© Simrika Sharma / WWF Nepal
In neighboring Bara district, Kanchi Maya Dhalan grappled with a similar problem. A residence of Ratanpuri village, Kanchi Maya relied on water from a small gorge for farming to support her family of eight. While the water from this source was adequate for her needs, the problem was having to walk to the source and back for water. She and the rest of the villagers lacked the resource as well as to channel the water to their lands.
These villages in Parsa and Bara districts fall within Nepal’s fragile Churia region – the outermost hill range spreading from the east to the west of Nepal. Inhabited mostly by farmers, the ecology of the region is under constant pressure from deforestation, over-grazing, land conversion, inappropriate agricultural practices, and encroachment. A primary impact is on water availability and sustainable land management thereby directly affecting the livelihoods of local people such as Jagat and Kanchi Maya.
Until two years ago, Jagat, like his fellow villagers, had planted tobacco in his farmland. His annual harvest provided him with an income of Rs. 10,000 (USD 100) which was insufficient to cover his household expenses especially to afford his children’s education for which he used to take loans.
Kanchi Maya, on the other hand, was relatively a little better off with an annual farming income of Rs. 25,000 (USD 250). However, she had her own set of problems as water from the gorge contained significant amount of sand which was deteriorating the fertility of her land, and the rainfall was also erratic.
For Jagat and Kanchi Maya whose lives were bound by a common concern, it was but a matter of time for change to happen for them for the better.
In 2014, WWF with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) introduced a project, Sustainable Land Management in the Churia Region, in Makawanpur, Parsa, Bara and Rautahat districts of Central Nepal. The project also brought together for the first time four ministries of Nepal – Ministry of Land Reform and Management, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Ministry of Agricultural Development and Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment – under a common objective.
Within a short span of three years, the project brought about tangible benefits for the local people such as Jagat and Kanchi Maya.
In Parsa, Jagat along with 11 households of Nirmalbasti were supported with micro-irrigation facilities for the efficient use of water for irrigation in extremely dry areas. Jagat participated in a training on micro-irrigation techniques and agricultural practices and received equipment for a drip irrigation system in his farm land. This system helped Jagat to make an efficiently use of the available water resource. Through the same source that he used in the past Jagat could now harvest seasonal crops thrice a year. His household income grew extraordinarily with earnings of Rs. 90,000 (USD 900) in a season. As an added benefit, the micro irrigation system also aided on increasing the productivity of the soil.