Training Encourages Commercial Vegetable and Fish Farming in Saptari, Nepal

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After an extensive solar powered irrigation pump (SPIP) promotional campaign, the Water, Land, and Ecosystems (WLE) team from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) oversaw the distribution and installation of 20 SPIPs in Saptari, Nepal. The WLE team realized that several factors play important roles in ensuring that farmers reap the optimum benefits of SPIPs, which is not just limited to cost savings. One such factor is the uptake of modern and commercially oriented farming approaches. To use SPIPs to their fullest potential, traditional practices prevalent in agriculture need to be replaced with more modern and commercial approaches. With this in mind, ICIMOD organized a series of four-day trainings on commercial vegetable production and aquaculture in Rajbiraj, Saptari for farmers who have expressed interest in farming using SPIPs.

Experts from the Center for Environment and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED) delivered the training to about 100 farmers. ICIMOD and Sabal Nepal facilitated the trainings in three batches—from 21 May to 24 May, 26 May to 29 May, and 29 July to 31 July. The first three days of each training featured theoretical and practical sessions on improving quality and productivity, while the last day introduced farmers to the wide prospects of aquaculture. 

The facilitators were Shyam Krishna Ghimire, an agriculturalist with 18 years of experience currently associated with CEAPRED, and his associates Lal Bahadur Shah and Satan Yadav. Ghimire’s sessions were introductory and revolved around theories of commercial vegetable farming. He emphasized the importance of commercial vegetable farming and talked about how it not only fulfills the dietary needs but also adds economic and social value to farming communities. The trainees were overwhelmed when Ghimire shed light on the fact that commercial vegetable farming could be as high as four times more profitable than paddy farming and provide 5 to 10 times higher yield. Ghimire emphasized the importance of nursery management in vegetable farming and how it leads to better yields. Nursery management was discussed in a systematic process. Through his sessions, Ghimire also debunked some prevalent poor agricultural practices that hinder both quality and productivity. 

Shah emphasized that a well-planned nursery nurtures vulnerable saplings and guarantees a foundation for better quality and greater quantity. Shah’s presentation featured demonstrations of nursery bed preparation and jholmal preparation. Jholmal is a do-it-yourself bio-fertilizer and bio-pesticide that helps reduce crop yields while lowering costs for farmers and eliminates all ethical concerns associated with chemical fertilizers. Shah also discussed integrated pest management, an eco-friendly, broad-based approach that integrates practices for economic pest control. There were also discussions about how a well-designed nursery coupled with pest management does not always guarantee a profitable vegetable farming business. A farmer’s success with sustainable farming, Shah said, also depends on comprehending the local crop calendar and wisely using off-season vegetable farming techniques—techniques embedded in the law of supply and demand.

Trainers, trainees, and facilitators stand beside a nursery bed prepared as part of one of the training sessions

Yadav spoke about the reluctance among famers to get into aquaculture. In Nepal, fish farming is seen as a low-prospect business. The participating farmers were astonished when Yadav told them that only 1% of Nepal’s water resources is currently used for aquaculture, which surprisingly, contributes to 1% of the national GDP. Yadav gave the trainees valuable insights into the types and breeds of fish favoured by the climate in Saptari. He discussed site selection, pond construction, ways to ensure maximum life expectancy among fish, and the concept of integrated fish farming—a system which combines fish farming with other agricultural/livestock farming. The participants were also given information on identifying fish disease, prevention and treatment options to contain the spreading of disease, and techniques to separate diseased fish from a healthy school. 

Feedback received through the post-training test and a feedback form developed by ICIMOD and CEAPRED to determine the efficacy of the training show that the training was successful in imparting knowledge and was well received by the trainees. A fourth training session in the same series is set to be organized in the coming months. Once that is complete, ICIMOD will organize two two-day follow-up trainings where farmers who participated in the four four-day trainings will learn further about commercial vegetable and fish farming.