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Case study: Kabhrepalanchok district
By Arun Regmi, Pranita Bhushan Udas
Rainwater harvesting is a promising practice for using available rainwater in the dry season in water scarce areas. Mithinkot VDC of Kabhrepalanchok, a hilly district of Nepal, had no irrigation facilities due to lack of water sources in the village. With the support of the Centre for Environmental and Agricultural Policy, Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED) and the District Agricultural Development Office, people started growing fresh vegetables in 2007 by constructing rainwater harvesting ponds. In 2008 Jor Salla Vegetable Seed Production Cooperative was established to promote vegetable seed production. Initially, farmers produced seeds of different vegetables but later they focused on producing seeds of hybrid tomato. They started farming in two tunnels (of 5 m X 12 m size), producing 900 g of hybrid seeds, and gradually expanded the area. In 2015, 22 farmers were involved in producing tomato seeds. The collection pond has enough water for seed production. Both water-efficient irrigation methods – drip and pipe irrigation – are being used in the tunnels.
Hybrid seed production, especially hand pollination, is a tedious job that mostly occupies young women farmers. Initially, two women from the village were trained by the National Agriculture Research Council in hybrid seed production. One household can make up to about NPR 80 thousand a year from one tunnel from tomato seed production. Water is efficiently used and seed production has helped improve livelihoods. The seed growers have formed a cooperative. This practice has reduced drought-related stress on livelihood and improved people’s capacity to adapt to climatic stressors like drought.
Household level analysis of this initiative shows that overall water availability for farming has increased. Women are also trying fish farming and Elaeocarpus ganitrus (rudraksha) plantation, thus multiplying the benefits of increased access to water. People continue to search for alternative water sources to fill the pond in the lean period. With income earned from vegetable farming, women have direct access to cash income. These changes have taken place at the household level.
This intervention has added various assets and services in addition to improving access to water. These include enhancement of skills such as hybrid seed production and improved incomes.
Hybrid seed production through hand pollination demands hours of focused work in peak season. Women’s involvement in hand pollination and hybrid seed production has helped increase family income and brought about gender transformative change. Responsibilities that traditionally fell on women, e.g., fetching drinking water for the household, are now carried out by men, as women are busy with pollination activities. Young girls who are in secondary school get involved in pollination activities without missing classes, by emasculating in the evening and pollinating in the morning.
At the household level, women’s involvement in hybrid seed production has increased their influence on farm and household decision. The cooperative is led and managed by women farmers, which has enhanced their leadership.
The ponds are plastic lined and can be easily prepared by a household. The first step is to identify the spot for building the pond. The pond is then dug for collecting household wastewater. Funds are needed to buy the plastic sheets and pay the labour cost. Tools and equipment are also needed.
If it’s not possible to build a pond in the above mentioned way, one can build an Ahal, a pond traditionally built on mountain terraces to collect drinking and bathing water for buffaloes.