Despite the introduction of new technologies, small farmers in many parts of Nepal have been unable to reap the benefits from many development programs. Realizing the gap of technical information, Practical Action Nepal launched technical information services, which offered practical information on a range of development issues under its global program, Practical Answers.
Based in different parts of Nepal, the Technical Enquiry Service Centers have been providing information to anyone working in poverty reduction, or on small-scale technology projects, where local experts offer service free of charge.
As information is power, the information centers have proved a boon to change the livelihood of the marginalized farmers of Nepal, equipping them with the knowledge and information they require about their agriculture systems.
With many other subsistence farmers, Shaligram Neupane, 49, of Madi, Chitwan, realized how knowledge and information sharing can support the drive to maximize the profit. Shaligram practiced the same traditional method of farming for generations and was struggling to keep his vegetable farming profitable and make ends meet for his family of seven.
For many years, he encountered various challenges in farming and suffered losses due to plant infections and diseases. In spite of working very hard, he was unable to make profit. Once he visited the Technical Enquiry Service Center and secured information from the Gardi Community Library and Resource Centre in his locality, everything has changed for him ever since.
Shaligram Neuapne is not alone in benefitting from the program. Many other farmers living in remote parts of Nepal are getting a range of information, from weather reports, to markets, and use of pesticide, seeds and plant diseases.
The Practical Answers program within the library helps the local farmers by answering their queries on agriculture and livelihood through interaction programs, radio and video shows, focus group discussions, sharing knowledge materials and training.
For so long, farmers did not know what to do when there was disease in plants and what to do with markets that were not immediately. Establishment of the centers paved the way for many farmers like Shaligram to find a place where they could go and seek the answer to their problems.
“We have been running technical enquiry services to provide information to the farmers. As Practical Action works in technology and we implement various programs related to technology, what we are doing now is disseminating the knowledge accumulated by us for the benefit of poor and marginalized farmers as much as possible under our Practical Answers program,” said Upendra Shrestha, Head of Program Funding and Communications, at Practical Action, South Asia .
“This service is available in all Practical Action offices which provide diverse information and knowledge materials. It is online globally. However, it is available through public libraries in Nepal. Practical Answers Nepal modality includes knowledge intelligence, we produce the knowledge use for local context, then we have knowledge preparation and finally its dissemination through various channels. We do knowledge dissemination through inquiry and facilitators,” said Shrestha.
Sharing knowledge and experiences helps a lot of farmers like Shaligram, who applied his newly gained knowledge to his cauliflower farming. His farm flourished gradually. This year, Shaligram invested NPR 35,000 (£217) to grow cauliflower in one acre of land and has already earned NPR 70,000 (£434) by selling cauliflowers.
“The Practical Answers has played a great role in my success. There are various useful materials related with agriculture in the library and interaction programs. Agriculture experts also help us solve the problems,” says Shaligram.
“We are working on partnership with REED which supports the establishment of community libraries. We support building Practical Answers in the community libraries in 22 different places,” said Shrestha.
Practical Action’s Contribution in Nepal
Starting work in Nepal in 1979, Practical Action signed the General Agreement with Social Welfare Council in 1998. From a few projects of the early days, Practical Action got more focused on leveraging large scale change that contributes to poverty reduction, technology justice and sustainable wellbeing for all.
“The program launched by Practical Action has been supporting Nepal in its target to improve the livelihood of people through the use of appropriate technologies. The government acknowledges their contribution particularly in micro-hydro, gravity rope, renewable energy and many other sectors,” said Gopi Mainali, Joint Secretary of National Planning Commission.
Practical Action is committed to poverty alleviation in Nepal by providing appropriate technology in a sustainable way by bringing sound technical knowledge and global experience to the field of appropriate technology development.
With the rugged terrain and hostile geographical condition, rural access is a major problem in Nepal. Following the establishment of gravity Ropeways in various parts of Nepal, rural livelihood has changed drastically.
Although there has been some stagnation in the development of large-scale ropeways, small-scale systems are economically feasible in Nepal.
“Ministry of Women and Children and Social Welfare always encourages INGOs like Practical Action, which has always been focusing its program in the rural areas bringing new technology and information to enhance the capacity of poor and marginalized farmers,” the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare (who???) told New Spotlight. “Practical Action has shown the sectors of importance for Nepal and others have to learn from it.”
Started in 1988 by the Intermediate Technology Development Group – ITDG, now known as Practical Action, was also instrumental in setting up a National Forum for Rural Transport and Development, under the International Forum for Rural Transport and Development (IFRTD) umbrella.
Small is Beautiful
As 2016 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Practical Action, which was founded in 1966 by economist and philosopher Fritz Schumacher, the author of “Small is Beautiful", poor and marginalized farmers of many least developed countries like Nepal have benefited from it.
Established with the objective of reducing poverty through the wider use of appropriate technologies in the developing world, Schumacher believed strongly that technology could play an important role in lifting people out of poverty.
The strategy focused on four areas of work in particular where Practical Action has recognized expertise in the areas like access to energy, sustainable access to modern energy services for all by 2030.
Other specialized areas include agriculture, markets and food security, urban waste, water and sanitation, improved access to drinking water and Disaster Risk Reduction.
“This year, we were able to give more priority to inclusion and gender issues by reaching out to greater percentage of women, children and marginalized people through our projects,” writes Achyut Luitel, Regional Director of Practical Action, in Practical Action annual report of year 2014-15.
“We were able to enhance integration between and among our program areas considering the comparative advantage and good practices in each of the program areas. Our enquiry based knowledge service - Practical Answers is being integrated as an integral part in three of our major projects. We have started working in newer geographical areas, particularly in the eastern part of the country based on our previous success.
“It is worthwhile to mention our response to massive earthquake that happened on 25 April with numerous aftershocks, though this report covers work done until the end of March 2015. Practical Action is not a relief organization. However, it was ethical for us to support the people and communities in one of the hardest times of their lives. In consultation with the District Disaster Risks Coordination Committees of Gorkha and Dhading, we provided relief materials to all the households of seven Village Development Committees. We plan to support the earthquake affected people to ‘Build Back Better’ by helping them to understand the building codes, earthquake resilient technologies and provide direct support through our strategic interventions in agriculture, markets, energy and so on,” said Luitel.
“Studies and our own experiences have shown that the low cost technologies are more sustainable. They have small and homogenous users. Hence, all the users have equal say in decision making and the distribution of water is more or less equitable. This ensures more ownership towards the technologies which help to improve their sustainability,” writes Rabindra Bahadur Singh of Practical Action.
As a testimony, marginalized farmers like Shaligram have demonstrated that sharing information on technology can benefit farmers to uplift their livelihood.