Going organic for a sustainable future in Kavre, Nepal
Kavre district, in the mid-hills of Nepal, produces large quantities of fresh vegetables which are supplied to the capital Kathmandu. Due to extreme weather conditions, water scarcity, and inconsistent yields, farmers in the district have resorted to excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. However, they soon discovered that this practice did more harm than good. Due to the high chemical residue, vegetable markets, and vendors in Kathmandubanned the sale of vegetables from Kavre. The farmers realized the need for more ecofriendly, local alternatives to the chemical fertilizers and pesticides in order to produce healthy, nutritious food while maintaining soil health and nutrients.
Smallholder mountain farmers, particularly in the hilly regions have limited cultivable lands and face changing climate conditions. Erratic rain and snowfall, recurring droughts, and the overall increase in temperature, have reduced farm productivity and impacted farming communities. To compensate, farmers have started using excessive chemical fertilizers and pesticides to increase yields. Over time, this haphazard use depletes soil fertility, further reducing farm productivity, while the chemical residue-loaded crops and vegetables harms those who consume it.
Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation, and science, benefitting both the community and the environment. There is great potential for organic agriculture in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) countries. Yet, despite growing demand for the region’s organic produce in the national and international markets, farmers face several challenges while adopting organic agriculture.
- Implementation sites:
- Single country
- Single location
- Mountain region:
- Hindu Kush Himalaya
- Solution scale:
- Sub-national / Regional
- Ecosystem type(s):
- Agricultural land
- Solution type(s):
- Education and awareness
- Land use practice
- Climate impact(s) addressed:
- Altered growing seasons
- Heat stress
- Impact time-scales:
- Slow Onset
- Economic benefits (e.g. job creation
- Environmental benefits (e.g. biodiversity preservation
- food security)
- water security
- Implementation timeline:
- 2018 - 2022
- Sendai targets:
Main beneficiaries & outcomes
- In 2019, the Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED) – an ICIMOD partner – conducted on-farm research trials in Kavre District, Nepal, to study the efficacy of jholmal use. The study showed a significant increase in bitter gourd yield compared with the yield obtained through conventional farming practice. Similarly, fruit infestation was lower using Jholmal, compared with applying conventional practices.
- In 2019, farmers cultivated vegetable crops in 42 ropanis (21,367.08 m2) of land without applying any chemical fertilisers. Selling their harvest of vegetables, member families of the selected villages will earn at least NPR 35,000, while some members will earn as much as NPR 110,000.
- It is also a women-friendly solution. As women are usually tasked with the daily management of livestock (including the cleaning of animal sheds), the improvement of animal sheds reduces women’s workload. Further, the relatively minimal inputs and simple preparation methods for jholmal lend women more control in farming and financial decisions.
- Furthermore, the sustainable and organic farming practices being implemented will improve the health of local communities by reducing the consumption of chemical residue.
- Another positive outcome of this solution, is that CEAPRED has received additional independent funding to promote similar practices in other sites. The concept of the Resilient Mountain Village, which includes organic agricultural practices, is also being promoted in regional member countries across the HKH which will hopefully spread the use of organic farming as a strategy to adapt to the changing climate as well as to produce food that is safe to eat.
Planning and implementation
The solution draws upon different sustainable technologies and land use practices:
- This takes a holistic approach to farming, focusing on sustainably increasing agricultural production. By adopting organic agriculture practices, farmers can use locally available materials to improve soil fertility, manage pests and produce healthy food crops at lower costs.
Bio-fertilisers and manures:
- An excellent example of the effectiveness of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides is the success of jholmal. Jholmal is a bio-fertilizer that can be prepared at home by mixing and fermenting locally available materials in a defined ratio. Farmers can use water, animal urine, farmyard manure and specific plants, all available locally and at a much lower cost than chemical substitutes, to prepare jholmal. Jholmal improves crop yields by controlling insects and pests, protecting crops against fungal and vector-borne diseases, and improving overall plant health. The use of jholmal was successfully piloted at several villages in three Village Development Committees (VDCs) in Kavre District.
- Collection of animal urine is a must to prepare jholmal. It is therefore important to construct an improved animal shed with a smooth, gently sloping floor to drain the urine into a gutter, which is channelled into a urine collection tank. The shed can be constructed using local materials like wooden planks and red soil or cement.
- Bio-fertilizers such as Jeebamrut and vermicompost, made by recycling bio-degradable waste and animal dung, naturally replenish fertility of the soil. They also increase the microbial activity of the soil, providing more of the essential nutrients and micronutrients for plant growth and productivity.
Insect trap solutions:
- To control specific insects, farmers can use a variety of traps instead of chemical insecticides. Whiteflies (Trialeurodes vaporariorum), aphids (Aphidoidea), tobacco hairy caterpillar (Spodoptera litura) and cucurbit fruit fly (Bactrocera cucurbitae) can be controlled using such traps.
Irrigation and water-related solutions:
- Farmers can also make use of different affordable techniques to cultivate plants throughout the year. Farmers can cover the soil with paddy straw to retain moisture and control weeds during the dry season by using the mulching technique.
- Similarly, drip irrigation can save water by applying water directly to the root zone of the plants.
- Water conservation tanks and ponds can help store wastewater and harvest rainwater to be used during dry spells.
- Farmers can use plastic tunnels to create low-cost greenhouses to grow off-seasonal vegetables. Similarly, they can use plastic trays and nylon nets over seedlings to reduce insect damage.
- Farmers can also cover plants and seedlings with clear plastic and use heat from the sunlight to control insects in the soil through solarization.
This solution centres around innovative, eco-friendly technologies, such as homemade bio-fertiliser and insect traps, that are being combined with traditional farming knowledge to foster organic farming practices.
Capacities for design and implementation
Organic agriculture incorporates traditional knowledge of the farmers in combination with modern scientific methodologies. Since traditional farming practices in the region are default organic agriculture practices, farmers can adapt to the new and improved organic farming practices quickly. Practices such as adopting bio-fertilizer and manure, use of insect traps, and irrigation and water conservation techniques can help shift farmers towards more sustainable and resilient farming.
The Government of Nepal has been a key player in supporting and upscaling the solution. For example, one of its packages involves distributing jholmal to 14 other districts in Nepal.
Outlook & Scalability
Potential for upscaling and replication
With the demonstrated efficacy of jholmal in the Kavre pilot sites, this nature-based solution has been scaled out in Sindhuli, Sindhupalchowk, Salyan, Dadeldhura, Rasuwa, and Udayapur districts of Nepal and in Haa and Tsirang districts of Bhutan. The Kavre site is being developed by ICIMOD and its partners as a regional learning and knowledge-sharing hub. Several exposure visits have been organized to Kavre for national and international stakeholders to learn about simple and low-cost nature-based solutions. The Government of Nepal has scaled up these technologies and interventions to climate-smart villages in 41 municipalities across the country