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A quiet revolution in Badhu

On the majority-women-led farming coop reversing the fortunes of a district that has consistently ranked last in the human development and poverty index.
Published: 16 Apr, 2024
⏲ 6 minutes Read

Badhu, a small village in the Himali Rural Municipality of Bajura, western Nepal, is no stranger to suffering.   

Acute water stress five months a year, and monsoon damage to canals, have forced local subsistence-farming families to leave significant portions of their land fallow.  

Unseasonal rainfall and rising temperatures, meanwhile, are prompting crops to fail, and/or be hit by rising pest and disease infestations.  

Low human development and poverty indicators tell the story of these overlapping challenges. 

Community organizing for climate-resilient agriculture 

Today, thanks to collective action, the tide is turning in Badhu. In 2022, the Green Resilient Agricultural Productive Ecosystem project identified the village, of 30 households, as an area whose agricultural losses might be reversed.  

The project supported the transformation of an existing savings and credit group into a formal organisation focused on agriculture, the Hariyali Farmers’ Group, as a conduit for collective action. Notably, 23 of its 30 members are women. 

Dhanu pandit sharing her experince with her farmers group
Dhanu Pandit sharing her experience with the farmers group.

The transition from a savings and credit group to a farmers’ group allowed the members to refocus their attention and resources towards improving agricultural practices and addressing the challenges faced by the community.  

Leading the group as the chairperson is Jana Lohar, a highly experienced farmer who has dedicated her life to agriculture.  

Under her able leadership, the project has provided a platform for farmers to come together, share their expertise, and work towards a common goal.  

This collaborative approach has fostered innovation, knowledge exchange, and a sense of ownership among the farmers, leading to the remarkable agricultural transformation in Badhu. 

Diversity and climate-resilient practice 

The GRAPE project recognised the potential for vegetable farming and encouraged farmers to diversify their crops.  

Initially, farmers were reluctant to change their traditional practices, but were won over by training provided by the Hariyali Farmers’ Group.  

Community learning centres were established to demonstrate various agricultural technologies, such as drip irrigation and mulching, which improve water-use efficiency. The project also introduced greywater ponds and plastic-lined ponds to collect and use waste and rainwater. 

The project also demonstrated the effectiveness of various pest and disease control methods, such as lures, traps, and jholmal.  

Through participatory research, these methods were compared to traditional practices to test and demonstrate their advantages.  

Farmers were primarily growing local potato varieties, which had low yields. The project focused on improving potato cultivation, in line with the government's support for potato production in the region.  

Members of farmers group happy to see other vegetable growing in the areas
Farmers are encouraged to see other vegetables growing on their farms.

Varietal trials were conducted to provide alternative options to the farmers. All farmers in the group actively participated in the setup, observation, and monitoring of the demonstration and action research work. Initially, farmers did not ask for potato seed, but after seeing the results from the potato trials, all famers asked for and received seed. 

The farmers observed that the Climate Resilient Agriculture technologies were working. They were producing more vegetables with less water. Pest and disease infestation was low. After some initial hesitation, they began to cultivate vegetables not only on their fallow land but also on lands used for cereal cultivation. Jana Lohar, chairperson of the group, notes: “Despite my years of experience in farming since childhood, I had never come across such simple yet effective solutions like using mulch to retain soil moisture and utilizing wastewater. This idea is truly remarkable, and I am grateful for discovering it. I am committed to implementing these practices moving forward.” 

Financial independence and empowerment 

The farmers were enthused by the remarkable production of diverse vegetables in their fields. The newly introduced potato varieties performed so well that all the farmers asked for more seed so they could grow them in other areas. The project in collaboration with Himali rural municipality provided potato seed to all 30 farmers, and they planted them on most of their land. They also used the improved sowing methods that were demonstrated by the project.

The adoption of improved varieties and practices led to a record-breaking potato yield of 60 tons, a twelve-fold increase from previous levels. Dhanu Pandit, one of the farmers who was initially hesitant to adopt the new technologies and varieties, harvested nearly two tons of potatoes, earning herself NPR 30,000 in sales. For the first time, Dhanu felt financially independent. She was able to support her children’s education and repay her loans without her husband's help. She also has other vegetables in the fruiting stage, and she is confident that they will yield well and earn her more income in the coming days.

“The introduction of new farming techniques and potato varieties has completely transformed our lives. I am now able to contribute to my family's income and support my children's education. This project has given me the confidence to pursue a brighter future for myself and my community,” she says.

Other women farmers in the village echo her feelings. 

Inspired by the success achieved with potatoes, all the farmers in the Hariyali group transitioned to vegetable farming. They began cultivating profitable crops such as cabbage, cauliflower, and tomatoes, recognising the market demand for these vegetables in nearby areas and other wards of the Himali Rural Municipality. 

Members of farmers group happy to the potatoes prouction
Farmers happy with the increase in potato production.

A model for scaling 

The remarkable progress made by Badhu Village and the Hariyali Farmers' Group has attracted the attention of local government officials. The local government has committed to providing subsidies for agricultural transportation. It has also committed to improving the canal infrastructure to address irrigation water scarcity. 

The GRAPE project has been instrumental in transforming villages like Badhu in the Nepal Himalaya. By organising farmers and advancing climate-resilient agricultural practice in a participatory way, the project has empowered communities to overcome historical challenges such as drought, limited agricultural options, and crop failure. 

The success of the GRAPE project in Badhu has not gone unnoticed. Currently, the project is working with 107 farmers' groups like Hariyali, impacting a total of 1,800 women like Dhanu. These initiatives are empowering women, diversifying farms, and introducing climate-resilient practices in numerous villages, leading to increased agricultural productivity, financial transformation, and women's empowerment. For a district that has consistently ranked last in the HDI and poverty index, this is a sign of hope and renewal. 


Climate Resilient Agriculture Analyst GRAPE, ICIMOD


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