You might be wondering, “Why is Open Team working in Nepal?”. It’s not just to see all the smiling faces of the Nepalese farmers we get to work with, nor is it for all the beautiful sunshine (although these are definite bonuses)! Nepal is the perfect place for our replication methodology.
Rural areas in Nepal, which concentrate 81% of the national population, register higher levels of poverty and malnutrition. 27% of the population in rural areas lives below poverty line compared to 16% in urban areas. According to the FAO, the average yearly household income for a Nepalese household working in agriculture, livestock, or fishery is $900. If agriculture provides a livelihood to almost two-thirds of the population, it only contributes to 26 % of Nepal’s GDP due to low productivity. Moreover, women are more impacted as a larger proportion of women (86%) are represented in the Nepalese agricultural workforce compared to men (52%). Agriculture in Nepal is characterized by relatively low yields compared to neighboring countries. Most Nepalese farms are very small farms, in average 0.5 ha (FAO). These smallholder farms tend to yield more than larger Nepalese farms, but compared to Western yields per hectare, they yield much less (FAO): with the degradation of land due to the use of chemical fertilizers and other agri-chemicals encouraged by the government, the lack of irrigation and access to knowledge of new sustainable techniques, these smallholder farmers are becoming increasingly vulnerable. Farmers have limited access to quality seeds, new technologies, loans and market opportunities: for example, more than 72% of farmers are more than 30 minutes away from to the nearest agriculture market in Saptari. In addition to this, Nepal is considered one of the countries that contributes the least to global warming but which is the most exposed to its consequences. As a result, agriculture is becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate change, leading to food insecurity. Nepal has already experienced changes in temperature and precipitation at a faster rate than the global average. Change in rainfall pattern, insufficient water supply for crops, extreme weather incidents, spread of pests and crop disease have been directly affecting agricultural crops production and hence the food security. About 41% of Nepalese children under 5 are stunted, while 29% are underweight and 11% suffer from wasting due to acute malnutrition. Farmers try to adapt their farm infrastructure to be more resilient and yield more, but the required investments, as small may they be, remain inaccessible to them.
At the same time, in 2015, the government introduced a new Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS) along with its indicated National Determined Contributions in 2016 (iNDCs, a document written under the United Nations Framework for Climate Change) in favor of organic farming. Also according to the consumer survey that we have run in January 2019 with our local partners (537 households surveyed), demand for organic food is increasing quickly and other studies convene that consumers are ready to pay more to access healthier food.
But there are many challenges that remain to enable smallholder farmers to grab the opportunity of this new market: farm productivity must increase, supply chain from rural zone to cities must be developed, regular food stock availability must be guaranteed, organic certification needs to be developed. To do this, organic farming knowledge must be democratized and made accessible to the greatest number. Knowledge on techniques such as agroecology, permaculture… exists everywhere in and outside Nepal. Countless localized organic farming initiatives exist but the wheel keeps on being reinvented and knowledge of those that succeed in creating profitable businesses have little means of being shared with others. Creating a knowledge sharing platform dedicated to technology transfer between the best-in-class organic initiatives and an ecosystem of replicating smallholder farmers would represent a tremendous opportunity for persisting knowledge and accelerating the large scale betterment of Saptari smallholder farmers livelihoods. Yet another challenge is the difficulty for farmers to access the initial funding required to operate the switch from industrial to organic farming. Luckily, impact investment by Western individuals is a rising trend and many are looking for small projects to support through micro credit approaches. Funneling small investors on farms replicating a proven farm business model represents a powerful financial mechanism to fund Nepalese smallholder farmers.
After evaluating all of the strengths and deficiencies, needs and resources, we found Nepal to be a great place to implement the first of many Accelerator programs to come with our replication methodology- read more about our strategy here!
This article was co-written and created with the help of all the team members at Open Team.
- FAO: www.fao.org/3/a-i5251e.pdf
- Nepal Living Standard Survey, CBS : https://cbs.gov.np/wp-content/upLoads/2019/02/Nepal-in-Figures-2018.pdf
- Nepal Central Bureau of Statistics : https://cbs.gov.np/wp-content/upLoads/2019/02/Nepal-in-Figures-2018.pdf
- ADB: www.fao.org/nepal/fao-in-nepal/nepal-at-a-glance/en/
- World Bank: https://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports
- Nepal Central bureau of statistics : https://cbs.gov.np/wp-content/upLoads/2018/12/15-Saptari.pdf
- World Food Programme www1.wfp.org/countries/nepal