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Unveiling stories of resilience in Dailekh, Nepal 

Young researcher and ICIMOD / GRAPE Embrace Equity Grant recipient Bidhya Poudel Chhetri chronicles the challenges and opportunities for women agriculturalists in the far west of Nepal
Published: 16 Apr, 2024
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⏲ 5 minutes Read

In September, I set off on a fortnight long field survey to the remote and picturesque far west region of Dailekh, to Dullu and Naumule – two centres for the Green Resilient Agriculture Productive Ecosystems (GRAPE) project, which aims to foster climate resilient and green economic growth of Nepal’s Sudurpashchim and Karnali provinces. 

My research set out to assess the awareness and adoption of woman-friendly agriculture tools and technologies by local vegetable growers, and understand the challenges faced by female farmers, and how these are being exacerbated by climate change and outmigration of men. 

Dailekh province is breathtakingly beautiful, and I felt an immediate connection with its warm people. I split my time evenly between the two villages, engaging with women farmers through interviews and focus group discussions to learn about the challenges of their daily lives, their farming practices, and their use of women-friendly agricultural tools.  

I learned that these mountain women, despite being the backbone of agriculture here, grapple with limited access to resources ranging from land ownership and finance, to water, education, and decision-making processes.  

Narma Jaishi, in Dullu, was one who ticked off a shopping list of obstacles: from the lack of land to insufficient finance, to incursions by wild boar, and scarcity of water.  

Despite the challenges, Narma was adamant to improve her situation, and she had already adopted drip irrigation to mitigate the lack of water. Her resilience and courage were inspiring.  

A woman's quest for change  

On my journey, I found pockets of success: including places where woman-friendly tools and technologies were making a tangible difference to people’s crop yields, and lives.  

Sita Sharma Dhakal, a 29-year-old farmer from Naumule, acts as a local resource person at the community learning centre, which is an anchor for the implementation of ICIMOD’s GRAPE work.  

Sita’s family owns 20 ropanis of land (1.02 hectare), which serves as the entire family of five’s sole source of income. She says GRAPE has transformed how they farm, and her family’s fortunes. 

Bidhya 2
Sita Sharma Dhakal working in her farm

She is now able to augment her traditional farming skills with vegetable farming, nursery preparation, bio-fertilizer preparation (jholmal), and has a much greater understanding of climate change and organic farming practices.  

She is also now president of the Bhursu Aayarjan Farmers Group , alongside her role as local resource person at the community learning centre, and she also oversees six agriculture cooperative farmers groups within the VDC. 

Sita has embraced climate-resilient and woman-friendly tools and technologies, incorporating practices like Vermi Wash, Vermi Compost, polyhouse tunnel, water-can sprayer, drip irrigation, and integrated pest management techniques such as yellow sticky trap, water trap, funnel trap, delta trap, and jholmal.  

These techniques have allowed her to successfully cultivate seasonal and off-season vegetables like tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, brinjal, and chilies.  

This strategic shift in farming practices has not only led to a steady monthly income ranging from Nepalese Rupees 30,000 to 40,000 in the polyhouse tunnel but has also empowered her to cover the expenses related to her children and household. 

“Sharing knowledge I gained through training and workshops with fellow farmers, and especially communicating with women farmers gives me immense happiness,” she told me.  

The incorporation of woman-friendly tools and practices has not only elevated her vegetable productivity but also empowered her to assume leadership roles in her community.  

From theory to action 

As a young woman passionate about climate change and climate-resilient agriculture practices, I felt privileged and inspired to witness the proactive efforts of individuals like Sita, alongside many other women in the community.  

These women are learning, adapting, and implementing climate-resilient technologies on their farms, translating theory into practical action. 

Listening to the stories of women like Sita, Narma, and scores more like them, made me realize the power of translating theory into action.  

Bidhya 1
Bidhya conducting survey in Dailekh

These women have become my role models, showing me that passion and dedication can drive positive change.  

And seeing these women in action has motivated me to translate my concerns about climate change into tangible actions.  

It's a shared commitment to creating a more sustainable and resilient future.  

And I hope that by highlighting their efforts, more people, especially young women like myself, will be inspired to join the movement for a better, climate-friendly world. 

As I conclude my on-site research, the pages of my notebook are rich with narratives of transformation and adaptation.  

This journey has given me more than just academic knowledge; it has provided a profound insight into the intricate connections between gender dynamics, farming practices, and community interactions.  

For me, these field visits were not just data collection points but windows into the lives of those whose stories often go unheard. 

Bidhya is an agriculture graduate, who strives to make a positive impact on the field of agriculture through her study and research. She is also the recipient of ICIMOD and GRAPE project’s Embrace Equity Grant.  

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