Reaping the nutritional benefits of organic farming in NepalFebruary 23, 2017
A village health worker is observing significant improvement in health conditions of the children in her village – something she credits to farmers cultivating a large diversity of vegetables with organic farming practices.
This article originally appeared on libird.org.
By: Bibudh Dhewaju, Asharam Gurung, Bharat Bhandari and Pratap Shrestha
A village health worker, Mithu Sunar has observed significant improvement in health conditions of the children of her village, after the farmers started cultivating a large diversity of vegetables through adoptions of organic farming practices. She recalls that a majority of the children used to be sick mainly of diarrhoea and dysentery but now the incidences have considerably declined and the use of medicine has gone down as well. Mithu, a Dalit woman, herself was not well aware about the nutritional importance of vegetables and had little knowledge on growing vegetables because growing vegetables was not a tradition in her caste. Thanks to the support of ‘Promoting Ecological Agriculture Community Based Enterprise (PEACE)’ project popularly known as PEACE, Mithu now cultivates a wide range of organic vegetables such as broad-leaf mustard, carrot, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic, onion, tomatoes and many other local vegetables in her homegarden. She also has a small plastic house to grow off-season vegetables. Mithu joined the animal shed improvement programme supported by the project which helped her for easy collection of animal manure and urine. Improved composting and use of urine as liquid fertilizer further increased total organic manure for expanding her vegetable farming.
Mithu is now an active member of ‘Panchadham Agriculture Cooperative Society’ established in the community by the project. Farmers bring their products at collection centre managed by the cooperative every second day and send to a local vendor in Pokhara for sale. Mithu sells surplus vegetable production through the cooperative and has started earning a good income. She sold 700 kilograms of different vegetables last year, and earned over 40,000 rupees.
Mithu and many other farmers of wards 1 and 2 of Bhadaure Tamagi VDC of Kaski District, who were buying vegetables from vendors coming from Pokhara before the project started in 2012, are now producing their own vegetables and also selling surplus in the Pokhara market. Nearly 250 farming households of these two wards are now organized in groups and cooperative, and have started working collectively to promote their village as ‘organic village’. Every household that is keeping livestock in the village has improved cattle shed to ensure an increased and quality supply of organic fertilizers necessary for organic farming. They have also learned to prepare and use organic pesticides using their local knowledge and resources. None of the farmers in the village now use chemical fertilizers and pesticides for vegetable production.
For group collection and marketing, they realised the need to organize themselves in cooperative and established a collection center with the support of project and District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) Kaski. They have established a linkage with a vendor ‘Pun Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Supplier’ at Archalbhot in Pokhara, where organic vegetables from Bhadaure are sold. The demand of organic products is gradually increasing among the city consumers. About 300 kilograms of vegetables are supplied to the vendor twice which are sold out very fast.
In earlier days, Manju Gurung used to cultivate only cereal crops. “From now on, we have learned a number of ecological farming practices to produce organic vegetables which I like very much,” said Manju. “Last year, we kept a vegetable stall in an organic exhibition in Nayabazar, Pokhara where we sold our organic products and earned an income of about 35,000 rupees. I earned 8,000 rupees from Lapsi [hog plum] alone,” she gladly added. The PEACE project organized trainings for women where she acquired new skills of making pickles and candies from Lapsi, which is available in the natural forest but were not utilized before. Manju remembers the days when most of neighbourhood used to apply chemicals but let the cattle urine be wasted. Along with farmyard manure, she now collects cattle urine and prepares Jholmal [liquid manure] herself which gives even better results than chemical fertilizers.
Biswas Gurung, a young farmer who recently returned from migratory work in the Gulf, wanted to do something at home rather than going back to a difficult and risky job overseas. After trainings and support from PEACE programme, Biswas now runs a homestay and serves his home grown organic foods to domestic, and foreign visitors and tourists. He proudly said, “There are 24 homestays here in total and all of them serve local organic recipes.” Manju is also proud of serving varieties of vegetables to guests at her own homestay. Eight farmers of the community including Manju and Biswas have received organic certification for their vegetables from the District Agriculture Development Office, Kaski as part of a programme piloting Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) for organic certification.
There are now more than a dozen farmers who regularly produce organic vegetables for the market and are earning above 150,000 rupees a year on an average from the sale of vegetables. Among others, Tara Gurung of Talibarang, Bhadaure-2, Ras Bahadur Gurung of Kafalkot-1, Sadhakhar Paudel of Bhadaure-2 are such innovative farmers who have been adopting varieties of ecological farming practices for their sustainable livelihoods.
Benefiting from producing a large diversity of nutritious organic products, the farmers of Bhadaure Tamagi VDC have come a long way in collectively promoting ecological agriculture in the village. They have been involved in a number of activities such as cattle shed improvement, making compost or farmyard manure, vermi-compost, liquid fertiliser and bio-pesticides; and vegetable production in the farm and in plastic houses, vegetable seed production, goat farming, poultry rearing, beekeeping, and running homestays with support of the PEACE project. Since the VDC is located at the upstream of the ‘Fewa lake’ in Pokhara, their activities are also significantly contributing in reducing water pollution of the lake.