As agriculture productivity continues to decline in the midst of poor market linkages, the far western region is facing a greater threat in terms of food security and nutrition. Practical Action-Nepal has stepped in here with a project, Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture for Nutrition and Food Security (POSANFS), to contribute to food security and nutrition in four far western districts, Achaam, Bajhang, Bajura and Doti.
With the financial support of the European Union, the project is targeting 7,000 households, including 20 percent dalits and 50 percent women of the four districts. “The overall objective of the action is to contribute to enhance regional food and nutritional security articulated in the periodic and multi sector nutrition plan of the Government of Nepal. The specific objective is to improve food and nutritional security of 7,000 food insecure households in project districts,” said Sujan Piya Ph.D, head of the program (see Interview).
Although this is just a small project, it will have larger implications in the region within three years of its implementation. From focusing on the increase in the productivity to linking the rural areas to the market, the project also aims to enhance the capability of government and other stakeholders of the districts.
“After the completion of the project, the production will double and farmers income will also double,” said Piya. “After the initial interactions with the local communities and stakeholders, I see a lot of potential to bring changes in the region."
Studies have shown that the average productivity of agriculture in far west is the lowest compared to other regions and the level of commercialization is also very poor with no agriculture produce linked to the urban market centers.
As higher levels of food insecurity exist in the rural areas, Practical Action Nepal, in its new strategic period (2012-17), has put more emphasis on improving agricultural productivity and commercialization. It is giving priority to 13 food insecure districts of mid and far-western development regions. The program gives priority to women farmers for improved agricultural production and marketing to achieve sustainable reduction in hunger and malnutrition.
As Practical Action Nepal cannot do the project alone, it is working in collaboration with a number of stakeholders, including government institutions, I/NGOs, private sectors, community groups, researchers and members of the academia.
Although Nepal made drastic achievements in reducing poverty from 30.85% in 2003/04 to 25.16% in 2010/11, far-west has the highest level of poverty with 46% of the population living below the national poverty line. Geographically, out of 75 districts, 40 are food deficit and among them, 13 districts in mid and far western hills and mountains are most severely short of food.
After the completion of the project, it will at least double the agriculture production in the four districts, making them food secure region.
Despite several efforts of the past, far western agriculture is still subsistence based and people have to migrate to India for seasonal work to meet their food requirement. With the increase in the productivity in the areas like goat rearing, vegetable and spice crops, it will contribute to improve the nutritional status of women, children and vulnerable groups as well as averting food crisis.
Although this is just a small project to make demonstrative effects in the region, it also has plans to enhance the capacity of local non-state actors to constructively engage with local government for sustaining the project outcome.
Within the last five months, the project has already completed some programs including four district level inception workshops in each project district, Doti, Achham, Bajhang and Bajura. It also completed the cluster level inception workshop. A total of 323 groups are identified to initiate project intervention.
Participatory Market Mapping Workshop was conducted in each of the clusters in each of the project districts. The activity consisted of market analysis (Core market chain actors, Business Service Providers and Enabling Environment), validation, constraints and opportunity analysis and development of joint vision and action plan. A PMM map was validated during the workshop and a bird eye vision of current production and marketing practices for three sub-sectors (Vegetable, Spice and Goat) were identified. Moreover, a tentative production plan was sketched based on the information provided by participants.