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18 Dec 2017 | Voices from the field

Building social capital through the migrant returnee network

Aleeza Karki

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Siddhi Chandra Baral, Executive Director of the ASIAN Forum, facilitating the interaction program. Photo by Aleeza Karki

Migration is an important livelihood strategy for people in Nepal. In four Himalica pilot sites in Udayapur (Bagaha, Murkuchi and Saune) more than one-third of the households have at least one member (usually male) working abroad or back as a returnee. The most popular destinations for migrants are India, Gulf countries, and Malaysia. For returnee migrants, commercial vegetable cultivation is an important reintegration opportunity, as it provides them with a vital cash income to meet their daily requirements. Among the pilot beneficiaries there are a number of migrant returnees who have taken up commercial vegetable cultivation as a livelihood option or livelihood diversification strategy. Thus, it is important for the returnees to build their social network and one important way to achieve is through peer-to-peer exchange.

The Support to Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalaya (Himalica) Initiative along with its partner, the Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED) organized a two-day programme on “Peer to Peer Exchange Interaction” on 1-2 August 2017 in Udayapur. The objective of the programme was to provide a platform for sharing the migration, return and reintegration experience between the Asian Human Rights and Cultural Development Forum (called henceforth the Asian Forum) and farmer groups. The resource persons for this interaction were representatives of the Asian Forum, an organization formed by Nepali returnee migrant workers. The major objective of the Asian Forum is to advocate for better migration governance, including building a network of returnee migrants for better reintegration. Within the Asian Forum, the Commercial Agriculture Center (CAC) consists of 35 migrant returnees who are presently involved in commercial agriculture production in various parts of the country. One of the objectives of CAC is also to promote the transfer of technology from destination countries to build the resilience of the agriculture sector in Nepal.

A total of 28 migrant returnees (all male) from the three pilot sites participated in this program and interacted with the resource persons from the Asian Forum, including two commercial vegetable producers. During the interaction, there was an exchange of the need to build a social network among returnees to help in their post migration reintegration efforts. There was also a sharing of experiences on challenges facing commercial vegetable cultivation and transfer of new climate resilient technologies from destination countries such as Israel and South Korea to Nepal. Considering the keen interest shown by the participants, CAG of the Asian Forum promised to provide each group with a set of technologies for demonstration at each pilot site. They also invited selected participants to come and visit their farms to learn about the use of various technologies. Reflecting on the programme, Milan Shrestha, one of the participants, commented, “We are lucky to get this chance to be part of the returnee network through the Asian Forum, as it can open up windows of opportunities for returnees like us. Networking with returnees who are farmers like us doing wonderful work in the agriculture sector has certainly motivated us to work even harder.”

Six returnees (two from each pilot site) were selected by CEAPRED to visit the Sholam Agriculture Farm in Kathmandu from 23 to 26 October 2017. The farmers got to see first-hand demonstration of a suite of technologies such as drip irrigation, sprinkler, fogger, green house and net house, Korean UV greenhouse plastic tunnel, shade and anti-insect net, mulching plastic, nursery tray, and coco peat. On 25 October, Surendra Joshi, HIMALICA Program coordinator; Amina Maharjan, Livelihood (Migration) Specialist; and Aleeza Karki visited the Sholam Agriculture Farm to observe the new technologies as well as interact with the farmers from Udayapur. During the visit, Shree Krishna Adhikari of the Sholam Agriculture Farm described the new technologies that he had introduced in Nepal from various countries as well as the experiments that he is presently conducting in his farm.

Ghaman Singh Magar, one of the farmer participants in the hands-on training, said, “This was a great opportunity provided to us to learn about advanced technologies and how to implement them. We learnt that commercial agriculture has great scope and bright future in Nepal. I am determined to continue doing vegetable cultivation and plan to expand further”.

Six farmers from Udayapur and Himalica staff visiting the Shalom Agriculture Farm. Photo by ICIMOD

The Asian Forum is expected to continue assisting farmers from Udayapur through its migrant returnee network and transfer of technologies, knowledge and ideas, thereby contributing to their livelihood resilience.

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