Chhepi's fields are green again

A project on ”climate-smart” agriculture has created optimism in a village in Western Nepal. With solar-powered water pumps the local farmers can irrigate and cultivate their fields. In December, Mission East’s local partner organisation received an award for the project.

By Kim Wiesener, Communications Officer

Only a few years ago, the fields on the mountain slopes around the village Chhepi were desolate and barren. Now the local farmers grow a variety of crops: barley, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, pumpkins and watermelons. After decades of involuntary pause due to drought and a lack of opportunities for irrigation, the 170 households of the village can now harvest their own vegetables.

This is all thanks to the project “Climate-smart farming in the Himalaya”, which Mission East has conducted in cooperation with its local partner ANSAB (Asia Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioresources). This network promotes sustainable agriculture in South Asia. In December 2016, ANSAB received the “Adaptation at Scale Protsahan award” for the project.

The award is given to initiatives in innovative community driven climate change adaptation that have potential for expanding to reach more people and larger areas in Nepal. It is funded by DFID-UK (the British Department for International Development). On behalf of the organisation, ANSAB’s Programs Director, Mr. Puspa L. Ghimire, received the award and a cash prize of GBP 10,000 from Nepal’s Minister for Population and Environment Mr. Jay Dev Joshi. The award recognises ANSAB’s effort to create sustainable climate adaptation in the poor mountain areas of Nepal.

Far to travel for petrol

A large part of the project was to install – with the labour force of the local population – solar powered water pumps transporting water from the Karnali River to the mountain slopes of Chhepi. The use of solar power is both very practical and environmentally sustainable.

“Pumps that operates from petroleum products are unsuitable in remote villages like Chhepi where locals have to walk for days to reach the nearest gas station. Also, the purchase of petroleum for irrigation is not beneficial from a cost/benefit perspective for the poor farmers. For a more sustainable approach, we supported zero energy water pumps that utilizes solar energy,” Ram Shankar Dwibedi from ANSAB explains. 

As part of the project the local farmers have also been trained to make better use of their land. Together with the training, the irrigation has led to a significant improvement of living standards in the village. Before the residents got almost no yield from their fields, because no rain was falling and they did not have access to irrigation. Many were forced to move to bigger cities or even travel to India to make a living, and not everybody could afford sending their children to school.

Selling vegetables in the local market

Only six months after the installation of the water pumps, the village residents could harvest their first crops on the fields of Chhepi.

According to one of the local farmers, Dharma Lal Pandey, “now the crops and vegetables grown on this land are surplus for us, so we can sell it in the local market. The irrigation system has brought happiness in our family and raised our hope.”

Apart from installing water pumps and providing training in intensive farming, the project team also assisted the farmers in planning their long-term work and creating a pool of funds so they have the resources to maintain and repair the water pumps and solar panels. In this way, the project in Chhepi will be sustainable far into the future.