Lok Bahadur Ghale of ward no 4 of Dharapani Village Development Committee of Manang District, 200 kilometers west of Capital Kathmandu, has a reason to rejoice as his Manang Rainbow Trout Farm has started to produce trouts from this year.
“My farm proved wrong a myth that Manang cannot grow fish,” said Ghale with pride. Situated at over 1650 meters high land, with warmer climate compared to other parts of the district, Dharapani has a proper climate for trout. “I want to show to the farmers in the district that the trout farm is a game changer to improve the livelihood,” said Ghale. “With the number of tourists increasing here, the demand of fish has drastically increased. I am unable to fulfill the demand.”
By producing organic vegetables, Karma Sereap Wangchu Lama has shown that there is a possibility to produce organic vegetables in the high land of Manang. With altitude of 3600 meter, Karma’s Manang Organic Vegetable Production Industry of Bhraka Village of Manang District has started production this year. Completed just a month back, the industry is expected to produce the vegetable worth over Rs. 800,000.00 a year from next year.
“There is a market for my products in the area. I am producing cauliflower, onion, garlic, vegetables and tomato, cabbage and radish,” said Karma. With three Greenhouses equipped with irrigation pipe, Manang Organic Vegetable Production Industry is among the well-equipped farms of Manang.
With three regular staff, the farm provides employment opportunity to 30 men a month. “Once our farm starts full operation, more people of the village will get the employment opportunity.”
"As for now, we are targeting tourists; monastery and local market of Manang and district headquarter Chame. Our aim is to sell vegetable even as far as Lamjung,” said Karma.
As most of the projects are small and medium scale, Agro Manang Pvt. Ltd of Bhratang of Pisang VDC, is one of the biggest farms with a total investment of Rs. 422, 99,965, with grantee’s contribution at Rs. 197, 99,987.
Run by Yubaraj Gurung, the farm will produce 1800 tons of apple annually. They are targeting the market of Kathmandu, Pokhara and other big cities of terai region for their fresh apple.
With a bad road condition, Yuba raj’s farm may have a very difficult time when they start to grow the apple in full capacity from next year. Unlike small farms, which always faced problems even in small shocks, Yuba Raj’s farm is well planned, with the plat exported from Italy and Slovenia.
“I don’t see any problems for market. Our apple will create a brand for itself with fresh taste. The need is there for a wider road to carry more load,” said Lama. “We are very much grateful to Himali project which helped us to modernize the farm, which is currently employing over 100 people.”
Raju Gurung, owner of Manang Yak Cheese Industry of Tanki Manang Village Development Company, is taking the most difficult venture under Chauri Husbandry sub-project.
Despite high demand of Yak Cheese with its worldwide branding, Nepal’s Yak cheese is gradually vanishing and Manang is no exception. Raju Gurung’s venture is there to revive the brand with a total cost of Rs.24, 74,570.000, with grantees contribution at Rs.494, 194.00.
Due to heavy snow two years ago, many Chauris died. “For my products, there is a high demand in Kathmandu and other parts of the country. However, I am unable to fulfill the demand,” said Gurung. “With the establishment of the Cheese factory, farmers will be lured to raise Chauri.”
These are among 26 projects in the district selected following the review of 66 projects. “Our support to these projects helps to transform the rural life providing employment and income generating activities as well as developing a sense of entrepreneurship,” said Arun Rana, senior program officer NRM, ADB project officer for Himali and JFR. “These projects help to identify projects in the high mountain region with competitive advantage.”
Implemented from 1 May 2011 and set to conclude on 30 April 2017, HIMALI project has established itself as a model project to identify the competitive products of hilly remote regions and end poverty.
With an aim to improve incomes in selected High Mountain areas, the project has made mountain agribusiness commercially viable. As it is close to completion, the project is expected to result in an additional 20 million dollar gross production value, per year, 7500 jobs created by participating enterprises and participating business enterprises achieving a rate of return on investment of no less than 15 percent per annum by 2017.
The project also aims to improve mountain community’s resilience to climate change by supporting the implementation of elements of community climate change adaptation action plan and community forestry and rangeland group action plants for timber, grazing, and medicinal plants collection.
With a total cost of 30.23 million dollars, the Asian Development Grant is 20 million, beneficiaries 5.71 million dollar and government 4.52 million dollar.
According to a report of HIMALI project office, the total project cost is Rs.58, 91,734.000. Project’s contribution is Rs. 42.28, 484.000 and Ghale’s contribution is Rs. 1663250.000. The project has already distributed Rs.35, 7087.000.
Along with Manang, the project is implemented in Sankhuwasabha, Solukhumbu, Dolakha, Rasuwa, Mustang, Dolpa, Jumla, Mugu and Humla. According to the report, 640 projects have already contracted with 1143.15 million rupees. Out of this, Himali Grant is 837.26 million, proponent contribution is Rs.305.89 and grant reimbursed is 536.26 million rupees.
In Manang alone, there are 26 projects. The projects include Sheep and Goat Husbandry, apple production, rainbow trout, Yak Cheese production, Sheep Husbandry, Yak/ Chauri husbandry, Chyangra Husbandry, Vegetable cultivation, Agro Tourism, Goat Husbandry, Onion cultivation. Out of 26 projects, eleven related Yak and Chauri husbandry, two rainbow trout, four vegetables farm, one apple, one agro tourism, 3 Chyangra husbandries and reaming are goat husbandry.
As Manang’s elevation is higher, livestock particularly rearing yak and Chauri as well as Chyangra and goat is the main stay of livelihood. These products have competitive advantages as well.
In the last five years, the project worked to improve food security, rural livelihoods, employment opportunities and agriculture income. According to the project, commercialization of agriculture is key to bring the change in the livelihood of people.
Despite the disadvantages of transport due to mountains, the regions have many competitive advantages as well. The mountain can produce certain traditional high value products like wool, certified seeds, off season vegetables, dairy, meat, medicinal and aromatic plan products.
In the first two months of production, Ghale has already sold 900 KG trouts. With the starting of fish in full capacity, Ghale is expecting to see full return on his investment within three years. With the annual production capacity of 15000 KG, the farm is targeting the tourists and local population.
“With the participation of the people, this project aims to eradicate poverty in the mountain region. What we found is that this project has made a significant progress,” said Dr. Bimal Kumar Nirmal, Deputy Director General of Department of Livestock and Project director.
Although such a huge money is spent in Manang under HIMALI project, the rate of return is yet to be known. Despite heavy investment in the Chauri and Yak, the district is yet to produce enough Yak Cheese. Farmers are worried about the declining number of Chauris and Yaks.
“As the number of Chauris is dwindling, it will have a greater impact in the livelihood of people. Thus, we are focusing more on Yak and Chauri,” said Nirmal.
Out of 13 Village Development Committees of Manang, only three VDCs are under elevation of 2600 meters, including Chame. All other are over 3000 meters, going up to 7400 meter high. With the total population of 6538, Manang is one of the remote parts of Nepal.
“Livestock is the main profession of a majority of farmers. Along with vegetables, our focus is on livestock. This is what is reflected in the Himali Project as well,” said Ram Milan Prasad Biswokarma, head of Agriculture Development Office Manang. "Himali project is able to achieve the target.”
With wide ownership from district administrative office to the community, HIMALI has been able to bring the changes. However, there are complaints as well. People see the project as discriminatory in the sense that it provides free loan to some individuals while ignoring others.
With the warming weather, there will be intense rain and harsh winter. Nepal’s high Himalayas and mountains will have to face severe crisis. As temperature is warming, Manang has already faced extreme events. Two years ago, dozens of Yak and Chauris died because of heavy snow.
“The project selected by Himali project is also directed to address the issue of climate change in the district,” said Bishwokarma.
Supported by Asian Development Bank, HIMALI project has shown that it is possible for donors, government offices and community together to fight the common challenges in poverty alleviation of the country, marketing the 'comparative advantage' products of the remote districts.
Reporting from Manang