Local vegetation easing lives during COVID crisis

“It was only after the vegetable farming, I realized it is possible to run a family by cultivating vegetables,” said Basudev, happily showing the tomatoes growing inside the tunnel. Basudev Adhikari, 33, lives in Ditar of ward no. 3 in Ajirkot Rural Municipality which is about 60 kms far from the district headquarters of Gorkha district. It takes two hours of walk to reach his home from Bachhek Bazar, head quarter of Ajirkot. Living with his wife and children, Basudev carries the responsibility to provide for them.

Basudev’s family was included in the “elderly and poor vulnerable” category in 2019 after knowing their difficult economic situation. Following the inclusion, his family had the prospect to choose various livelihood opportunities provided through Purnima project, a UK aid funded programme which is managed by Mott MacDonald. Through Purnima’s Leave No One Behind component, implemented by PHASE Nepal in Gorkha, Basudev became part of livelihood support programme. Though he had heard about commercial vegetation, he had little information about elevating it. “I planted some vegetables for consumption and distribution amongst neighbors, but I was unknown about vegetable business,” says Basudev.

Through Purnima project, Adhikari took part in two-day training on commercial vegetable farming where he learned about seasonal and off seasonal vegetables, high value vegetables, practical methods of nursery making, insects and disease control methods, and practical bio-pesticide and compost manure making methods. After training on seasonal and non-seasonal farming, he felt empowered to start cultivating vegetables on half a ropani of land where he has now planted tomatoes, cucumbers, sponge-gourds and beans. Basudev and his wife has been working hard to sell the produced vegetables to the local market. He now has a good knowledge of how to make a vegetable nursery and maintain by applying household pesticides. Basudev takes the vegetables from his village to the local market and even to Ilampokhari, Tadi in the neighboring district of Lamjung. He has been able to earn decent income from it.

Through his hard work and dedication, Basudev had earned Rs 30,000 from the seeds distributed earlier in 2019. He had sold carrots, radishes, coriander, cauliflower and onions then. In the second phase of vegetable farming he grew cucumbers and tomatoes inside plastic tunnel. So far, 300 kg of cucumbers have been sold at the rate of Rs 50 per kg, and 350 kgs of tomatoes at the rate of 60 to 80, yielding 40,000 Nepali rupees. According to him, about 200 kgs of tomatoes are yet to be harvested.  The unpaved road from his village collapsed during the rainy season and the vehicles could not run. Due to COVID-19 crisis leading to lockdown in many parts of the country including Basudev’s village, he had to sell his vegetables by foot. The money earned through vegetation is now used for the household expenses.  His savings are also used for more business approaches. Basudev who was distressed by the death of his elderly grandmother last January, is now feeling content with the outcome of vegetable business.

Even during the times of COVID-19 and lockdown situation, vulnerable community members like Basudev were followed up through telephone and provided technical guidance about nursery and plantation.  Field staff got a chance to visit his vegetable farming and provide further guidance and IPM (Insect and Pest Management) tools for better outcome, following lift of lockdown.

“I am now able to run my household smoothly and trying to be financially strong,” says Basudev. His name is taken as an example and many farmers like him have turned to business, earning a decent living from the hard work and support received through Purnima program.

“Purnima’s Leave No One Behind program is encouraging the use of organic pesticides and organic manure which helps very poor and vulnerable households to start vegetables farming business,” says vice president of Ajirkot rural municipality Mrs. Chandra Maya Gurung. It has also become the part of agriculture development strategy, she adds. The Ajirkot Municipality has started discouraging the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture by emphasizing on the use of organic pesticides and organic fertilizers which has made it easier for everyone like Basudev to engage in organic vegetable farming and compete with others. In running Fiscal Year 2077/78 BS, the Rural municipality has allocated Rs. 1 million for the construction of a model agricultural center building in Bhachchek. In the coming years, policies and programs will be brought to emphasize on the marketing of agricultural produce. This will help small entrepreneurs based in the rural municipality area to continue and expand their business with the hope of market linkage inside and outside the district.”

Case study and photo by Sarita Shrestha