NAUBISE — In the village of Naubise, about 90-minute drive from the capital Kathmandu, farmer Nirbhaya Sapkota is experimenting with crop rotation, mixed cropping and even intercropping — anything to maintain soil fertility and moisture.
Sapkota, 45, and others this area are contending first-hand with the effects of climate change, which is particularly hard-hitting in Nepal because of its high poverty rates and low adaptive capacity. The major earthquake that struck in April has complicated matters even more.
But in this community, at least, Sapkota and other smallholder farmers refuse to go down without a fight. With the help of the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Program (HICAP), they began, in February, to adopt a variety of smart climate cultivation methods. The move is already paying dividends.
"Our production has increased since we started using bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides instead of chemical fertilizers," says Sapkota. "Apart from that, we have switched over to smart irrigation methods by collecting wastewater and rainwater in plastic ponds."
"Increased production means more income for the family by selling the harvest at the market," she adds. "The crops are also able to withstand fluctuations in temperature and rainfall."
The climate smart farming initiative is supported by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), an intergovernmental research organization. Through the project, farmers are provided critical information pertaining to crops through SMS notifications on their mobile phones in their own language.
They also receive information about sustainable energy usage. And a plant for biogas, produced from agricultural waste, manure and sewage, has been installed in the village so it can be used as a renewable source of energy.
Mona Shreshtha is another farmer in Daitar. She too has succeeded in increasing her output through climate smart techniques. "We have seen that use of bio-fertilizers has had a positive impact on our yield. Our vegetable production increased after we started using bio-fertilizers, animal manure and bio-pesticide jholmol sourced from crop residue in our farm," says Shreshtha. "Now we no longer use chemical fertilizers. Thus our savings have also increased."
But the earthquake this April has increased the challenge for many smaller holder farmers. Yam Prasad Nepal no longer thinks he and his seven-member family can depend on agriculture alone. They are facing a shortage of water for farming and drinking, after water sources in the district dried up after the earthquake.
Before the earthquake the wells in the village were full of water. Now more than 100 households in the village have to fetch water from a nearby stream. "We are waiting for water," he says "We need it for everything, for agriculture, for cattleâ€¦. and also for drinking. If there is no water then we cannot survive. We don't know what will happen to us."
The earthquake has taken its toll on almost every family in the village. Laxmi Prasad Adhikari, 45, is now looking for work as a laborer in the Gulf. His family of four is finding it hard to survive. "We suffered a lot during earthquake. My house was damaged," he explains. "I even lost two of my cows. Earlier, I used to sell 16-17 liters of milk every day. Now I am left with only 4-5 liters."
To deal with the tough times, people in the village are now expanding on their climate smart knowledge, moving toward new agriculture practices that require less water.
The Centre for Environmental and Agricultural Policy research (CEAPRED), a Nepal-based NGO, has provided a new variety of rice paddy to farmers, which uses less water and fertilizers.
Yam Prasad Nepal hopes it will be successful. "In the village we have received Charuva, a new variety of paddy, which is showing impressive results with less water," he says. "We are waiting for the final outcome. We hope to grow this variety of paddy as we are left with no water."