FAO earthquake emergency response helps empower women farmers in Nepal

FAO earthquake emergency response helps empower women farmers in Nepal

20/08/2016

Like thousands of other small-scale women farmers in Nepal, Mira Nepal, 31, has been slowly recovering from the loss and destruction caused by the powerful earthquakes that hit the country in 2015. FAO, as part of its long-term earthquake recovery and rehabilitation efforts in Nepal, is providing agricultural inputs and technical training to farmers so they can produce food and earn income again, giving priority to women’s groups and female-headed households.

“This is the first time I have ever received official training on how to plant tomatoes and other vegetables properly,” said Mira, who was one of 1,200 women farmers trained by FAO on how to build plastic tunnels for growing vegetables in the off-season. “Before, I did not know about the planting pattern, amount of water, sunlight and fertilizers I had to use.”

She had lost her sizeable cucumber crop during the earthquake, and with it some much anticipated income for her family. But thanks to FAO support, Mira and her family received seed to grow nine different vegetable varieties, rice paddy, wheat and maize. And with the tunnel farming, which protects crops from adverse weather, they can grow vegetables year-round.

Mira made around USD 200 by selling tomatoes grown in one of the plastic tunnels. That “was a huge addition to my family income,” she said, especially after the meagre sales from the previous season. She intends to plant cucumbers and zucchini next. She was also trained by FAO on how to operate a mini-tiller, which she used to prep her rice fields for planting. “We already have two tractors of our own that we rent out for some extra income,” she said. “The mini-tiller provided by FAO is used by the members of the local farmers’ group, but we are the custodians for it.”

Phul Kumari BK, 44, is a single mother supporting her family of four. Her livestock – a cow, two calves and two goats – supply her family’s dairy needs. After the earthquakes, she received grain and vegetable seed from FAO as well as animal feed and a mineral and vitamin mixture to help keep her animals healthy. She also benefited from the rehabilitation of a small-scale irrigation scheme supported by FAO that supplies water to her farm.

“Receiving seeds from FAO was useful in the crisis situation,” she said. “I was happy that I did not have to borrow money at that time.” Thanks to the training and materials provided by FAO to construct plastic tunnels, she was able to pull in extra income by growing tomatoes and other vegetables again. Despite the hardships, she is still able to send her daughter to school. Her local farmers’ cooperative also received a mini-tiller from FAO, which was a relief she said because “hiring oxen every time is about USD 20. But the cost of renting the mini-tiller is substantially lower.” She will receive training from FAO on how to operate and maintain the machine.

Another beneficiary of FAO support is Bal Kumari Khatri, 31. For her, belonging to a farmers’ cooperative has had various benefits. She no longer has to borrow money from individuals, she said, but can now take out loans from the cooperative “at a much lower interest rate”. She also received maize seed from FAO and participated in various FAO trainings, which “developed my confidence more and I am able to share the household decision-making as well”.

FAO’s Earthquake Emergency Response Programme in Nepal has supported 1.5 million people. The programme follows stringent guidelines to ensure gender equality as well as accountability to affected populations, encouraging equal participation of women in its capacity development activities – from training on tunnel farming to the making of urea molasses mineral blocks, a supplement that provides livestock with minerals, vitamins and other nutrients.