Lease-based farming for improving livelihoods of Musahar families at Belaka Municipality in Udayapur district

Living with almost no livelihood assets, the Musahar is one of the many socially excluded and economically deprived ethnic groups of Nepal. They rely on daily wage for living, but sometimes they do not even know what to eat the next day, if they do not get any wage work. However, the situation of 13 landless Musahar families residing at Ghumne village of Belaka Municipality in Udayapur district has notably changed now.

As part of the Samarthya Project, Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD) and the National Farmers Group Federation (NFGF) joined hands with Belaka Municipality in Udayapur district to support livelihoods of Musahar families in July 2019. The project team facilitated to form a group ‘Ghumne Tarkari Utpadan Mahila Krishak Samuha’ involving 13 households Musahar women of Ghumne, supported them for renting 0.87 hectare land on lease for five years, provided training on seasonal and off seasonal vegetable cultivation right at the plot, introduced number of climate smart agricultural technologies and practices such as solar energy-based irrigation system, preparation of home-made biopesticide and biofertilizer using locally available resources, provided seed, organic fertilizer, plastic drums, agri-tools and supported them with technical support on a regular basis.

Provincial Minister Honorable Ram Bahadur Magar interacting with the people from Ghumne Tarkari Utpadan Mahila Krishak Samuha.

The support from the project and the municipality, and the hard work of the 13 Musahar women did not take much time to repay. Apart from home consumption, each member was able to earn at least 10,000 NPR in the first season from July to December 2019. The women were super excited with this success as they had never produced vegetables and earned income apart from other sources especially daily wage work. During the last ten months, they were able to produce about 4.5 tonnes of fresh vegetable from 0.87 hectare of land and earned almost 180,000 NPR excluding the home consumption. The women who either used to beg or buy vegetables for home consumption are now earning income from selling vegetables in the nearby market.

”It is hard to believe that we can grow vegetables and earn money. We have also learned vegetable production techniques, preparation and use of compost, home-made biopesticide and biofertilizer, and nursery raising technique. We are producing vegetables without using chemical fertilizer and pesticide. Sometime, we go to nearby market for selling vegetables and sometime, buyers come to our plot.” 
– Ms. Kalawati Sada, Chairperson of Ghumne Tarkari Utpadan Mahila Krishak Samuha.

Farmers from leasehold farming busy in preparing nursery bed for cucurbits. 

According to the Chairperson of the Belaka Municipality, Mr. Durga Kumar Thapa, “The lease-based vegetable farming supported by the Municipality and the Samarthya Project is an example of how livelihoods of the landless people can be improved in a short period of time. It is a priority activity of the Municipality, which  has already started replicating the model at Ward 2, Tapeshwori village”. The Federal Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Development Honorable Ghanashyam Bhusal and Provincial State Minister Honorable Ram Bahadur Magar from the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperative (MolMAC), Province 1, also visited the plot and appreciated the initiatives.

“Before involvement in cultivating vegetables in the lease-based plot, it was very difficult for us to maintain the expense of our family. Most of the time, we used to stay at home without any work. The money earned by the male members of the family was not adequate to cover the family expenses. If we got sick, we always had to borrow money from the money lenders, often paying a higher rate of interest. But now, both the government and the civil society organizations are supporting us. Thanks to them, we are sending our children to school and the tuition center  regularly. We have learned how to grow and sell vegetables and earn money. We have also learned to speak up without hesitation to express our problems in front of the officials of the Municipality.”
– Ms. Mamta Sada, Ms. Srijana Sada, Ms. Samrita Sada, Ms. Radha Sada, Ms. Jokhni Sada (Group members).

The modality adopted by the project and the working environment created by the Municipality for civil society organizations including leveraging resources made it possible to bring about positive changes in the livelihoods of the Musahar families within a year. Though the time spent and the resources allocated by the Belaka Municipality and the Samarthya Project in this initiative is not much, the enormous happiness we could see in the faces of Musahar women gives lots of confidence to the Municipality leadership and the project team to further replicate this model. 

Samarthya Project is an initiative of Care Nepal funded by Danida through Care Denmark and implemented by LI-BIRD, NFGF, NLRF, CSRC and CEN in association with the local government in Siraha and Udayapur districts.