FAO-EU partnership

Nepal: doubling the yield

A farmer meets his family's needs

With training on rice intensification and the provision of seed and fertilizers, a smallholder farmer from Kailali district in far-western Nepal, has more than doubled his yield and generated an income.

In past years, Mr Upadhya was obliged to migrate in search of employment as his 0.16 hectare plot of land failed to produce enough to meet his family’s basic needs.

Working as a porter or watchman in India, he returned to his village with just enough money to transplant his rice seedlings. To support his family, Mr Upadhya had to borrow money from his landlord.

Less is more

In 2009, the European Union (EU) channeled € 8 million through FAO to assist small-scale farmers in Nepal as part of the EU Food Facility, the EU’s EUR 1 billion response to the global food price crisis of 2007/2008.

FAO distributed certified rice seeds, mineral fertilizer and organic manure to over 100 000 Nepalese farmers and trained them on the system of rice intensification, a method that increases productivity by changing common rice farming practices producing more rice with fewer farm inputs.

“With rice intensification, less produces more,” said Xavier Bouan, FAO project manager, “It requires a smaller amount of water, seed, fertilizer and plant protection products than conventional methods, yet has the ability to double rice yields.”

A difficult start

Mr Upadhya was aware of improved rice cultivation practices, but had never had the opportunity to learn about them as agriculture service centres were too far away. Under the EU Food Facility a farmer field school was established close to his village and Mr Upadhya proposed that his own field be used as a demonstration plot.

Initially the field caused much frustration. Neighbours questioned the new farming practices, such as the transplantation of seedlings into wider spaces, and accused Mr Upadhya of exposing his family to starvation. But after 15 days of transplanting, when the first weeding was completed with a weeder machine, the rice started growing at a rapid pace.

“I have never seen such numerous shoots grow from a single seedling,” said Mr Upadhya.

Mr Upadhya has more than doubled his harvest to nearly 1 500 kg of rice. He is happy not to have to migrate this year in search of work and has persuaded others in his village to remain and cultivate rice using the new intensification practices.

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