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Beating malnutrition through vegetable production

Growing vegetables in the off-season through agro ecological methods, the women’s group in Humla district has not only improved access to vegetables, but also established sustainable livelihoods.

Traditionally, in Humla district, a remote Himalayan region of Nepal, vegetables are produced and consumed for only three months of the year. In the absence of access to agricultural services and necessary infrastructure, Humla farmers rely on natural seasonal patterns for cultivating vegetables. Women play a crucial role in agriculture, in general and in vegetable production, in particular. However, their contribution is hardly recognized. Also, women suffer from malnutrition. Against this backdrop, Common Forum for Development (CFD) with the financial support from Foundation Nepal, implemented a pilot project in Humla district.

The Women’s Off-Season Vegetable Production Group  is a collective, owned and managed by a group of women farmers from Thehe VDC (Village Development Committee) in the Humla district. The main purpose of the enterprise is to produce and market vegetables throughout the year, which can improve food security and nutrition of the local communities. Traditionally, in Humla district, vegetables are produced during 3 months in an year. The enterprise saw the demand, and the need for vegetable production during the agricultural off-season, especially owing to the rise in the tourism industry.

With upscaling, 30% of the vegetable farming in Thehe village is expected to be organic

The women were trained on the technical aspects of off-season vegetable production, compost and organic pesticides production, green house / poly-tunnel construction, transport logistics, business plan development and management.

Women select the type of vegetables to be grown based on market demand – catching up with off-season as well as niche markets such as Dashain, a major Nepali festival in October every year. They apply compost and organic pesticides to vegetable crops, all prepared by them. Compost is produced using animal waste and organic household waste. Organic pesticides are produced from locally available herbal plants.

Impacts

The women farmers have seen their incomes increase since beginning of this enterprise. The average income in 2012 was NPR 27,000 which increased to NPR 39,000 in 2013, primarily through sale of onion, tomatoes, cauliflower, carrot, and cabbage. The economic empowerment provided them a greater voice in their community and at home. The sale of the vegetables during the off-season has already reduced the community’s dependence on foods from Nepalgunj and Surkhet to the district head quarters in Simikot.

Since October 2012, when it all began, there has been improvement in terms of food security and nutrition in Thehe VDC. The health post in Thehe VDC reported a decrease in the number of children reporting to the health post with malnutrition. Also, the food security has increased by several months for majority of households involved in the group.

With use of compost and organic pesticides, there has been a positive impact on the environment too. Soil quality has improved and communities have found a better way of waste management.

What Next?

Looking at the success of this enterprise, more than 150 local women have shown their interest to join the group in the coming year. The women’s group hopes to expand its membership to include the interested women. The women’s group plans to meet their financing requirements by both internal and external sources of funds. With upscaling, 30% of the vegetable farming in Thehe village is expected to be organic, resulting in increase of 25-30% in the income in the next three years.

Nirmala Adhikari
Executive Director
Common Forum for Development (CFD)
P.O. Box: 13141, Sundhara, Kathmandu, Nepal
E-mail: nadhikari80@yahoo.com