Empowering Agricultural Innovation: Collaborative Symposium and Internship Success Story
Photo : Prof. Dr. Lal Prasad Amgain (Left) , Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Far Western University honoring the token of love to Mr. Bharat Bhandari(Right), Executive Director, LI-BIRD (Photo:FWU)

Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD), Faculty of Agriculture; Far Western University (FWU), and Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) came together to host a dynamic two-day undergraduate symposium. The event held on August 15th and 16th, 2023, in Tikapur, and themed ‘Research Initiatives for Sustainable Agriculture’, showcasing FWU’s pioneering spirit in hosting its inaugural symposium. The symposium was a major milestone providing a platform for students to showcase their research findings, improve the quality of dissertations and foster meaningful connections among different academicians, researchers and developmental institutions.

Adhering to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between LI-BIRD and FWU on January 2023, LI-BIRD enrolled seven agriculture fresh undergraduates in an internship program in February 2023. The interns successfully completed their thesis research between February to July 2023 at different LI-BIRD projects namely SD=HS, SAKSHAM and LREP. Their research was conducted in regions including Kailali, Kanchanpur, Doti, and Bardiya, under the direct guidance of project staffs. The interns focused on critical organizational objectives such as ‘Farmer Field School (FFS) on Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS),’ as well as assessing the effectiveness of different botanicals and biocontrol agents against pests and Nutritional and Underutilized Species Crops (NUS crops) like Kangkong. All these diverse action researches under LI-BIRD had significant importance for the respective communities and provided the basis for future research in the area.

Cultivating a Sustainable Future through Participatory Community Engagement

Nabin Ghimire, an ambitious undergraduate student at the Faculty of Agriculture, Far Western University, embarked on an internship journey with LI-BIRD. He joined the project “Sowing Diversity= Harvesting Security (SD=HS)”, which focuses on biodiversity conservation through Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB). The concept of Farmers Field School (FFS) in PPB was initially new to him. However, after attending the orientation of project activities at Rajipur office, he became convinced and equally enthusiastic about his thesis research on Participatory Varietal Selection in spring rice in Bhajani, Kailali in Naya Goreto FFS.

Nabin dedicated himself to his research project, working with twelve genotypes of spring rice with three replications.  His journey was not just about the science; it was also about the profound impact of community involvement. He remarked, “Even within five months of period, I witnessed firsthand the positive impact of empowering women and involving them in decision-making processes and power of the community engagement. I realized the participatory approach is the key for sustainability.” He further emphasizes, “In addition to the support from the  LI-BIRD team, facilitating the visits by the IRRI team, local government, my advisor from university and other stakeholders in the research field, along with the reception of impressive feedback, significantly contributed to validating the work we conducted in the FFS.”

In addition to his thesis research, Nabin got an opportunity to involve in diverse training, capacity building sessions and LREP’s project activities of nutrition school, climate adaptive village and community seed bank helped him to expand his horizon of knowledge. After five months, with this wholesome experience, he successfully defended the thesis research in undergraduate symposium on August 16th 2023. The learnings would definitely guide him as he would embark on the professional carrier. Nabin Ghimire’s story is a testament to the power of education, community engagement, and participatory approaches in shaping a brighter and more sustainable future in agriculture.

Photo: Facilitating the FFS(photo: Nabin Ghimire)
Photo : Research plot after transplantation(photo:Nabin Ghimre)
Photo : Observing yield parameters at the maturity stage (photo:Nabin Ghimire)

Along with research, the interns got the opportunity to actively engage and learn from ongoing project activities and community mobilization. They participated in various capacity building training like Nutrition Field School, Home Garden, Training of Trainers (ToT) on FFS on seed production, ToT on NUS and End Season Evaluation. Furthermore, the cross-site exposure visits to various FFS sites allowed them to gain insights from different contexts and practices. Furthermore, they led the process of preparing informative flyers on cultivation practices of different local NUS crops like Amilarcha, Chameli, Kankong saag, Seto Dabdi wheat and Jorayal Basmati rice. This holistic exposure to interns not only broadened their understanding but also contributed significantly to the depth of their experiential learning and their professional growth.

Upon completion of their internship program, Far Western University (FWU) organized the undergraduate symposium for an entire batch of 92 students who completed intership in different organizations including LI-BIRD,PMAMP, NARC, ICIMOD, IRRI, iDE Nepal, and SAHAS Nepal.

Photo : Group photo featuring LI-BIRD team, Faculty of Agriculture, FWU and students under LI-BIRD’s internship program(Photo:Louish Rijal, FWU)

With FWU requesting collaborative support for the symposium, LI-BIRD/SD=HS stepped forward, covering a day’s logistical costs. Over two days,  ninety two students, joined as lead presenters; Dr. Sundar Tiwari (Associate Prof. Agriculture and Forestry University, Chitwan), Dr. Bishnu Bilas Adhikari (Associate Prof. IAAS Rampur, TU), and Dr. Kapil Khanal (Principal, College of Natural Resource Management (CNRM), Khajura), shared their research across three themes: Agronomy and Plant Breeding, Horticulture, Plant Protection, and Soil Science, and Social Science. On the second day, August 16th, 2023, the event was chaired by Asst. Prof. Sushil Nyaupane, while Bharat Bhandari, Executive Director of LI-BIRD, honored the event as the chief guest. LI-BIRD officers who directly supervised the interns’ research were present, and Prof. Dr. Lal Prasad Amgain, Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, FWU lauded LI-BIRD’s work on Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB). Among the interns’ presentations, one that stood out was Susma Regmi’s research on Kankong under LI-BIRD. This presentation drew attention because it was new amongst the majority of the audience in the room. Moreover, the principal of CNRM Khajura also expressed his interest in potential partnerships with LI-BIRD for their future ventures.  Mr. Bharat Bhandari shared LI-BIRD’s ongoing efforts in natural resource management, climate change, and sustainable agriculture practices, emphasizing the symposium’s importance for fresh graduates and research institutions. He highlighted the continued partnership between LI-BIRD and FWU.

 In the end, the HoD, Faculty of Agriculture extended gratitude for collaborating on the internship program and hosting the symposium. This successful collaboration demonstrated the possibility for future joint projects and partnership between FWU and LI-BIRD. A notable achievement of LI-BIRD’s collaboration on the symposium was the recognition that LI-BIRD got among a hundred youths, notable research institutions and academicians through the intern’s research findings which enriches the research endeavors and promotes interdisciplinary approaches to address challenges in sustainable agriculture.