Breaking Ground – Women Farmers in the Hills of Nepal Benefit from Scale-Appropriate Mechanization

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, December 11, 2014

Laxmi Khadka is a progressive farmer based in Nepal’s Dadeldhura district. She lives with her husband, two sons and daughter. Their farm is a mixed crop – livestock enterprise where they cultivate upland rice, wheat, maize and vegetables. In the mid-hills of Nepal, seasonal and semi-permanent male outmigration occurs at one of the highest rates in the world, which creates labor bottlenecks that erode profitability and compromise the timing of key agricultural operations.

Learning How to operate Minitiller_GangaAt present, Laxmi spends most of her time tending to her agricultural fields and livestock and struggles to balance her farm work with the needs of her family. Across the mid-hills, the burden of farm management is falling increasingly on women household members like Laxmi who stay behind. Further, the number of bullocks has declined precipitously, which also delays key farm operations like ploughing. For both reasons, the niche for scale-appropriate mechanization is strong but beyond the reach and current experience of most farmers.

In Laxmi’s community, CSISA introduced the mini tiller as a low-cost option for rural traction and identified a group-based service provision model to recoup costs and share the technology across the village. Although initially apprehensive, community members quickly realized that the mini tiller saves time and money and Laxmi observed she was able to plant her maize with the onset of spring rains as she didn’t need to wait to hire labor or bullocks.

“From now on, we will not have to depend on the men for ploughing,” said Laxmi.

Farmers observed that it can be difficult to carry the mini tiller from one terrace to another, especially when terraces are at different heights and separated by bunds. These small problems have been solved through the collective action of the group with 2–3 farmers coordinating planting and machinery transportation from field-to-field. Farmers have also learned that operation of the mini tiller is relatively easy with most women trained in the technology by CSISA expressing and demonstrating confidence in its operation.

With timely planting assured with the mini tiller, Laxmi was also eager to evaluate additional productivity-enhancing technologies and planted maize hybrids for the first time in 2014. Her productivity levels tripled from 2013 and she produced a marketable surplus (30% of production) that was an important source of income for her family.

CSISA Promotes Maize Triple Cropping in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, June 11, 2014

Nepali woman farmer in her maize fieldIn the western Terai plain of Nepal, farmers typically grow no more than two crops per year and there is a spring fallow period in between winter crop harvesting and rice planting that remains fallow. This fallow period is particularly long in areas where potato is cultivated.

At places where irrigation water is available and timely harvest of the winter crop takes place, maize can be grown and marketed either as ‘green cob’ for the fresh market or, in some cases, grown to maturity to produce dry grain. Since no crops are displaced when a farmer transitions from double to triple cropping systems, the income generated by this third season is purely profit. Nevertheless, cropping in this period is uncommon and better-bet management recommendations for promising crops like maize are lacking.

Starting in 2013, CSISA-Nepal initiated a series of participatory research trials in farmer’s fields to determine optimum management practices for maize in order to encourage triple cropping and to generate income. On-farm trials demonstrate that spring maize can be immensely remunerative, with returns exceeding $1,000/ha.

However, profitability is highly dependent on irrigation investments and farmers can incur losses with excess application of irrigation water. Returns are also highly dependent on the selection of the right cultivar, with maximum profits declining to less than $50/ha with open-pollinated varieties.

In addition to sound agronomic advice, expansion of spring maize area in the Nepali Terai will be bolstered by closer linkages between maize processing mills and small famers as well as the introduction of labor saving technologies such as maize shellers to reduce drudgery. CSISA is working with the KISAN project to commercialize small-scale machinery and to improve linkages between farmers and markets.

 

Farmers in western Nepal excited about new spring maize varieties by CSISA-Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, September 19, 2013

In Terai, farmers were initially skeptical about growing maize in the dry spring period, with one farmer’s wife berating him for sowing maize on land she thought they should grow a fodder crop on. By about two months after planting, she was delightedly admitting being wrong, and showing visitors their maize field, with both the farmer’s variety and a hybrid, both under farmer management and recommended nutrient and establishment practices. All hybrids tested yielded at least 2 t/ha more than the farmer’s open pollinated variety (OPV), Arun-2 — which also yielded over 1 t/ha more with improved management than under typical farmer management.

Arun-2 (L) and hybrid (R) at Kanchanpur site in the far-west

Arun-2 (L) and hybrid (R) at Kanchanpur site in the far-west

Yields of the Rajkumar hybrid that farmers voiced early preference for were often doubled, at over 10 t/ha with just 3 irrigations. Hybrid yields under farmer management were comparable to or better than OPV yields under best practices, leading several farmers to state that they wanted to expand spring maize area next year and plant the Rajkumar hybrid by line-sowing as introduced by CSISA-NP rather than the traditional practice of broadcasting: they said that although initial time for line-sowing might be high, applying irrigation and weeding were cheaper and easier in the line-sown plots. Feed industry representatives invited to visit the plots were also pleased with the hybrid maize, and told farmers that they could guarantee the purchase of these farmers’ hybrid maize at the same rates as they currently pay Indian producers if they could increase production, as currently purchase over 200 t of maize annually from India at NPR 24/kg to meet demand. Following the discussion with feed company representatives, CSISA-NP participating farmers in the far-western Terai project sites were able to negotiate higher prices (about NPR 4-5 per kg) from the (non-feed company) buyers of their maize.
Typical farmer spring maize in far-west: water-stressed, and poorly managed

Typical farmer spring maize in far-west: water-stressed, and poorly managed

Contributed by: M. Devare

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