At a time when everyone is talking about big infrastructure projects for progress, the 'Small Is Beautiful' vision as championed by British Economist E. F. Schumacher has proven to be the right approach for Nepal.
Practical Action, which was established fifty years ago to promote the idea of making small and beautiful interventions, has already transformed the livelihood of millions of poor and marginalized people of Asia and Africa. Nepal is benefitting from the idea, too.
Although Practical Action Nepal has been working in various development sectors, introducing appropriate technologies to uplift the life of rural poor and marginalized communities, the technologies in the agriculture sector have had immense impacts and effects on farm livelihood.
At a time when Nepalese farmers are faced with declining production, Practical Action Nepal has shown the way out of the problem: Technology in agriculture.
Participants at a half-day workshop on Technology Promotion in Agriculture shared this success story. Chaired by Achyut Luitel , regional director, Practical Action South Asia, the workshop heard the presentation of three papers shared on the basis of experiences learned by Practical Action.
The presentation included integrated rice-duck pilot project, powering enterprises through converting cattle manure into electricity biogas electrification, barsha pump: An innovative and sustainable irrigation pump for smallholders and increasing access to market through gravity goods ropeways.
These technologies have proved that their introduction can bring substantial change in the livelihood of the users. Although some of these are pilot projects, the results of the projects have revealed that they can be replicated in other areas.
One of the highly successful projects of Practical Action is increasing access to market though gravity goods ropeways. Since 2001, Practical Action has installed more than 25 ropeways in various parts of the country.
Since Practical Action’s gravity ropeways produced better results, the government has started to replicate the technology. “The GGR is successful because the ropeways have reduced goods transportation time and cost by 70 percent. Most encouraging about the GGR is that the production of cash crops, mainly the vegetables, has doubled within two years of GGRs installation,” said Rabindra Bahadur Singh. "What I can say for sure is that the GGR can also improve the economic viability of the roads by increasing goods traffic to and from settlements."
According to an assessment study by Practical Action, GGRs have reduced goods transportation time and cost by 70 percent. With the impressive success in GGR, Practical Action is now installing some ropeways in Bhutan.
Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development have decided to replicate it under its rural roads project of Department of Local Infrastructure Development and Agricultural Roads (DoLIDAR). Similarly, Department of Agriculture Development has also taken the GGR as a component in integrated agriculture development.
At a time when farmers are unable to get proper price for their agriculture products due to lack of connectivity to market, the GGR can make a difference linking the market with little investment.
Manila Kharel presented the paper on learning from integrated rice-duck pilot project, which was implemented in Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts with financial support of Grand Challenges Canada since April 2014 till September 2015. “Rice-duck farming technology can increase in productivity of rice by 20 percent and net profit to the farmers by 50 percent,” said Mainali.
Along with the increase in the agriculture products, Practical Action is addressing malnutrition through the integrated rice-duck farming in Nepal in both the districts. “ Our project is working towards building the capacity of 1000 smallholder farmers to adopt the rice-duck farming technology in the implementing districts,” said Mainali. “During the project period, the project has enhanced capacity of farmers, local government institutions and value chain actors on rice-duck farming technology and marketing of duck meat.”
Although Nepal is a pioneer in bio-gas with the installation of over half a million units, it is still largely used for cooking purposes. At a time when the number of dairy products are going up and traditional bio-gas is popular, Practical Action’s experiment has shown that upgraded bio-gas plants can power enterprises through converting cattle manure into electricity .
As the shortage of energy to run milk collection centers and processing plants is one of the major constraints for the commercialization of the dairy sector, Practical Action has explored an innovative solution to the constraint within the sector.
“We have successfully piloted biogas electrification in Chitwan in Partnership with Annapurna Milk Producer Cooperative Society Limited. The electricity has been powering the dairy farm run by cooperatives,” said Dr Sujan Piya, head of Agriculture Division of Practical Action. “ Biogas is not a new technology, neither the biogas electrification. What is really new is the powering of the dairy industry with the biogas. There has been some modification in the conventional design of the biogas plant. As Nepal has been going through a severe power crisis, modification of plants can make a lot of difference in power supply.”
Currently the plant generates 33 kWh of electricity. The electricity is being used in fodder cutting, water pumping and exhaust fan operation, lighting and baking Khuwa. The excess gas goes for milk pasteurization.
As Nepal’s farmers have been facing the scarcity of irrigation facilities in rural Nepal, where the heavy cost is involved in the construction of irrigation canals, Barsha Pump, an innovative and sustainable irrigation pump for small holders, is the best answer.
Introduced by Practical Action, Barsha Pump is a hydro-powered irrigation pump utilizing the kinetic energy of flowing water of river or canal. The pump research, developed in the Netherlands, is installed in different geographic conditions of Nepal. From October 2014 to now, Practical Action has already installed four pumps in four different regions, including Syangja, Kathmandu and Kankai.
“The Barsha Pump works on the principles of spiral pumping mechanism. It is propelled by the flow of streaming water using the kinetic energy to pump part of the streaming water to higher located fields without the need for active mechanical parts to create the pumping action,” said Dr. Piya.
“After listening to the presentation, what I realized was that there is an immense possibility to work together with Practical Action. Department of Agriculture Development is ready to utilize the research of Practical Action,” said Yubak Dhoj GC, Director General of Department of Agriculture Development. "Rice-Duck, Gravity Goods Rope ways and Barsha Pump seem to be very useful for our farmers.”
Similarly, Dr. Suraj Pokharel of Ministry of Agriculture Development narrated how the use of Barsha Pump makes a difference in the livelihood of the people by increasing production. “The department is considering to use the pump in different remote parts of Nepal under farmer managed irrigation schemes."
Chief guest and former minister of Environment, Science and Technology Ganesh Shah held the view that Nepal needs to use more technology to enhance productivity. “ Practical Action is a proper institution to work to promote small but must appropriate technology.
From the chair, regional director Luitel assured the participants that Practical Action will do more research, collaborating with different ministries and universities.
“As part of the 50 years of celebrations, Practical Action has developed programs and support for research with Nepal Academy of Science and Technology,” said Luitel. "Our aim is to promote technology justice that includes the transfer of technology.”
With the presentation of the results of the pilot programs, Practical Action has shown that the new technology can make a lot difference to improve the livelihood of people. Justice to technology is basic for the overall development of the poor and marginalized communities.