Fostering Sustainable and Resilient Agriculture through Agroecology Initiatives at the Local Level

ForestAction Nepal organized a half-day interactive workshop at the Ichhakamana Rural Municipality (RM) office in Kurintar, Chitwan, on April 29, 2024. The workshop was attended by key stakeholders, including the Chief of the District Coordination Committee, Chitwan, lead organic farmers from the Organic Farmers Federation Chitwan, Chair, Vice Chair, and Ward Chairpersons, agricultural technicians, and local farmers of Ichhakamana RM.

The main objective of this workshop was to discuss the need for and importance of agroecological farming and to emphasize the role and responsibilities of the rural municipality in supporting farmers in transitioning towards sustainable and resilient agriculture.

Participants engaged in fruitful discussions, sharing their experiences and insights on current farming practices and the potentials and challenges of agroecological farming. However, the key stakeholders expressed their strong support for promoting agroecological farming.

The Chairperson of the Ichhakamana RM committed to allocating resources and budget for promoting and implementing agroecological farming practices within the community in the upcoming fiscal year. Furthermore, collaborative efforts were also discussed, including training programs, demonstration plots, and capacity-building activities to empower farmers with the knowledge and skills to adopt sustainable agricultural practices.

This workshop marked a significant step towards fostering sustainable and resilient agriculture through agroecology initiatives at the local level, laying the foundation for a more sustainable and resilient farming future in Ichhakamana.

Co-creating agroecology roadmap

ForestAction Nepal organized an interactive program on “Co-creating agroecology roadmap” at Nepal Academy, Kamaladi, Kathmandu on 14th April, 2024. The key speakers in the program were Bharat Mansata, a renowned writer, natural activist, and founder of Vanvadi, a collective forest regenerative initiative, Malvika Solanki, an experienced permaculture designer and practitioner from India, Dr. Pitambar Sharma, a former professor of Geography in Tribhuvan University and Dr. Meena Paudel, sociologist, researcher and activist. The program was attended by government actors, academics, civil society actors, farmers, activists, media personnel, and students.

Major concerns presented in the program

– The energy-intensive agricultural sector is adversely affecting the environment by contributing to biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions.

– Today’s food production is deficient in nutrients due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

– The declining water table level in the soil is leading to a growing water shortage.

– Treating soil as living is one of the main principles of natural farming.

– Women are primarily engaged in labor within agriculture, while decision-making remains predominantly in the hands of men residing overseas.

– Agricultural markets are not women-friendly.

– Women are traditional nurtures of seeds who play a huge role in saving and selecting seeds.

– The low productivity of crops in Nepal is driving outmigration as it fails to meet the basic needs of families.

– There is a huge gap between agro-based economy and non-agro-based economy.

 

Training on Agroecology and Permaculture Design and Practice

ForestAction Nepal organized and facilitated a six-day training session on agroecology and permaculture design and practice in Vyas, Tanahu, from April 6th to 11th, 2024. The training had a total of 20 participants and was led by primary instructors Bharat Mansata, a renowned writer, natural activist, and founder of Vanvadi, a collective forest regenerative initiative, and Malvika Solanki, an experienced permaculture designer and practitioner from India.

The training methodology integrated various learning approaches, such as presentations, interactive discussions, group works and hands-on field exercises. The training was divided into two modules, with the focus on essential topics in the first module. These topics included the introduction and significance of regenerative agroecology, the value of traditional practices and bio-cultural knowledge, fundamental principles of soil and water conservation, and water harvesting systems. The training also covered Bhaskar Save’s natural/organic farming approach. Participants were introduced to permaculture principles, ethics, and design methods like functional analysis, sector analysis, and zone analysis.

Practical techniques on seed saving, re-afforesting watersheds, integrated pest management techniques, and urban food gardening strategies were discussed during the training sessions. The training also emphasized community-centric approaches to increase socio-ecological awareness and promote collective action.

Additionally, engaging activities were incorporated into the practical sessions to provide hands-on learning experiences for the participants. These activities included landscape reading (a foundational component of permaculture design, where participants learn to observe and analyze the natural features and patterns of a landscape), contour line mapping (by understanding the contour lines, participants can design water harvesting systems, terraces, and swales that help slow down water runoff, prevent erosion, and promote efficient water distribution across the landscape) and composting demonstrations. These engaging activities not only provided valuable hands-on experience for the participants but also reinforced the theoretical concepts discussed during the training sessions.

On the final day, a detailed review and reflection session was conducted to assess the overall training experience. The participants shared their insights, learnings, challenges, and positive takeaways from the training. Participants were also assigned tasks to be completed before the next module of the training, which is scheduled for mid-September 2024.

Overall, the participants left the training with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and commitment to applying agroecology and permaculture principles in their own practices. They were eager to continue their learning journey and contribute to building more sustainable and resilient food systems in their regions.

National Sharing Workshop on Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions

The National Sharing Workshop on Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions held in Kathmandu, marked the culmination of a 30-month project. Throughout its journey, the initiative empowered over 240 rural marginalized women entrepreneurs, fostering their economic, social, and technological capacities through diverse training sessions and capacity-building activities. Despite facing challenges, the project persevered and successfully achieved its objectives.

The workshop aimed to:

– Facilitate Knowledge Sharing: Disseminate project insights, best practices, and lessons learned to stakeholders.

– Celebrate Achievements: Commemorate the accomplishments and contributions of entrepreneurs, stakeholders, and the project team.

– Reflect and Evaluate: Assess project outcomes, identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.

– Disseminate Results: Share the project’s findings with a broader audience through presentations and case studies, inspiring similar initiatives.

Diverse stakeholders, including representatives from the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, consortium partners like AFFON, FenFit, HIMAWANTI, as well as NGOs and INGOs, actively participated. Their engagement enriched discussions, providing valuable feedback and fostering a supportive environment.

A key topic, led by Kanchan Lama, the Principal Investigator, provided an overview of the project, highlighting objectives, study areas, and the operation of 11 different enterprise models, resulting in 18 forest-based enterprises, nine of which were officially registered. Collaboration with government and non-government entities was emphasized.

Major project interventions, including women empowerment initiatives, forest management training, exposure visits, and climate-resilient leadership training, were explained. The project’s involvement in Gender Just and Climate Financing discussions, as well as its contribution to policy formulation in international conferences, was underscored. Robust knowledge dissemination strategies were highlighted to enhance stakeholders’ understanding of the challenges and successes faced by marginalized women entrepreneurs.

The workshop concluded with a shared vision of promoting sustainable economic empowerment and resilience among women entrepreneurs in forest communities. In his closing remarks, Rahul Karki echoed a widespread perception that understanding community forests requires research or visiting Nepal. He also envisioned a future where women-owned forest-based enterprises attract global attention as exemplars of sustainable practices.

Empowering smallholder farmers through the promotion of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS)

ForestAction Nepal has been collaborating with the Organic Farmers Federation Chitwan (OFFC), a group of prominent organic farmers in Chitwan, to promote agroecology over the past few years.

A crucial component of this agroecology promotion campaign is the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), an alternative and reliable certification process designed for smallholder farmers. PGS involves a group of farmers collectively establishing and implementing their own quality assurance system based on active participation, transparency, and mutual trust. This system not only offers a more affordable and accessible organic certification option for small-scale producers but also strengthens local community networks and promotes sustainable agriculture practices. Overall, PGS empowers smallholder farmers by enabling them to demonstrate the quality and authenticity of their products in the market.

In line with the goal of promoting the PGS system among smallholder farmers, ForestAction Nepal organized a half-day interactive session on March 21, 2024, at the District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) in Bharatpur, Chitwan, to discuss the promotion of the PGS through the formation of a PGS committee at the municipal level. The session was attended by OFFC farmers, municipal-level agricultural technicians, and the head of DADO. The discussion focused on the opportunities presented by PGS and the challenges that need to be addressed in expanding the PGS committee at the municipal level.

 

Second Module of Immersion Course on Madesh for Social Transformation

ForestAction Nepal/ AAF in collaboration with Centre for Educational Policies and Practices (CEPP) and Nepal Madesh Foundation (NEMAF) jointly organized and facilitated the second series of “Immersion Course on Madesh for Social Transformation ”. Five -day long training session was successfully completed in Lalghad leprosy hospital, Dhanusha from 1318 March 2024 with a total number of 17 participants. The training approach incorporated a mix of different learning techniques, such as PowerPoint slides, engaging discussions, collaborative group activities, and informational videos.

Throughout this series, the central focus was on environmental issues, with participants delving into the complexities of our current environmental challenges. Participants explored critical questions concerning the world’s ecosystems, the delicate balance of the atmosphere and carbon cycle, fluctuations in the water table, and their interrelation with climate patterns. Various individuals from different fields, including environmental activists, teachers, international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), government officials and Members of Parliament shared their personal experiences and stories of overcoming challenges to achieve success. During the session, participants were also provided with essential life skills, including first aid education and techniques. There were extensive discussions on reproductive health knowledge, covering a wide range of topics. Basic methods for data analyzing and conducting Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) were discussed during the session, how locally available resources can be used as tools to analyze data.

In conclusion, participants departed from the training equipped with a deeper understanding of the problems and challenges surrounding environmental issues.

“Bilaudai Hiude Jhari”: Losing the winter rain

The reliance on fossil fuel extraction, exploitation of nature, and monoculture farming systems based on synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides has led to an escalation in greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, there has been a rise in atmospheric temperatures, accompanied by erratic rainfall patterns. This shift in the annual precipitation cycle, notably with reduced winter rainfall, has profoundly impacted agricultural practices.

To address these pressing concerns, an informal discussion was convened by the Alliance of Agriculture for Food (AAF) in collaboration with Chitwan Kachahari on second of February 2024, in Chitwan. Approximately 20 participants, including experts in climate science, sustainable agriculture, local and national media journalists, and organic farmers, were present.

Dr. Jiwan Kshetry initiated the discussion by highlighting the climate crisis and the changing rainfall patterns, citing the INSO Index. He underscored the alarming increase in temperatures and its correlation with precipitation. Over the past 23 years (2000 to 2023), there has been a significant temperature rise of 1.48 percent. Dr. Kshetry illustrated the devastating impact of such changes, citing the floods in Sikkim last year and attributing these shifts to phenomena like El Niño.

Activist Dr. Krishna Prasad Paudel emphasized that over 50 percent of Nepali farmers still depend on rainfall for agriculture. However, changing precipitation patterns, particularly the absence of winter rainfall, pose a grave threat, potentially leading to severe food crises and increased migration. Dr. Paudel advocated for systemic changes in agriculture to address these challenges.

Chandra Prasad Adhikari, a 66-year-old organic farmer, lamented the disappearance of winter rainfall, which was beneficial for farming. He recounted the struggles faced by farmers, including the drying up of maize crops in Chitwan due to drought. Adhikari stressed the importance of conserving local seeds and traditional agricultural knowledge as essential components of climate-resilient agriculture.

Dr. Ishwari Prasad Kadria, a professor at the Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU) in Rampur, highlighted the adverse effects of temperature increase on both agriculture and livestock. He noted a rise in cattle infertility and the dwindling of water sources in mountainous regions, which has negatively impacted animal husbandry. Dr. Kadria advocated for the promotion of improved varieties of local seeds and knowledge to mitigate these effects.

Similarly, Dr. Himal Luitel, another professor at AFU, pointed out the escalating cancer rates attributed to increased consumption of chemical-laden food products. He raised concerns about the theoretical focus of agricultural education, advocating for a shift towards more practical, skills-based training.

The discussion concluded with participants like Sagar Karki, Sarita Tiwari, and Pratima Silwal expressing their concerns regarding food security and climate change, underscoring the need for collaborative action and sustainable solutions.