Dear donors, greetings from the Scale School staff in Paris and Nepal
First of all we hope this finds you well. The whole world has been so badly struck by the coronavirus we definitely hope you made your way through and that are your dear ones made their way through.
In France, the past 6 months were supposed to be very active for the team, to scale up our farming activities in Nepal. The team was supposed to go to Nepal in February to meet the government, the FAO, the World Bank, the National Federation of Indigenous People, a few municipalities and other partner civil society organizations. The goal was to propose to fund a larger number of farmers directly by converting a small fraction of the 191 million dollars1 spent by the government from 2009 to 2016 in subsides for chemical fertilizers, into buying the Scale School starting kits, thus helping hundreds of new farmers to switch their farm to sustainable farming practices.
This lobbying work is for the moment put in standby and we have no idea when the coronavirus will let us resume our work.
Coronavirus in Nepal
Indeed, Nepal’s current exposure to coronavirus, although less intense (to this date), than in western countries, is quite fragile as hospitals are obviously less equipped with critical material and procedures needed to welcome population at risk. In addition to that, people now tend to feel like the lockdown is no longer bearable and start risking to resume their daily activities because they need to work to survive.
Sudarshan’s farm is again showing great signs of resilience. With his production of veggies, eggs and chickens, he can live for himself and provide food to nearby villagers who only rely on livestock, and who thus need to run from doors to doors begging for the rare farmers with stock to agree to sell them or give them their own production.
Improving the yield at the farm
At Sudarshan’s farm, we had planned an ambitious plan to increase the yield of his farm by setting up a so called “experimental plot”. This plot is made of 3 fields concatenated together, to form a global area of 900m². We had planned on setting up 25 standardized raised beds of 25m length each, so as to facilitate the setup of normalized farming equipment (covers, irrigation system, greenhouse,).
But here too, the coronavirus has slowed down the work heavily. 6 workers were supposed to come do the land preparation work (the raised beds). But because of the coronavirus, no workers could move anymore. Manpower was inexistent. Sudarshan ended up deciding to start it by himself (in addition to all the work that occupy each of his days very intensely). It takes about 2 hours of a very harsh work under a heavy sun and exhausting temperatures to prepare one bed of 25m. He did 4 beds himself before he could finally find 1 qualified worker (not everybody is qualified) wanting to work alone to finish up the 21 beds left.
In typical bio intensive organic farms, this work is automatized by using a specific tool attached to a motor engine. The engine runs into pathways (alleys were you walk to fetch the vegetables), scratch the top surface of the soil, and throws it on top of the bed, on the side. This is a way of putting fresh, uncompact soil on top of the old bed. Such a tool is quite expensive (7000+$) but meaningful in a context of a highly mutualized cooperative of farmers sharing one engine in a village of hundreds of farmers. Most importantly : it is not used for tillage ! This is a coming investment we plan on doing at Sudarshan’s network of farms in Saptari, to ease the pain of next farmers. Doing this manually on 900m² is painful, but doing it on the 8000m² of Sudarshan’s total farm can seem like a impossible task to do.
Today, we are the 3rd June 2020, and 3 beds are still left to be done. The pictures provided show you the field before and the field after the raised beds have been created.
Distributing the food to the markets
During this time, we have also defined a global crop plan for Sudarshan experimental plot. We now have a precise list of plants he will be growing : Beans, Okra, Bitter gourd, radish, Carrot, Chili, coriander and tomatoe. This same crop plan will be grown also by our fellow 8 replicators who were trained by Sudarshan, so as to have some volume of food that we can collect and distribute to nearby big cities (Daran, Itahari, each 72km away). By coordinating the production of vegetables grown at other farms, we have a better estimation of the volume that will be produced, transported, sold, and as a consequence of the benefit for the farmers.
We are looking to establish a partnership with Tata Trucks, the biggest local Indian manufacturer of trucks, including electric trucks who are part of Nepalese National Determined Contributions (engagement that the government takes towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations, formalized initially in 2015, and supposed to be reviewed this year at COP26 in Glasgow). The goal is to promote clean transportation means and to set up a sponsorship with Tata Trucks.
Although the coronavirus has globally stopped any kind of physical interactions, the success of the first batch of trained farmers is starting to spread and we now have 7 new farmers interested to start the program, in addition to the former 8 replicators. We also have high interest of a new district to launch a new training center.
Hopefully, it will be possible to resume the lobbying work in Nepal that will help us drive more financial support from authorities on the work we are doing.
Next investments: the irrigation system
During this time, we still have strong investments needs and we definitely DO NEED your support if you want to continue supporting us. The next important investment is the setup of the complete irrigation system at Sudarshan‘s farm, that will enable him to integrate drip irrigation. There is no way a bio-intensive organic farm can be run without having such systems setup, otherwise, you would end up spending your days watering adequately each bed.
The estimated total cost of the irrigation system arounds 600$, but any excess fundings will enable us to fund additional starting kits (385$ each). If you want to sponsor a farmer and support him or her in the switch from conventional to bio-intensive organic farming, that’s what it takes. If you don’t remember what’s in the farmer’s kit, you can view it again at the following link : https://www.openteam.co/2019/11/03/the-micro-credit-program-of-open-team/
We will provide you very soon with an additional report presenting more in detail the structure of the irrigation system.
All the team joins its warm gratitude for your support and messages,
Stay safe and we hope to hear from you too, don’t hesitate to send us some of your news.