Partnership Between the Development Fund and LI-BIRD Goes from Strength to Strength

Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD) and the Development Fund (DF) Norway entered into a partnership agreement in 2004. By the end of 2016, LI-BIRD successfully completed six projects, financially supported by DF.  These projects were implemented in many districts of Nepal, and some parts of Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, and directly reached to 54,000 households.

The long-term contribution of DF has been instrumental in terms of promoting conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity, and strengthening local seed system through community seed bank approach; empowering farmers by organizing them in groups and cooperatives, and strengthening their governance; enhancing food and nutrition security, income and livelihoods of rural poor and women, and building the adaptive capacity of climate-vulnerable communities. The DF’s approach to climate change adaptation — the Climate Adapted Village (CAV) approach — is a successful model for building the adaptive capacity of communities by leveraging financial resources locally – local financing for local adaptation. 

This partnership has helped LI-BIRD improve its institutional governance and foster organizational growth. DF has been one of the main funding agencies for LI-BIRD, contributing nearly 40% of the total budget at some point in the last five years. A short description of the main results achieved through the support of DF is as follows.

Enhancing Benefits to Small and Marginal Farmers by Linking Biodiversity to its Niche Market (2004-2007)

Implemented in the periphery of Pokhara valley, the objective of the project was to enhance options for biodiversity-based livelihoods and improve nutrition and income of the poor and marginal people. Aarba was one of the five project sites, where a cooperative named ”Namuna Organic Farmer’s Cooperative” was established during the project period for promoting production and marketing of organic produce. This cooperative, now earns 1.6 million Nepalese rupees by selling cowpea and rice seeds every year. Starting from few hundred kilograms in 2006, 65 small farming households associated with cooperatives now produce 4 tons of cowpea seed and earn NPR 24,000 on an average every year. The village is now known as the ‘cowpea village’ and the seeds produced here are supplied to various parts of Nepal through seed traders and companies. In addition, due to the project initiatives, the Aarba village has been declared as an organic village. Almost all households in the village have improved cattle-sheds so as to produce more organic manure for their crops. Similarly, the majority of the households have plastic tunnels where they produce off-season vegetables throughout the year for home consumption and for selling in Pokhara.

Cowpea seed production plot at Aarba, Kaski. Photo: LI-BIRD Photo Bank

Community-based biodiversity management approach to help rural poor to improve food security, income, and adapt to climate change (2008 to 2016)

Implemented in various parts of Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, this project contributed to further refine and scale up good practices of on-farm management of agricultural biodiversity developed earlier by LI-BIRD in collaboration with national and international development partners. The CBMSA programme contributed to establish and strengthen 31 community seed banks in South Asia which have conserved nearly 2,000 local varieties of 62 crop species, produced more than 164-ton seeds of diverse crops and varieties annually which are accessed by more than 10,000 smallholder farmers. A self-financing model of community seed banks has been developed and is being replicated in other areas of Nepal. Under its participatory crop improvement activity, 23 new varieties have been developed/enhanced and are contributing to household food security. 

Community Seed Bank has been an important platform for women’s active participation in Nepal. Photo: Pitambar Shrestha, LI-BIRD

The project also contributed significantly to build and empower farmers’ organizations for long term impact in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The programme worked holistically on social, economic and legal aspects of empowerment. In total, 16,000 farmers are organized in groups, cooperatives, and Village Development Committee level farmers’ organization. One way or another, they will be reaping the benefits of the project for a long time. A total of USD 113,306 as CBM fund, USD 71,967 as group members’ saving and USD 46,325 as seed fund are being mobilized as revolving funds among the group members benefiting over 2,000 farmers annually. The scheme has increased access to a collateral-free small loan for both production as well as consumption purposes.

The CBMSA programme also worked on mainstreaming good practices into research, extension and education system. Agrobiodiversity curriculums that include good practices of CBM have been developed and are being taught for bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes in Nepal. In Bangladesh, ‘agrobiodiversity management’ course in the curricula of the graduate programme has been incorporated in the Department of Sociology, University of Dhaka. In Sri Lanka, some researchers  from government resource stations have employed participatory approach while developing new crop varieties. 

Reaching out to earthquake affected families through rebuilding family farming, livelihoods and resilience

The devastating earthquake and the aftershocks of April and May 2015 not only destroyed lives and properties but also created multiple challenges and problems for the survivors. In the affected areas, houses were converted into rubbles, and the seeds and planting materials saved by the farming families were either lost or damaged. In this context, LI-BIRD suspended its  regular activities and involved in providing relief materials and  rebuilding  farm activities. We developed a phased approach to Rebuilding Family Farming (RFF) viz. i) Livelihood Provisioning, ii) Livelihood Protection and iii) Livelihood Promotion. 

During the livelihood provisioning phase, we were able to reach out to 14,763 earthquake-affected households of 39 VDCs and 2 municipalities across 12 hardest hit districts, with items of temporary shelter e.g., tarpaulins, corrugated sheets, sleeping pads, blankets, etc. and food items. For such humanitarian support, we solicited contributions from staff; general, founder, and board members; regular business partners; friends and families, and international development partners including DF. 

In the livelihood protection phase, through the funding support from DF/MFA, LI-BIRD managed to distribute 20,638 winter vegetable diversity seed kits and 49,303 kg of winter field crop seeds which included wheat, potato, lentil and pea for 17,593 households in 21 VDCs of Dolakha and Sindhupalchok districts. Winter vegetable composite seed kits were provided to 18,418 households. The support of seeds and planting materials not only helped the affected families to produce food and seed for the next season but also encouraged them to rebuild farming and return to normal life. This activity was implemented from August 2015 to April 2016.

Strengthening Civil Society Organizations and Community Response to Climate Change in Nepal (SCRC) 

The contribution of DF also remained instrumental in building the capacity of civil society organizations and developing the adaptive capacity of communities to climate change. The initiatives brought together 125 NGOs working on climate change issues in Nepal, and a network of NGOs called NGONCC has been created including identification of five Regional Secretariat NGOs. As a result of the capacity building work of the project, several NGOs are accessing climate change funding and implementing activities at ground including the delivery of training to other organizations using their skill they learned through the project. Three of the Regional Secretariats won the Adaptation at Scale prize in a tough competition between 59 national and international NGOs. The CAV approach developed by DF and first piloted in Nepal in 2013 under SCRC has now proved to be a model of ‘local financing for local adaptation’ through small seed money support. In the piloting and scaling up phase of CAV approach, 6,716 households have directly benefited from the implementation of adaptation activities in Nepal. 

Fredkorpset Exchange for mutual learning and knowing each other better (2011 to 2013) 

LI-BIRD and DF organized three rounds of staff exchange programme in which 10 youths (five from each partner) participated in one-year duration in each round. The exchange was helpful to better understand working modality and culture of each other, and build the capacity and confidence of participants for higher studies and better position. Two of the five participants from LI-BIRD are now in senior management and executive positions of the organization. 

Humla Development Initiative for food and nutrition security of people of Humla (2008 to 2016) 

Started with the aim of improving socio-economic conditions and livelihoods of the people of Humla, the project contributed to increasing the average staple food production to 873 kg per household per year compared to 499 Kg at the beginning of the project. This was possible partly through the introduction and dissemination of high yielding varieties of rice, wheat, potato and finger millet, and partly through the development of irrigation schemes also in collaboration with other organizations. 

Another remarkable achievement worth mentioning here is the increased production and consumption of fresh vegetables during severely cold winter. This was possible through introduction and dissemination of the permanent plastic house technology. During lean period and harsh winter, people had to rely on nettle leaf, a kind of wild leafy greens and dried vegetables. But the introduction of the permanent plastic house has increased the availability of fresh vegetables for lean period and cold winter, and also a good amount of cash income through the sales of surplus produce. Some women who have built the permanent plastic house earn up to NPR 70,000 every year from selling vegetables. Now, the district extension office and the NGOs working in the agriculture sector are involved in disseminating this technology throughout the Humla District. 

Increased production and consumption of fresh vegetables during harsh winters in Humla has been possible due to permanent plastic house. Photo: LI-BIRD Photo Bank

In order to establish good governance system at the local level and make the project initiatives sustainable, the project initially worked through farmers’ groups and later converted them into cooperatives. These cooperatives have now become the nodal agency for local development as they collaborate with the local governmental body, NGOs and district level development agencies. In last two years, five cooperatives supported by HDI were able to leverage 9.23 million Nepalese Rupees for various development activities in their respective areas. 

Women were the main beneficiaries of Humla Development Initiatives. Photo: LI-BIRD Photo Bank

Besides, the project also worked on reducing the drudgery of women, alleviating Chaaupadi malpractice (the age old practice of keeping women alone away from their home during their menstrual cycle) and improving gender equality by introducing various women-friendly technologies and practices such as improving traditional water mill, introducing metallic improved cooking stoves (MICS) for reducing indoor air pollution and conducting a campaign against Chhaupadi.

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