SSMP was launched in 1999 to combat declining soil fertility in the hills of Nepal. A basket of appropriate and sustainable soil and farm management options were developed over the years. The problem was then how to reach the farmers living in remote areas of poorly accessible sub-districts (VDCs). As the government extension service was poor and very much centred in the district headquarters, it was necessary to devolve the extension service to the VDCs and establish a system and approach that worked for all farmers in all parts of Nepal. Through the farmer to farmer approach, and the establishment of 378 VDC level committees in 7 pilot districts, the two key Government Ministries are now convinced that this is the way forward and have adopted the model for the future. As this initiative is now embedded in government policy and strategy, sustainability is ensured, thus all farmers will have access to services and assistance, especially important in these times of climate change.
HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation - NEPAL - NepalLead applicant
HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation Nepal has been operating in Nepal under an agreement with the Government of Nepal since 1956. Currently, HELVETAS implements 21 programmes and projects, and is active in all 75 districts of Nepal, cooperating with many national and international, private and public, technical and social organizations. All projects are designed to lead to self-propelling development and eradication of poverty, and to create environments where poor and disadvantaged people have new choices and become equipped with new skills and abilities to improve their livelihoods. HELVETAS implements projects and programmes in 5 working areas: rural economy, environment and climate, governance and peace, water and infrastructure, and education and skills development – and in all its activities promotes the principles of sustainable development, decentralization and subsidiarity in decision making, gender equality and social inclusion.
Local Service Providers (x 40) - NepalInitiative partner
Nepal Agriculture Research Council - NepalInitiative partner
Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development -Nepal - NepalInitiative partner
Department of Agriculture - Nepal - NepalInitiative partner
Activities are concerned with:- • increasing agricultural production based on geographical diversity • supporting food security by increasing food production and maintaining the internal food supply • increasing the production and productivity of raw material for the agro-industries • supporting the major producers with appropriate market management policies, skill transfer, incentives, export promotion, and import substitution • increase the availability of off-farm employment by supporting small agro-industries and enterprises • support poverty alleviation by increasing the opportunity of employment for small, marginal and women farmers • screen and standardize agri-technologies through undertaking adaptive research • striking a balance between agricultural development and conservation of resources, biodiversity and ecology.
The initiative was launched in 1999 to combat the decline in soil fertility and productivity in the hills of Nepal, and is implemented with Government bodies at central, district and local level, and local NGOs. Focusing on discriminated and poor farmers, and employing a distinctive combination of approaches, the initiative has promoted: a) proven and appropriate soil and farm management technologies, based on local resources, which have improved soil fertility and productivity, provided alternative crop options, and enhanced food security and cash income, b) a decentralized, participatory agricultural extension system, the Farmer to Farmer approach, which has devolved decision-making and responsibility for local agricultural development and extension to the VDCs, the lowest rung of administration in Nepal. Best lessons and technologies have been institutionalized in Ministerial policy, strategy,and workplans, and absorbed into several new projects.
Service provision to farmers in Nepal is very poor, the state extension efforts rarely going beyond the district headquarters. The initiative comprises a system that reaches to every remote corner of this mountainous country through:
a) training lead farmers to become extension agents,
b) establishing agricultural development committees in each sub-district to take responsibility for local extension,
c) utilizing project and state funds for supporting farmers and providing demos and coaching services through the local committees which mobilize the trained lead farmers.
Since 2011, 1,993 extension farmers have been developed in 7 pilot districts where over 4,000 farmer groups in remote areas have been served - many of these farmers have never received assistance in the past. The initiative has been recognized and institutionalized as the way forward by two Ministries, and has empowered local people to take responsibility for their future, especially women and the discriminated.
Nepal, with a population of 27.8 million, is one of the least developed countries in the world, with one of the most inaccessible and rugged environments, and is still recovering from a period of national conflict (1995 to 2005). 25% of the population remain below the national poverty line, and up to 70% of the agricultural labour force comprises women, exacerbated by the continuing out-migration of men. The climate of the Himalayan region is predicted to be one of the most vulnerable to climate change, as is already being observed. Food security is therefore at high risk, especially for the poor, women, children, and socially discriminated in the more remote, inaccessible areas. This initiative has succeeded in establishing a socially equitable system through which these most vulnerable people can be reached, and through awareness raising, lobbying and generating local grass roots support, institutionalizing it within government policy.
The main results are:
a) creating a basket of options based on local resources which improve soil fertility, productivity, household income and food security – eg. improved farmyard manure/compost, collection/use of cattle urine (~1% nitrogen) for foliar feed and as a base for farm-made bio-pesticides, introduction of legumes, improved climate-disease-pest resilient vegetable, cash and grain crops into the cropping cycle to enhance income and food sufficiency and security;
b) in the 7 current pilot districts of Nepal, 378 socially inclusive local agricultural committees have been established to manage local agricultural development and mobilize the lead farmers;
c) 1,933 lead farmers have been trained as extension agents, who have been mobilized to coach and provide inputs to over 4,000 farmer groups in remote rural areas, previously untouched by the existing state extension system;
d) empowering women and the discriminated through regular awareness and coaching on GESI.
The beneficiaries are:
• the farmers and lead farmers who benefit from adopting the new technologies, the targeted training, and the improved soil fertility conditions, productivity, household income and livelihood potential, as well as the enhanced stature within the community
• the members of the local level inclusive agricultural committees who benefit from capacity building, new decision making skills, and enhanced stature within the community
• the women and the discriminated members of the above, who are the special focus of the initiative and benefit from varied training and empowerment
• the 40 local NGO implementing partners who received training and experience, especially the 36 students (all from discriminated groups, and 83% female) who were sponsored through agricultural colleges.
• the government district officers who utilize the greatly increased number of extension agents in the remote areas
• the policy makers at the Ministries who have learnt much from the initiative.
The key people who implemented the initiative in the field are:
• the 36 professional staff of the Sustainable Soil Management Programme (36% female) – with skills in agriculture, extension, management, administration and finance
• the 119 staff (45% female) of the local NGOs in the districts – with detailed local knowledge and skills in mobilization and agriculture
• the specialist staff of the 7 District Agriculture Development Offices, and the state administrators and planners in the 7 District Development Councils
• the 5 professional staff of the Soil Management Division of the DoA in Kathmandu
• the 4,401 members (41% discriminated, 31% female) of the Agriculture, Forest, Environment Committees established in each sub-district – local residents, mostly farmers, who after capacity building, mobilize the lead farmers to assist other farmer groups
• in terms of policy change, the senior officials in the Ministries of Agriculture Development and Federal Affairs and Local Development
The main obstacles during implementation have been:
• due to the civil conflict (1996 to 2006), and subsequent political inertia, there have been no local elections for 14 years in Nepal, thus there is a political and democratic vacuum at both district and sub-district (VDC) levels
• in order to create a decentralized extension system at the VDC, local level bodies were established at the VDCs
• long-term campaigning at central, district and VDC levels was undertaken to persuade politicians, bureaucrats and administrators that this was the best way forward in reaching the unreached rural farmers
• interference from political parties was experienced but was overcome by enthusiastic support from local communities, the District administrators and the central Ministries – the Agriculture Ministry has out-scaled the establishment of local agricultural committees to 33 new districts, and the Local Government Ministry has directed the VDCs to spend at least 15% of state funds on agriculture.
The following positive impacts have derived from the initiative:
a) due to improved preparation of farmyard manure, compost and bio-pesticides based on cattle urine, less use of agro-chemicals, often of poor quality in rural Nepal
b) due to adoption of appropriate farm technologies, labour, drudgery and time spent on farm activities have been reduced, especially beneficial for women
c) research has shown that adoption of improved soil management technologies, has increased soil organic matter levels – statistically significant from over 300 soil samples
d) the same soil management technologies increase soil carbon storage to a greater extent than both non-treated soils and forest soils
e) as fodder, forage and agroforestry are included in the promotion programme, biodiversity is enhanced
f) establishment of local agriculture committees, permits local stakeholders control of their own environment and community lands, and the provision of locally appropriate advice to all farmers
The initiative is sustainable because:
• the decentralized extension system has the potential to dramatically improve agricultural services to all Nepali farmers; the reform is supported by the Agriculture and Local Development Ministries, and all the District administrations and local communities in the 7 pilot districts - both Ministries have instructed their staff to assist in establishing the local Committees at the VDC
• currently, a guideline on the management and operation of local agricultural development is at Cabinet level and approval is expected in the near future
• the Agriculture Ministry has incorporated many of the sustainable practices and approaches into its long-term strategies and current workplans, has out-scaled the approach and technologies to 33 new districts, and issued a directive in 2012 that all its district staff should promote these practices
• the Local Development Ministry issued a directive that 15% of VDC funds must be used for agriculture.
a) field campaigns and demos on sustainable technologies and decentralized extension through rallies, local press releases and farmer interviews, FM radio, and audio-visual documentaries,
b) 27 intensively-used training manuals in Nepali for farmers, lead farmers and other actors, including government staff, involved in extension
c) 12 case studies on innovative technologies and approaches included on the WOCAT database
d) posters for workshops and training sessions on decentralization of agricultural extension, gender and inclusion issues, sustainable technologies, value-chains, marketing and business development,
e) 2 published volumes of farmer case studies and success stories
f) scientific papers published in various international and national journals, and presented at workshops in London, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Switzerland, and Nepal
g) integrated plant nutrient calculator and manuals; currently developing a mobile app. to provide on-farm advice to farmers on soil/plant nutrition.