Re-going organic in Nepal

December 13, 2018

Jit is an ecological role model for his fellow farmers. With SeedChange, he shows farmers what’s possible when you go organic.

Jit Bahadur Singar holds freshly cut drumsticks. This nutritious fruit is a traditional Nepali New Year delicacy. (Photo: Elodie Mantha/SeedChange)

There are hints of ecological farming everywhere you look on Jit Bahadur Singar’s farm. Plastic bottles holding a few drops of imitation pheromones hang among bitter gourd plants to attract pests. A home brew of animal urine, leaves, and remnants of garlic, hot pepper and tobacco – a bio-pesticide – sits in blue plastic drums. An invisible colony of worms composts animal and plant waste to feed his fields, protected from invading ants by an ingenious water-filled groove Jit built into the sides of his composter.

They would create trouble for the worms, he explains.

For the past five years, Jit has been an ecological role model for farmers in surrounding villages. With SeedChange regional partner, Parivartan Nepal, he shows farmers what’s possible when you go organic.

“I show them how to improve their animal sheds so they can collect urine to fertilize their fields and demonstrate how to use compost and manure to enrich their fields,” he says. “Last month, I had a group of farmers from another village visit my fields. They were very impressed with how productive they are even without irrigation.”

Jit at his composter. (Photo: Elodie Mantha/SeedChange)

Jit and Kanshi Maya, his wife, are still learning too. For decades, they were cash crop farmers, growing maize using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. In 2009, Jit met staff from Parivartan Nepal and jumped at the opportunity to attend SeedChange training. It did not take long for him to decide to shift to organic farming. He sees the benefits everyday: a better diet for his family and diverse produce to sell at market.

“Plus I don’t have to worry as much about any single crop failing.”

But he understands why many others still debate making the switch.

“Relearning how to farm in a way that supports greater biodiversity is exciting.”

Jit Bahadur Singar
Kanshi Maya and Jit Bahadur Singar. (Photo: Elodie Mantha/SeedChange)

“My overall production varies a bit, and in some ways is lower than when I was a maize farmer. But I believe it will continue to increase over time as we keep learning new things and the land continues to adapt.”

It can be hard to relearn ecological practices after decades without them. Jit’s parents and grandparents began using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides more than 30 years ago.

“There used to be a lot more biodiversity on our farm and in the nearby jungles before that shift.”

At 52 years old, the father of six nearly qualifies as an elder in his community. But even he couldn’t remember much about the ecological practices his parents and grandparents used before the synthetic inputs and commercial seeds. He’s learning though, and bringing his own modern innovations into the mix.

“That’s what I try to convey to other villagers,” says Jit. “Relearning how to farm in a way that supports greater biodiversity is exciting.”