Majhthana is Turning into a Climate-Smart Village

Cover photo: Plastic house with drip irrigation set for vegetable cultivation.

The life in the hills in rural Nepal is extremely grim due to difficult terrains, poor infrastructure, limited job opportunities, low crop yield, and water scarcity, which is further exacerbated by climate change. Temperature rise, erratic rainfall, unpredictable hailstone, fierce thunderstorm, heavy downpours, dry spells, and severe droughts are recurrent problems facing the region, which inflict flash flood, landslide, insect and disease outbreak, and introduction of new weeds. Majhthana, an agrarian village situated in the mid-hill above 1200 masl, about 15 kilometers from the Pokhara valley, the City of Lakes, is also facing similar challenges. Farmers in the village identify drought, changing rainfall pattern, hailstone, insect and disease, and flooding the major challenges in the village. 

LI-BIRD is implementing Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) project in partnership with Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and in support of Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), UK and Sustainable Agricultural Kits (SAKs) project in partnership with the Anamolbiu Private Seed Company and in support of Global Affairs Canada. With the help of these projects, farmers in Majhthana are adopting a variety of CSA practices, which is helping farmers cope with the aforementioned challenges, and eventually making them climate-resilient or climate-smart.

A ‘Water smart’ intervention plastic pond used to collect gray water for using it during dry periods for growing vegetables and feeding livestock. Photo: Bikash Paudel, LI-BIRD

To combat water crisis problems, farmers are making plastic tunnels, alongside rainwater harvest technique for tapping scarce water and drip irrigation technology for efficiently using it (Roof to Root technology). Other ‘water-smart’ interventions include plastic ponds collecting gray water and community ponds collecting rainwater in order to use it during dry periods mainly for growing vegetables and feeding livestock. This abounds with hope among some farmers who are graduating to semi-commercial farmers from subsistent farmers. These technologies also save time for otherwise collecting water from afar, and women and children benefit greatly since fetching water is one of their primary jobs.

Hailstone problem is becoming more uncommon and unpredictable in the village than the past. Every year a huge amount of vegetables and maize are damaged by hailstone, for which farmers have no option but watch and pray. To protect crops from hail, the projects are distributing plastic sheets and hail-proof nets. Once farmers are trained in the methods of constructing plastic houses and placing nets, they use their own local resources to develop the frame upon which plastic sheets and nets are placed. Drip irrigation is also integrated into plastic houses as mentioned earlier.

Farmers are now producing better quality manure by tapping urine and dung more efficiently than the past, which is compensating chemical fertilizer and pesticides to a large extent. Unlike the past, farmers collect urine in a separate pit and use it as manure and pesticide. The improved manure enhances the physical property, health condition, and soil carbon retention, ultimately making farmers ‘nutrient smart’ and ‘carbon smart’. Ongoing experiments with high nitrogen fixing leguminous crops and varieties and inoculation of rhizobium bacteria in leguminous crops are also likely going to make farmers ‘nutrient smart’ or ‘nitrogen smart’.

Community pond built to support households of Acharya Tole, Majhthana. Photo: Puna Bhaila, LI-BIRD

Yam is going to stand as an important food crop in the wake of climate change since it is a drought resistant crop grown on marginal land. It is also rich in nutrition, resistant to insects and diseases, culturally important, demanded in the market, and easy to store for long. LI-BIRD technicians and farmers are jointly producing seedlings from the aboveground fruits since the roots (traditionally used method) give a limited number of propagating materials. Besides, farmers have started growing yam in gunnysacks to ease harvest and save energy and time otherwise required to dig out edible roots. It is found that taking out an edible root from sack takes less than five minutes, whereas it takes about an hour to dig it out from the earth. The sacks can also be moved from a place to another to protect them from soil erosion, landslide, and flood. The resurgence of yam cultivation has thus made farmers ‘weather-smart’ and ‘nutrient smart’. It is also a ‘women-friendly’ technology.

Since farmers are adopting a number of CSA activities in the same village that will in the long run benefit them in the light of climate change, it is fair to say, the village is gradually becoming climate smart. In other words, the village once crippled by multitude of climate risks and challenges is gradually metamorphosing into a Climate-Smart Village (CSV). The village could be a model village and this model can be extrapolated to other similar geographic and socio-cultural landscapes. For a quick turnaround and sustainability and for the village to become a mature CSV, strengthening of self-sustaining groups, mainstreaming of CSV models in government programs, and financial and technical contribution of existing GO and NGOs towards scaling up of the model is crucial.

The CSA project is implemented by LI-BIRD in partnership with the CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) with financial support from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), UK. The CSV project is implemented by LI-BIRD with technical and financial support from CCAFS. Both projects are supported by the Project Advisory Committee comprising representatives from the NPC, MoF, MoPE, MoFALD, NARC, DoA, DoI, DHM, CDKN, CCAFS and LI-BIRD under the leadership of MoAD.