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20 Feb 2019 | RMS

Kalchebesi, a Climate Resilient Village in the Making

When one first arrives at Kalchebesi, a village located some 50–60 kilometres east of Kathmandu, it seems much like other villages in the mid-hills of central Nepal. Kalchebesi is in fact a Resilient Mountain Village (RMV), one of the original eight pilot sites of the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP) at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

The village now falls under the purview of the Resilient Mountain Solutions (RMS) Initiative, which evolved out of HICAP and aims to promote and scale up simple, affordable, and replicable solutions for adaptation and resilience-building among vulnerable communities and ecosystems in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH). Kavrepalanchowk, the district in which Kalchebesi is located, is one of seven proposed RMV sites in Nepal.

Sabina Uprety

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Women from the farmers’ group get together to prepare jholmal. Photo credit: Sabina Uprety, ICIMOD

Empowering Women to Improve Agricultural Practices

Building socio-economic resilience is at the core of the RMS concept and gender is an integral component of this. Presently, there is an all-woman farmers’ group in the village, Shramjivi, which, among other things, works to collectively supply vegetables from Kalchebesi to nearby markets. Its members note that life has changed considerably since the implementation of climate-smart interventions in their village.

Bimala Bajagain, Chairperson of Shramjivi, recalls how before the interventions made by ICIMOD and CEAPRED, famers throughout the village depended heavily on chemical fertilizers. Bajagain says there was little awareness regarding the associated hazards. “We also did not realize that there were other options,” she says. The villagers had not conceived that bio fertilizers could provide a feasible alternative to chemical fertilizers. They knew little about the innovative and resilient farming technologies that they use today – drip irrigation, using straw for mulching, harvesting rainwater in plastic-covered ponds, and building poly house tunnels to grow vegetables. Five years since the first interventions, the villagers have become skilled at cowshed management. They produce bio-pesticide and bio-fertilizers – known as Jholmal 1, 2 and 3 – using cow dung and urine along with a combination of herbs. Kamala Timalsina, another member of the farmers’ group says, “We used to collect cow urine and throw it down the river. We have now realized that cow urine is in fact, a key ingredient in bio-fertilizers.”

Another young woman from the group, Apsara Bhatta, talks about her career shift from local schoolteacher to famer. She says that she earns much better now, has more time to spend with her children, and is happy about being able to work independently. Other women in the group also acknowledge that there are fewer disputes in their households and that disparities have reduced. Women farmers in the village are earning good money and feel respected by their husbands and children. They say that they are also saving the money they used to spend on expensive chemical fertilizers and some are able to send their children to better schools. As part of the farmers’ group, women have the confidence to negotiate prices and other terms with vendors who transport their vegetables to nearby markets. An SMS service initiated by HICAP and now supported by RMS gives them information about vegetable market prices and provides weather forecasts. “With the SMS alerts, we now know the market prices of our vegetables. We are aware and feel empowered so the local vendors cannot exploit us,” say the women.

Many of the women have their own bank accounts. This might not seem big, but in a village where women did not have the confidence to speak to visitors and only men had bank accounts even a few years ago, women’s accounts represent their financial independence and reflect how their contributions to household incomes is earning men’s respect and allowing them to take bigger decisions. Years of responsible farming and positive results have brought many changes. Today, the women of Kalchebesi share their experiences with local and international delegates with confidence and conviction.

Vendors pack and load vegetables from Kalchebesi to sell in nearby markets. Photo credit: Sabina Uprety, ICIMOD

Vendors pack and load vegetables from Kalchebesi to sell in nearby markets. Photo credit: Sabina Uprety, ICIMOD

A Model Village for Climate Resilience
The people of Kalchebesi have found ways to cope with and adapt to change. Farmers in the village have adjusted their harvesting time for corn and cultivation time for rice to adjust to the changing climate. They employ innovative farming techniques like crop rotation, legume integration, and mixed cropping. Women from the village, who are spearheading its organic vegetable movement, are willing to share all that they know about sustainable agricultural practices with neighbouring villages. They are extremely happy whenever someone from a nearby village comes to Kalchebesi to learn about jholmal having heard about its use in organic farming through word of mouth. Word about vegetables from Kalchebesi has spread as far as Kathmandu. Wholesalers at the vegetable market in Jadibuti, Kathmandu attest to the demand for Kalchebesi produce.

The villagers look forward to utilizing the goodwill they have earned.  Many members of the farmers’ group would like to learn how to prepare pickles and sauces. At present, a lot of the tomatoes grown in the village perish before they can be transported to markets for sale. The villagers would also like to provide homestay services for visitors and showcase their work to them. “We are determined to transform Kalchebesi into an ideal village; we are determined to fight climate change,” sing the women from Shramjivi, humming a line from a song they have themselves composed. It is remarkable to witness the progress these women have made. They are surely pioneers and the future of smart and sustainable agriculture in Nepal.

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