The agricultural situation of Nepal is a dangerous and unstable one. It also affects around 90% of the population directly, as most Nepalis are farmers. Many of them, on the outskirts of cities and in rural villages, are using pesticides to grow their crops, often in three to four times the recommended quantity. Traditional knowledge and belief in natural processes is rapidly being lost as farmers strive to make enough money to feed their families.
WF has recognized that this situation is only considering short-term gains, which are themselves quickly decreasing in quantity and value. We consider agriculture to be crucial to our programs because it is such a large part of Nepali economy and culture. Therefore, to combat this problem, we have participated in numerous trainings and have made connections with farmers using permaculture and agroforestry techniques. These techniques emphasize diversity and working with natural systems, such as forests and wetlands. The synergetic systems that they create increase the efficiency, biodiversity and stability of a farm.
WF is applying these techniques on our own farm near the shelter in Boudha, Kathmandu. In 2000, we leased a plot for ten years and have successfully grown food for our shelter, a primary goal. Some of the farm has raised beds to grow vegetables, cooking herbs, and medicinal plants, while the rest of the land is intercropped in fields. In the process of maintaining this farm, women from the shelter have learned many farming techniques and practical skills that they can use to grow their own food and share with others in the future. We have also been able to produce some surplus food that we can then sell in Kathmandu. Because our food is primarily to feed our women and reduce our shelter running costs, we mainly grow food that is traditional to the Nepali diet, but we have experimented with crops that could be sold to western buyers at a higher price.
The farm currently provides 25% of the vegetables eaten at the shelter. Eventually, with more time and land, production of the farm will increase and the farm may become an income-producing project for WF and will serve as a demonstration of ecological techniques in WF workshops as well.
The agricultural situation of Nepal is a dangerous and unstable one. Around 90% of Nepal’s population depend on agriculture. The use of pesticides and fertiliser is widespread and the extent to which they are used poses a health risk to people and over time depletes the fertility of the soil. WF believes that raising public awareness about the benefits of organic farming practices is very important.
In 2003 WF received financial assistance to purchase land in Bhaktapur (outside of Kathmandu) for the establishment of an organic farm. This has been one of WF’s goals for a number of years and presents an exciting opportunity to spread awareness of organic farming while providing a source of income to support other WF programs.
The farm land is very different to the farm land which WF was leasing in Kathmandu, which was flat and had a reliable water supply. The Bhaktapur land is very hilly and much work is required to be undertaken to establish irrigation supply. When people from the villages were brought to Kathmandu for training in organic farming methods, they found it difficult to relate to the training as the land in Kathmandu was not at all like their land in the villages. As such WF believes that the land in Bhaktapur will enable more effective training as it closely resembles farming conditions in rural Nepal .
WF has a 5 year plan in place which involves planting 500 fruit trees, along with other vegetables, to generate enough food for the home. The planting of fruit trees begun late in 2003 and within a few months they had started to blossom. With financial support from a group of people in Italy , WF was able to purchase 500litre water tanks and a tractor. The construction of the farm house commenced in November 2003 and the planting of fruit trees will steadily continue. The bulk of the yield from the fruit trees will be sold at markets to provide a significant source of income for WF.
The Women’s Foundation’s fundamental aim is that all programs become financially self-sufficient and self-sustaining. As one of WF’s largest programs, the shelter represents considerable financial pressure on WF and much strategic planning is currently underway to minimise costs and introduce measures to provide an income for the shelter. The Organic Farm was developed out of a need to increase the sustainability of programs such as the shelter. The original organic farm in Kathmandu supplied around 30% of the vegetables consumed by the shelter. As the new land in Bhaktapur becomes more established, it is expected that this will steadily increase.