Low-Cost Innovations to Benefit Smallholder Farmers in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News & Announcements, April 14, 2015

A new investment by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia in Nepal (CSISA-NP) was launched on 10 April, 2015 at a public event in Kathmandu. The investment by USAID India and USAID Washington, totalling US$ 4 million over four years, aims to work with the private and public sectors to benefit smallholder farmers by integrating scale-appropriate mechanization technologies with resource conservation and management best practices.

“For a country where 75 percent of the population makes its livelihoods in agriculture, these partnerships are absolutely important. Agriculture development, as we know, is one of the surest routes out of poverty,” remarked Beth Dunford, Mission Director, USAID Nepal at the launch. Eight million Nepalis still live in extreme poverty and almost 3 million Nepalis live in recurring food insecurity. “We also know that growth tied to gains in agricultural productivity is up to three times more effective at raising the incomes of the poor than growth from any other sector,” Dunford added.

Beth Dunford

Beth Dunford, Mission Director, USAID Nepal.

The new phase of CSISA-NP, an initiative led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), will build on successes and lessons learned from the ongoing work of CSISA Nepal, currently funded by USAID Nepal, and will continue to focus on districts in the mid-West and far-West regions of Nepal. It will complement USAID’s Feed the Future program, KISAN, which works to improve agricultural productivity and incomes for over one million Nepalis.

The new work plan will be implemented in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Nepal Agricultural Research Council, to strengthen seed value chains for timely access to improved varieties by farmers, promote sustainable intensification of agricultural systems through increasing lentil cultivation and better-bet management, increase wheat productivity using new technologies and better farming practices and facilitate precise and effective use of nutrients to increase crop yield.

A specific component of the new investment is designed to support and build the capacity of change agents like medium-sized seed companies, agro‐dealers and mechanized service providers. “Building on its success of working with the Indian private sector, CSISA will expand the program in Nepal to facilitate application of specialized, commercially-viable equipment for small and marginal farmers,” highlighted Bahiru Duguma, Director, Food Security Office, USAID India.

“CSISA supports more than 1,600 service providers in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in India and we want to replicate that success in Nepal of working with local entrepreneurs to help reach farmers with mechanized technologies,” said Andrew McDonald, CSISA Project Leader.

Rajendra Prasad Adhikari, Joint Secretary, Policy and International Cooperation Co-ordination Division, Ministry of Agricultural Development, Government of Nepal, welcomed this initiative and said that this launch is very timely as the agricultural ministry has just developed and endorsed an agricultural mechanization promotion policy and the Nepal Agricultural Development Strategy is in its final shape.

The launch was attended by representatives from the Nepal Ministry of Agriculture, Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Agriculture and Forestry University and USAID officials and received positive media coverage in Nepal.

This article is authored by Anuradha Dhar, Communications Specialist, CSISA.

Strengthening the Role of Agro-dealers and Traders to Increase Machinery Adoption in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News & Announcements, February 13, 2015

Agro-dealers meeting NepalCereal Systems Initiative for South Asia-Nepal (CSISA-NP) is improving business linkages, developing technical capacity and business acumen of agro-dealers to increase up-take of new technology by farmers.

To enhance agri-mechanization in the Western and Far Western Development Regions of Nepal, CSISA organized an interaction meeting of the agro-dealers/agents, with the help of USAID’s KISAN project, on 22 December 2014 in Dhangadhi, Kailali.

Various agro-dealers and traders mostly from Kailali and Kanchanpur districts participated in the meeting. In addition, Senior District Agriculture Development Officers from Kailali and Kanchapur districts, the Chief Custom’s Officer from Dhangadhi Custom Office, and District representatives from USAID’s KISAN Project also participated.

Dr. AP Regmi, CSISA-NP’s ARTC Manager of the Far West region welcomed the participants and explained briefly about the history of CSISA NP and its objectives for promoting scale appropriate agricultural mechanization in the Western Development Regions.  Scott Justice, CIMMYT Mechanization and irrigation Specialist in South Asia, further highlighted the objectives of creating a regional platform or association that will strengthen and develop the agro-machinery dealers technical capacity and will accelerate fair and equitable spread and use of targeted technologies by the Far West Farmers.

Tika Ram Thapa, Senior Agriculture officer from District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) Kanchanpur highlighted the importance of agro-mechanization in Far West. “Far western region is at infant stage regarding agro- machineries, it needs to establish strong network among all the institutions related to agricultural machinery including private sector,” said Thapa. “Agro dealers, who are also the change agents, should have strong network with the DADOs, as the farmers are in direct touch with us,” explained Thapa.

Similarly, Yuvraj Pandey, Senior Agriculture Development Officer, Kailali highlighted the need to attract youth towards new technology and mechanization in the context of labour scarcity and increasing out-migration of youth for employment.  Custom challenges were raised by the dealers in importing the agricultural machine and the parts. Shiva Bhandari, Chief Customs Officer, Dhangadhi addressed to this concern and talked about the tax charges to agricultural machinery.

After the interaction, the dealers observed the new machinery brought by CSISA at the research site of CSISA. The group saw: self-propelled reaper, 2-wheel tractor reaper, precision fertilizer and seed broadcaster, pedaled rice thresher, 4-wheel tractor 11 row zero till seed cum fertilizer drill,  mini-tiller 4 row seed drill,  seed cum fertilizer drill for 2-wheel tractor, mechanical and electric ½ HP  single cob maize sheller. The team also visited the demonstration and experimental fields of CSISA to look at the zero tillage wheat and strip till lentil planted by the new machinery. The dealers appreciated and showed keen interest in buying or marketing these new technologies.

CSISA will continue to organize more regional meetings to help familiarize dealers with new agro-machinery and aims to support the development of Far Western Agro Dealer Association that will increase the business linkages between farmers, dealers, importers and public organizations to increase expansion of appropriate agro-machinery in a sustainable manner.

Women’s Micro-Credit Loans Help Popularize Scale- and Gender-Appropriate Agricultural Mechanization

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, February 5, 2015

In mid-2013, after overhearing several conversations about CSISA-Nepal’s promotion of new scale-appropriate agricultural machinery with farmers in the Far West, Sumitra Manandhar-Gurung, CEO of Mahila Sahayatra Micro Finance Bittya Sanstha approached CSISA about whether its agricultural mechanization program might have something to offer her bank’s clients – women farmers who live mainly in the hill regions of Nepal.

Goats and Machines

Gurung asked, “Isn’t there something out there that I can give loans for besides goats? Can’t you show us some small powered machine, tractor or a small mill in the market that our women could take a loan for and provide services to their neighbors while earning a livelihood?”

In March 2014, CSISA Nepal placed an engineer, Sumana Parui, as an intern with Gurung’s bank, to explore the possibility of making micro-credit loans for small, powered and manually powered machinery to Mahila Sahayatra’s members. Parui spent two months in Chitlang village in Makwanpur district and two months in Holeri village in Rolpa district, where she provided several technical and business (local service provider) development trainings to women members and bank staff, a mechanics’ repair training as well as several farmer field days with machinery demonstrations.

Early Successes

Clockwise from top left: Machinery orientation and training in Chitlang; Demonstration of brush cutter in Holeri; Local mechanics’ training on the repair of the mini tiller and other machinery in Chitlang; Training on the use of the mini tiller for land preparation in Holeri.

Clockwise from top left: Machinery orientation and training in Chitlang; Demonstration of brush cutter in Holeri; Local mechanics’ training on the repair of the mini tiller and other machinery in Chitlang; Training on the use of the mini tiller for land preparation in Holeri.

Early on, the outcomes of these trainings were mixed. In Chitlang Valley, the first buyers of a mini-tiller, (a small rotavator-plow, powered by a 4.5 HP diesel engine) were Gyani (58 years old) and Saligram Manandhar (68 years old), who told CSISA how proud they were that they were able to take turns preparing their own land (nearly a hectare) for vegetables and rice, while their sons were working far away in Kathmandu. Manandhar related that in the last few years the few bullock plowmen remaining in the village were charging very high prices for their services and that by using the mini tiller in late spring and summer he saved nearly $200 (NPR 20,000) – half the price of the mini-tiller.

Since Manadhar purchased her machine in April 2014, five additional households, including a disabled woman bank member took a loan from Mahila Sahayatra to purchase the machine. Other equipment such as the powered brush-cutter (for the harvesting of wheat, rice fodder crops, etc.), pedaled (manual) open drum rice thresher and other implements for the mini-tiller such as cage wheels and furrow makers have also been sold. CSISA trained the local motorcycle mechanic in mini tiller repair and now he even stocks some spare parts.

Holeri Village in Rolpa District is different from Chitlang. Holeri lies in what was the epicenter of the Maoist Revolution and is much poorer and more remote. Parui arrived there in August 2014 and reported how difficult it was working there, not only due to the remoteness but because many farmers were negative about the machinery she was demonstrating. Leaving Holeri in October, she was dejected that not a single machine had been sold.

However, in December 2014 she started receiving phone calls from bank staff and women farmers who were interested in purchasing the small ½ HP electric-powered maize sheller. Bank staff sold it that week and then more farmers called, saying there were four or five more women interested in immediately purchasing maize shellers. Parui is currently in discussion with CSISA’s private sector collaborators (agro-vets and machinery agents) on how they could supply machinery to farmers in Holeri, for example by setting up a sales agency there.

Machinery Catalog

Parui is currently in the process of finishing her report as well as preparing a catalog of scale- and gender-appropriate agricultural machinery, a document that will include photos, descriptions, prices and locations where they can be purchased in Nepal. Mahila Sahayatra requested the catalog for use across their locations.

CSISA and Mahila Sahayatra now agree that this initial experiment in marrying scale- and gender-appropriate agricultural machinery with a micro-credit institution has shown initial success and needs to be further formalized, including through formal tie-ups between Mahila Sahayatra and private sector machinery providers that would supply not only the machinery but also training and servicing of the machinery (e.g., repair, spare parts). Discussions about the partnership’s next steps and how to fund them are ongoing.

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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