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Launching Livelihoods from the Riverbeds of Nepal

Place: nepal, Asia
Sustainable development of small rural communities Sustainable development of small rural communities
Total Budget: € 537.000,00 | Period: From September 2006 To

Summary

Riverbed Farming Project works with landless (0 – 0.1 ha) and land-poor (0.1 – 0.3 ha) categores of farmers who are able to secure food for the family for less than 6 months. In Nepal, 33.77% of the rural population fall under these categories. In Tarai region, 530,000 households out of 2,663,862 do not own farmland and are vulnerable to food insecurity. Above 80,000 hectares of lands measured in 53 river corridors in 14 Tarai districts are suitable for riverbed farming. Seasonal youth male migration as wage labourers to local towns and Indian cities is a major alternative source of household incomes, but this is not sufficient to support the family. The riverbed farming concept was thus concieved and have partnered closely with government and local stakeholders since 2006 to contribute in household income and food security. Since its inception, focus has been on building up on the traditional farming practice by grafting scientific technologies.

Partnership

Forum for Rural Welfare and Agricultural Reform for Development - Nepal

Lead applicant

Resource Idenitification and Management Society, Nepal - Nepal

Initiative partner

Life School Centre - Nepal

Initiative partner

Riverbed Farming-Turning Despair to Hope Riverbed Farming Project works with landless (0–0.1 ha) and land-poor (0.1–0.3 ha) categories of farmers who are able to secure food for the family for less than 6 months. In Nepal, 33.77% of the rural population fall under these categories. In Tarai region, 530,000 households out of 2,663,862 do not own farmland and are vulnerable to food insecurity. Above 80,000 hectares of lands measured in 53 river corridors in 14 Tarai districts are suitable for riverbed farming. Seasonal youth male migration as wage labourers to local towns and Indian cities is a major alternative source of household incomes, but this is not sufficient to support the family. The riverbed farming concept was thus conceived and have partnered closely with government and local stakeholders since 2006 to contribute in household income and food security. Since its inception, focus has been on building up on the traditional farming practice by grafting scientific technologies

The most powerful claim that the project can make is on increasing the access to food by increasing the purchasing power of the targeted groups
• Riverbed farming has shown to be very cost effective, where inputs (seeds and fertilizer) worth NRs.925 plus 7 days of labour are enough to generate an additional income ranging from NRs.6, 500 to 25,500 per 338 square meter (1Kattha in Nepal) of land by a farmer. 5759 landless and land-poor households in 12 working districts have earned 118.45 million rupees in a single cropping season
• It has established a stable earning source supporting them to involve and invest on alternative income-earning enterprises such as year-round vegetable farming enterprise (67%), livestock (7%), trading (6%), grocery and tea shops (5%) and land purchase (2%).
• Increased bartering practice in 4 districts. A farmer in Kanchanpur have collected up to 10 tons of wheat in exchange of riverbed produce farmed in 0.67 ha of land.

Moving out of poverty From 2006, the Riverbed farming project is working with the food-insecure households. With very low initial investments, farmers are able to secure higher prices for the riverbed produce. This has helped them to enhance their asset status. Cash obtained from selling riverbed cultivated crops is used to invest in or improve the quality of life like buying bicycle or a traditional bullock cart that can be used to enhance future income generating opportunities.
Reinvestment in market garden Guru attributes his success to the riverbed farming project. “The surplus income earned from riverbed cultivation has helped me to purchase land and start seasonal vegetable farming enterprise”. 67% of riverbed farmers are re-investing on regular vegetable cultivation. The promotion of bussiness planning based farming approach of the project have developed the interest of farmers to go commercial on vegetables
The fruit of labour The income measurement exercised with 292 groups led to four income categories i.e. ≤ NRs.40, 000 (3%), ≥ NRs10, 000-25,000 (51%), ≥25,000- 40,000 (25%) and < NRs 10,000 (21%). Sixty-three farmer households earned incomes from riverbed farming ranging from NRs.100, 000 to 500,000 in one cropping season.

The initiative of vegetable farming in the riverbeds aiming at improving the food security and income of the landless and land-poor hoseholds started in the year 2006 in consideration with the ever-increasing percentage of the resource poor farmer households and vast tracks of dry riverbeds. Environmental degradation and increasing frequency of climate extremes (flood and drought) are hitting hard the food security of these households. Inspite of the political instability in the country Nepal at present, the project has established cooperation with ministeries, Riverbed Farming Alliance, local government, agriculture development offices and other stakeholders in policy works, technical and financial supports. Furthermore, the project in collaboration with Agriculture Development Bank and its branch offices in 8 districts has promoted the crop security schemes in practices. This initiative won the Knowledge Sharing Award 2013 of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation

Flourishing rivers This video describes how the riverbed farming contributes to the improved food security and income of landless and land-poor farmers of Kanchanpur and Kailali districts of far-western Tarai region of Nepal.

The main results achieved are:
• In the 12 working districts, 6219 households constituting 35% landless farmers, 49% land-poor and 16% flood-affected and smallholders are organised into 304 groups and farmed 864 hectares of riverbeds of 34 river corridors (3 large size, 11 medium size and 20 small size rivers)
• 126 trained Local Resource Persons are providing technical and other services to farming groups
• “Local riverbed farming promotion policy–2070” and its implementation guideline is in the process of Government endorsement
• Riverbed farming component succesfully mainstreamed into agriculture as well as enterprise development plans of 2 District Development Commitees, and 4 District Agriculture Development Offices
• Relations with banks, agro-vets, agro-cooperatives have been strengthened for timely supply of quality inputs and vegetable traders
• Farming in 0.2 hectares of riverbed produce sufficient income to invest in productive alternatives confirmed and established

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Riverbed Farming Factsheet Leasehold riverbed vegetable farming utilizes seasonally dry riverbeds for the market-oriented production of cucurbit vegetables.

Project beneficiaries (primary stakeholders) are landless, land-poor and severely flood affected households and focus is placed to woman farmers and socially disadvantaged groups. These primary stakeholders are among the most underserved in terms of food production, farm employment, and alternative income opportunities. Therefore the need for capacity building, community empowerment, access to land and thus food security and opportunities of engaging in productive alternatives are being addressed through linkage development with the local government, district government agencies, financial instituions and provate organisations.
The collaboraters and local NGO implementing partners, are directly working with the primary stakeholders. Riverbed Farming Alliance has been collaborating with the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development in policy works. in aiming at institutionalising the riverbed farming initiative 

Bringing the mobilising strength The Riverbed Farming Project organized several joint stakeholder monittoring visits mobilising local government, district government institutions, service providers and traders to spread the information about riverbed farming at all levels. This helped define the resource poor farmer’s priorities on income and food security.
Emancipating the underserved The project has been professionalizing farmers into local resource persons. 5 modular courses of 35 days residential training programmes are provided.There are now 127 local resource persons, 89% of which represent the socially disadvantaged group.The project built their expertise, enabling them to serve as intermediaries who offer technical services on riverbed farming, connect farmers to input providers and district stakeholders.

Key people involved in the field are:
• 4 programme staffs of the Riverbed Farming Project;
• 18 staffs are engaged from the local NGOS in the working districts
• 126 Local Resource persons (riverbed farming technical workers) who are working with the households in the field
• Partially supported by 3 District Development Committees, 4 District Agriculture Development Offices in the working districts, 7 Riverbed Farming Alliance members, and 3 members from the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development

Getting organized into action The project promotes two planting techniques for riverbed crops: 1) trench (ditch) method and 2) pit method. The Local Resource Persons (LRPs) are intensively trained on these techniques, and they facilitate hands-on learning to landless and land-poor farmers in the riverbed areas.
Working hand in hand The project has drawn 12 important activities in the riverbed farming, and project team members organize field coaching to farmers including LRPs in proper implementation of those activities.

• Risk of potential winter flood in the mid and far western Tarai regions resulting in damage of riverbed crops, and thus promoted crop security schemes into practice
• Coldwave is another problem and is being tackled through technology adoption by the farmers such as reccommended land preparation, mulching, polytunnel and use of crop variety mix
• Market price fluctuation of vegetables is high and is tackled through early planting of cucurbits in riverbeds in November that could meet up with the market demand, bring up good prices and meantime saves crops from storms and heatwaves
• Integrating riverbed farming in the district agriculture development programmes is another difficult challenge. Process and technology development in riverbed farming, riverbed mapping, river corridor approach and proper documentation of riverbed farming outputs, and several organised stakeholders discussions at different levels supported to include riverbed farming in the annual programmes of 4 districts

Access to higher price Low cost poly-house are used for raising healthy and early nursery of riverbed crops. Not only does it protect the crops from adverse climatic condition but also provides better profits for the early produce. Farmers can escape the constraint of market glut and fall in price during the main season.
Living on the edge Although riverbed farming is a boon to the landless and land-poor farmers, there is also a risk of winter flooding due to climate change impact resulting in damage of riverbed crops. The project is therefore encouraging the farmers to bring in the practice of insuring their crops through crop security scheme as a risk reduction strategy.
Protecting dreams Farmers often face the difficulty of saving the riverbed crops in their earlier growth stage from the severe cold waves of January and December. A very low cost and efficient way to save them is through mulching. It not only provides warmth to the crops but also conserves the soil moisture and provides support to the advancing vines.

Some of the positive environmental impacts of riverbed farming include:
• Regeneration of riverine ecosytem due to the control of free range grazing of stray animals. Besides, the grasses growing in the riverbed vegetable plots control the flash flood thereby improving geomorphic stability
• Restoration of active flood plains is achieved as riverbed farming has stopped the haphazard sand excavations, and promoted alternative ways of utilising the negative environmental products– the sand depositions
• Negative impact on the river ecology and downstream settlements is further minimised by encouraging the riverbed farmers to use organic methods of vegetable production, minimise the usage of chemical fertilizers and agrochemicals that in the traditional practices is heavy

Making the most of compost To reduce the negative impact on the river ecology,usage of chemical fertilizers,pesticides ,insecticides is highly discouraged. An alternative to this is to teach the farmers to make compost

Trained local resource persons and group farming approaches of riverbed farming have collectively improved riverbed farming. The integration of riverbed farming in the annual plans of district institutions have contributed funds and resources to maintain the outcomes of riverbed farming. The riverbed farming policy and guideline drafted in collaboration between the Government of Nepal and Riverbed Farming Alliance are the strategic move for ensuring sustainability. And it helps linking the riverbed farming with the local governement and agriculture development planning process that promotes transferability and self-replication at the local level. Market system development approach with engagement of market actors will contirbute in building up farmers entrepreneurial skill while investing surplus incomes in regular vegetable production. Riverbed Farming Alliance facilitates the exchange of best practices of riverbed farming between collaboraters, partner organisations and stakeholders

The promotional and dissemination initiatives of riverbed farming are as follows:
• ‘Local Riverbed Farming Promotion Policy–2070’ (final draft) and ‘Implementation Guideline’ (first draft)
• Pictorial community teaching handbook on riverbed farming (in Nepali)
• Technology Factsheets included in the WOCAT database
• Training manual on vegetable farming in the Riverbeds (for the local resource persons, in Nepali)
• Atlas of Riverbeds in Nepal
• Project descriptions in, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation Nepal's project description of riverbed farming: http://www.nepal.helvetas.org/en/our_projects/rbf.cfm
• Riverbed Farming Allliance in Nepal http://www.riverbedfarmingalliance.org.np and
• World Bank Development Marketplace, riverbed farming: http://wbi.worldbank.org/wbdm/stories/securing-livelihoods-through-riverbed-farming
• Youtube Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKDrFTrXDRw
• Publication in Agriwaterpedia database http://agriwaterpedia.info/wiki/Riverbed_farming