Basu Raj Kadariya, a progressive farmer from the Chitikhola village in the Tanahun district of Nepal, has faced many ups and downs in farming. Kadariya and other farmers once cultivated their lands to produce a handful of grains, limited to feeding their families for a few months out of the year. However, limited irrigation, poor technology and lack of labor contributed to the decline in cereals productions in the terraces of Chitikhola. Insufficient cereals production forced farmers to search for new avenues of income generation and livelihoods.
Meanwhile, farmers pursued new a source of income through commercial orange farming, which was well suited to the mountains and cool environment of the area. Commercial orange farming was initiated in 1989 and soon flourished throughout the village. The economy of these farmers was solely dependent upon orange trees, which were the only source of income generation for much of the village. As the farmers were moving towards prosperity, a devastating disease known as Citrus Decline devastated the crop, and orange farming came to an abrupt end by the end of 2010. Citrus decline not only destroyed this major source of livelihood but also devastated the living landscape.
Again, farmers were left with nothing more than a struggle with dead a landscape. Poor farmers begin to search for new jobs in cities to earn their livelihood, and Kadariya sought help from government bodies that offered little support for their huge loss. However, the innovations and creativity of Kadariya helped to sketch the beginnings of a resilient farming system to restore the dead landscape and local economy. With resilience in mind, small changes were being made in the farming system, such as integration of livestock, sustainable use of the nearby forests, crop diversification and beekeeping.
Introduction of resilient farming systems
The integration of livestock into Nepalese mountain farming systems was crucial, as it provides insurance for crop failure. Small livestock—like goats—have great potential in the presence of nutritious fodders found in the bunds of terraces grown to prevent erosion in the local landscape. For poor farmers, goats are affordable and a good source of income. Keeping livestock also provides organic manures, which are important inputs for growing diversified crops. Depending upon the single crop of cereals and oranges led to the devastation of their livelihoods in the past, and farmers now recognize that crop diversification is crucial for reviving their landscape. Different vegetables—like cucumber and tomato—can be grown year round, which provides new and more consistent income from crop diversification. The maximum utilization of local resources and botanical pesticides is practiced to grow and protect these crops from insects and pests.
Vegetable production is just one of many ways this community is working to improve their natural landscapes and livelihoods. Local community forests also have an immense potential for providing firewood, animal fodder, nectar for bees and timber for shiitake mushroom cultivation, which has a high nutritional, medicinal and market value. Beekeeping was a very small-scale, traditional job in the area until Kadariya started to commercialize it with the introduction of modern beehives. Now, he has also started commercial rearing of local poultry and fish farming to contribute to local resilience.
These practices, initiated by Kadariya and his family, are now adopted by numerous farmers with the advice from Kadariya himself. And, for the interested farmers, Kadariya has developed his farm as a learning center where farmers can learn new farming techniques and new technologies using the “seeing-is-believing” and “learn-by-doing” approach. This resilient and diversified farming model is reviving the landscape of Chitikhola village of Nepal.Sandesh Timilsina teaches at the Karnali Technical School in Jumla, Nepal as a teacher of ISC Ag (intermediate level agriculture science).