers allowed us to serve their communities in other ways as well.
We conducted awareness sessions in the villages on gender equality, health and nutrition and climate change, and were on hand to help the people of the Kaski district repair their water sources after a serious landslide damaged pipes and irrigation channels.
Caritas Nepal is currently discussing next steps for the IPM programme: we hope to keep up the good work in months to come and empower more farming communities.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 144th out of 188 countries in the UN's Human Development Index. Three-quarters of Nepalese earn only $2 a day or less, and more than 25% live below the poverty line.
Political instability and job shortages within the country drive half a million Nepalese to leave the country every year in search of jobs abroad. Many are unskilled and vulnerable to exploitation by employers and recruitment agencies.
Local cooperatives have the potential to be a powerful force for change in Nepal, increasing incomes, creating jobs, and bringing local people together to save, learn and support one another.
There are currently 32,663 cooperatives in Nepal, which are thought to have provided jobs for 57,854 people. But there are still many areas of Nepal where local people have no experience of cooperatives and are unsure of how to set up and run their own.
Caritas Nepal believes that cooperative development is an empowering, participatory model for reducing poverty; and our Cooperatives Desk (CD) has helped found 100 cooperatives over the last decade.
We're currently supporting 31 cooperatives in seven districts of Nepal through our
- Cooperative Development and Enterprises Promotion Project
Caritas Nepal is very grateful to our donor, Caritas Australia, whose funding has made it possible for us to extend much-needed support to these cooperatives.
Cooperative Development and Enterprises Promotion Project
Caritas Nepal's has been working for a number of years with cooperatives in the Lalitpur, Kavre, Nawalparasi, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts of Nepal. Over the years, we've seen them grow and develop, and helped other villages form new cooperatives.
The 31 cooperatives currently have 21,493 members, 79% of them female, who are benefiting from the enterprise funding, skills training and knowledge-sharing forum which the groups provide.
Some of the more established cooperatives are thriving, managing their own staff and salaries, and need only a little support with their communications and preparing reports for their donors.
Others are well on their way to self-sufficiency, and with training and support will be able to reach more people and become more ambitious in their activities and advocacy.
And a number of cooperatives are still in their infancy, and currently lack the knowledge and means to sustain themselves. Without support, such cooperatives could well fall away before they are properly established: a powerful opportunity lost to work with motivated local people for the good of their families and community.
As part of its Cooperative Development and Enterprises Promotion Project (CDEPP), Caritas Nepal's is providing support to the 31 cooperatives, tailored to their needs and capacity to manage themselves.
We're working with the less experienced cooperatives in particular to build their skills, so that they'll increasingly become self-sustaining.
Our relationships with the cooperatives also provide a great forum for awareness-raising on important topics like sanitation and hygiene, gender-based violence, and disaster preparedness.
Key activities so far have included:
- Supporting 26 cooperatives to complete their half-yearly review and planning sessions
- Providing training to 26 new cooperative managers, 22 of whom were women
- Partial enterprise funding to cooperatives, which helped them provide loans to 7453 members, 81% of whom were women. All loans were repaid in full, and 90% on time.
- Disaster preparedness training for 1088 cooperative members across 29 local groups, so that they know how to respond to natural disasters like floods and earthquakes.
- Training 26 local entrepreneurs (including 25 women) in how to raise goats.
We're thrilled to see the progress that the cooperatives are making. It's magical to watch the creativity of local people catch alight, with new business initiatives mushrooming all over the seven districts, including banana farming, start-up fisheries and raising pigs, goats and poultry.
The cooperatives' half-yearly reviews indicated that the 31 groups were making an average profit of Rs. 291,650 (approximately $2800) a year. That means more cash to channel into enterprises and income-generating activities next year – and, ultimately, a better quality of life for cooperative members.
Livelihood Promotion Project (LPP)
In 2015, Nepal was ranked 144 out of 188 in the Human Development Index. Three quarters of Nepali people earn $2 or less a day. About one fourth of the households live below the poverty line. Caritas Nepal has been empowering people to reduce poverty. Following up on NICE project supported by Caritas New Zealand and New Zealand Government, Caritas Nepal aims to practice new ideas for small enterprise promotion. The learning shall be replicated at a larger scale in the future.
This project’s goal is: “Sustainable livelihood through improved enterprise promotion and disaster risk reduction.”
The objectives are:
Participants for year 1: 2 Cooperatives with outreach of 80 members (at least 65% female)