Developing innovative sustainable agricultural kits for Nepalese terrace farmers

Terraces hard to farm on

Nearly 70% of Nepal’s cultivated crop land is on rain-fed terraces. While they are visually stunning, terraces limit mechanization and productivity for millions of farmers. Narrow terraces require planting and weeding by hand: work that is usually done by women. These often isolated hill regions are also marked by high rates of male out-migration and female illiteracy. As a result, hillside farmers lack support from government agricultural services, non-governmental organizations, and agribusiness.

Despite these challenges, terrace farming has been practiced for millennia and holds unique opportunities for innovation.

Innovation-packed $10 kits

Building on earlier testing and research, this project’s low-cost solutions will sustainably boost yields, create better working conditions for women, and help farmers cope with climate change. Supported by IDRC and GAC through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund, the research will test a range of agricultural innovations to include in a sustainable agriculture kit. The useful kit will contain drought-resistant and soil-nourishing legume seeds that enhance yields and nutrition and grow well on terrace edges and walls. Also among the trial innovations is GlnLux, a Canadian-engineered microbial biosensor that helps farmers maximize organic nitrogen production from inter-planted crops.

The kit’s tools will include simple seed planters and reusable storage bags that protect harvested grain from fungus and insects. Instructional picture books will teach farmers how to use the seeds and tools, breed hybrid seeds, conserve water, and improve animal feed. To scale up the results, the project will also test a novel public-private partnership model to reach 25,000 households. An existing networks of market-stall vendors will sell the kits for $10 or less. The project lessons could serve elsewhere in Asia and the world where terrace farming is common.

Expected outcomes

  • Increase crop yields and incomes for 25,000 terrace farming households
  • Improve working conditions for women
  • Communicate farming techniques through a picture book for illiterate women 
  • Improve farmer self-reliance and resiliency to climate change
  • Develop a commercially viable scaling up model.

Project ID

107791

Project status

Active

Start Date

Friday, August 1, 2014

End Date

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Duration

30 months

IDRC Officer

Tiessen Kevin

Total funding

CA$ 2,200,000

Country(s)

Western Asia

Project Leader

Manish Raizada

Institution

University of Guelph

Institution Website

http://www.uoguelph.ca

Project Leader

Pashupati Chaudhary

Institution

Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development