The Sustainable Soil Management Programme (SSMP) is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by Helvetas and Intercooperation in collaboration with participants from the government and civil society. The programme contributes to improved food security and increased income for women and men farmers in the bari-dominated (rainfed) farming system in Nepal`s mid hills. This is achieved by encouraging smallholders and disadvantaged groups to adopt sustainable soil management practices linked with improved production technologies that enable them to seize new agricultural production opportunities. The programme employs a unique combination of both technical changes and social processes and approaches which lead to livelihood improvement in rural areas. It places a special emphasis on disadvantaged groups and decentralized decision making and responsibility, provides capacity building at the local level, and promotes participatory planning, monitoring, and evaluation.
SSMP was launched in 1999 to combat the decline in soil fertility and productivity in the mid-hills of Nepal. In order to do this, SSMP promotes proven, simple, and appropriate soil and farm management technologies and alternative cropping options, such as improved methods of preparing, managing, and applying farmyard manure; the collection of cattle urine for application as a fertilizer and plant tonic, and as a base for the preparation of biopesticides; the combining of the above practices with the inclusion of legumes, fodder, and forage plants into the rotation; and the incorporation of vegetables and other cash crops into the cropping systems.
SSMP works through local NGOs who compete for programme funds, and contracts are awarded on the basis of technical quality, gender and caste inclusion, and poverty and geographical remoteness of the target communities. SSMP also works through the system of experienced lead farmers that it has established to support the farmer-to-farmer approach of decentralized extension, a key vehicle for further dissemination to isolated communities who have little access to the government extension structures, and which is responsive to the needs of the farmers.