My name is Mr. Praseed Thapa, 31, and I come from Nepal — a small yet beautiful landlocked Himalayan country located in South Asia that shares its territorial borders with India and China. I completed master degree in agriculture science from the University of Hohenheim, Germany in 2013. Professionally, I am a development worker with more than three years of working experience in agricultural projects providing rural poor farmers with technical expertise to enhance their socio-economic conditions. I am employed as an “Agriculture Coordinator” since May, 2015 in LI-BIRD Nepal for climate resilience and food security project.
Because agriculture in Nepal is rain-fed and sensitive to climate, the sector is highly vulnerable to global issue of climate change in comparison to other economic sectors. With more than 75 percent of the total labor force still dependent on agriculture, this sector contributes to around 38 percent of the national gross domestic product and is still of primary importance to the livelihood of millions.
Being already disaster-prone and the 30th most vulnerable country to flooding due to warming of the Himalayas, Nepal has experienced a steady rise in the occurrence of floods in the Terai region (downstream area). This repercussion has already impacted agricultural production significantly in the Terai region affecting the livelihoods of thousands of people. For instance, floods are contributing to the over-sedimentation of thousands of hectares of fertile fields.
These swathes of land are uncultivated, which directly challenges food security. However, when water recedes during the post-monsoon season (October to May), the same piece of land (riverbed) can fully be used for vegetable farming, providing an ample opportunity for landless and land-poor people when cultivated on leasehold basis that diversifies their livelihood options.
LeRiFa is a very simple, women-friendly, low external input, and cost effective climate change adaptation technology in which an unused piece of marginal sediment land (previously fertile land) is leased for a definite period of time and provided to landless and land-poor people for vegetable farming.
This technology has tremendous capacity to meet the food demand of the ever-increasing population. Additionally, this will help to enhance the socio-economic status of such people by increasing rural employment opportunities and income. Not only this, the beauty of this technology is that it does not require irrigation and use minimal amount of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Since crop vegetation and mulching cover the sand of riverbeds, there is a minimal chance of occurring wind erosion, and subsequently there will be less accumulation of dust particles in the air which contributes to the improvement of the local micro-climate.
This LeRiFa project is especially designed for the approximately fifty landless and land-poor Madhesi households of Haraiya Village Development Committee (VDC) of Bara district whose income is below $1.50 per person per day and food security status is below six months. It is located in the eastern part of Nepal and is about 280 km far from the capital city, Kathmandu.
The main reasons that motivate me to implement this project in Haraiya VDC are: a) higher poverty and unemployment rate, b) food security below six months, c) availability of tremendous amount of unused sediment land d) significant amount of landless and land-poor people residing nearby, and e) low vegetable consumption among community people.
After the successful completion of this project, the LeRiFa project beneficiaries will uplift their socio-economic status by creating rural employment opportunities and increasing income. This will also empower women by increasing their access to financial resources, which may result in reduction of domestic violence.
For the implementation of the project, beneficiaries will be organized into two “Leasehold Riverbed Farming Groups” comprising of 25 per group. The entire project support will be provided through groups only. The identified beneficiaries will be provided with the capacity building training package on sustainable agricultural practices like composting, seed selection, mulching and harvesting techniques. In order to strengthen them furthermore, exposure visits will be organized to other leasehold riverbed farming area for sharing the ideas. Such groups will be further provided with seeds, knapsack sprayers and other necessary tools at the initial stage.
During this period, these groups will also be linked to other development organizations working in the district and also coordinated with the VDC (grassroots level government body) and district and cluster based government agriculture offices. Not only this, a linkage with potential traders will also be established.
Until now, project location and prospective beneficiaries have been identified together with my colleague Ms. Anju Adhikari, District Technical Coordinator at Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Nepal. Ms. Adhikari also comes from agriculture background with M.Sc. in Horticulture Science from Nepal and another M.Sc. in Agricultural Economics from Germany.
With regard to the expenses of $5,000, it will be maximally used for the program cost. During the first quarter, $500 is used for the group formation and capacity building training package. Another $500 is used to conduct an exposure visit during the same quarter. For leasing riverbed, $1,000 (approximately the rate is $10/Katha/season; 1 Katha equals 336m2) is used.
Altogether, 100 Katha (3.36 hectare) will be leased and each beneficiary cultivates about 2 Katha of plot. During the planting season, input support of approximately $2,000 ($40/beneficiary) is used. Since the average revenue collection of vegetables from riverbed farming is approximately $100/Katha, each beneficiary will earn about $200/season from 2 Katha. This means that each beneficiary will earn about $200 by investing only $60 ($20 for 2 Katha land and $40 for inputs) which shows a high B: C ratio. However, the rest of the amount ($700) is used for the project management purpose that includes but not limited to reporting, accommodation, food and travel, etc. for project team. For the sustainability of the project, $300 will be deposited as seed money for the group.
Furthermore, from the revenue collected from the sale of vegetables during the project period, a certain amount ($5-10) will be collected per member and deposited into the group’s account. This makes the fund grow bigger and after the end of the project, it will be used as “revolving fund”. This fund will then be used to lend money to group members only who may need the support for buying inputs for the next season in case they don’t get the anticipated return due to damage of their crops from unexpected situations like severe insect, pest and disease damages, theft, etc. However, they will be charged a very minimal interest rate that could be between 5 and 10 % and will be finalized by the group members themselves.
This practice will be followed for the years to come. It should also go without saying that due to the higher B: C ratio per beneficiary (as calculated above) the project itself will be a sustainable. Because of involvement of all the members in mobilizing the revolving fund, the chances for the misuse of funds is completely nil.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Praseed Thapa (LI-BIRD Nepal) –praseed.thapa[at]gmail.com
Illustration courtesy: FORWARD, Nepal
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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