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Jholmal for small-scale farmlands

Jholmal is a homemade bio-fertilizer and bio-pesticide prepared by mixing and fermenting in a defined ratio locally available materials such as animal urine, water, beneficial microbes, farmyard manure, and leaves with a pungent odour and taste. It helps control insect pests that attack and damage crops, protects crops against fungal and vector-borne diseases, and improves plant health.

The issue

Smallholder mountain farmers living in hilly terrains usually have smaller cultivable landholdings and thus require wise utilization of their land for maintaining soil nutrients and land health. But the usual intensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides by farmers results in soil fertility depletion and simultaneously affects human health due to their consuming heavily chemical residue-laden vegetables, staple crops, and fruits. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are therefore not a long-term solution for agricultural sustainability, as farm productivity decreases over time and because they further accelerate harmful environmental and health impacts.

Kavre District, situated in the mid-hills of Nepal, has long been a place of significant agricultural production owing to the large market for fresh vegetables in the nearby capital city of Kathmandu. However, changing climatic conditions, coupled with famers’ excessive use of chemicals and hazardous pesticides, had earlier, not only resulted in soil degradation but had led to their agricultural products being completely banned in Kathmandu’s vegetable markets.

The solution

Jholmal is based on a local traditional practice, and its use in the agricultural farmlands safeguards both the environment and human health. Jholmal preparation involves mixing locally available plant materials with animal manure and urine. Since most mountain farmers already raise livestock for milk, meat, and manure, using jholmal is a cost- effective solution for smallholder mountain farmers. Instead of purchasing expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides that are harmful to environmental, land, and human health, the homemade jholmal promises economic benefits to the farmers and is ecologically beneficial in many ways.

An experimental study conducted on two varieties of rice in 2015 and 2016 using i) traditional farming practices with jholmal and ii) chemical fertilizers/pesticides showed that jholmal use increased the productivity much more than did chemical fertilizers. Earlier, the farmers used to spend more money to purchase chemical inputs to increase agricultural productivity. For example, a baseline survey of five Kavre villages conducted by CEAPRED and ICIMOD in 2014 showed that each household spent on average about NPR 23,000 (~USD 230) annually to purchase chemical inputs for their farmlands. This cost to the farmers was much higher than the expenses incurred for jholmal production annually.

Impact and uptake

With successful piloting at several villages in three Village Development Committees (VDCs) in Kavre District, the use of jholmal has been upscaled to Udaypur District, in eastern Nepal. The Government of Nepal has further announced the upscaling of resilient mountain solutions: one of its packages involves distributing jholmal to 14 other districts in Nepal. CEAPRED has received additional independent funding to take up similar practices in other sites. The concept of Resilient Mountain Village, of which jholmal use makes for an important component, is being promoted by ICIMOD in its next 5-year Medium Term Action Plan in the regional member countries across the HKH.

Contributors

Erica Udas, ICIMOD

Laxmi Dutt Bhatta, ICIMOD

Further reading/information

Preparation of Jholmal [liquid fertilizers] in RMV Pilot Sites: Upscaling a local practice [Brochure]. (2016). Kathmandu: International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.