Climate-smart agriculture in the Himalayas – An innovative green business model for food security and poverty reduction of mountainous communities of Nepal

ANSAB has envisioned a concept of Ecosystem-based Commercial Agriculture (ECA) with the goal of transforming conventional farm and forestry practices into climate smart and prestigious business. A climate smart ECA system, as envisioned by ANSAB, increases the production and productivity in a sustainable way; improves the resilience of agro-ecosystems and people to climate change; reduces/removes green house gases; and attract youths and make it socially prestigious generating better remuneration. ECA focuses on agriculture production and marketing of products and services in an ecologically sustainable, economically competitive, and socially justifiable manner. Initiated in early 2010s, the ECA program has been implemented in various geographical settings in Nepal.

Building on the good results and best practices gained and the market outlets identified through the ECA initiative in Nepal, this concept was replicated in Bajura district from 2015 to 2016 in partnership with Mission East and ICCO Cooperation that implemented climate smart agriculture model for food security and poverty reduction of the mountainous rural communities. With this initiation, two solar power irrigation systems have been installed in Bandhu and Wai VDCs of Bajura, which have helped over 350 households to cultivate food, vegetables and commercial crops in over 100 ha of previous abandoned land. It is the first of its kind in the country lifting water for irrigation purpose with such high water demand, demonstrating irrigation potential in difficult geographical and socio-economic settings that are vulnerable to the impacts of changing climate. With the irrigation facility, the local communities have started cultivation of cereals and vegetables for home consumption and selling at local market, and test production of vegetable seeds, contributing towards food security and cash income generation at the community level. It also developed the community-private partnership agribusiness model with the establishment of five producer groups, two community level enterprises, and a national level company as a lead firm. These enterprises are capacitated with group management and account keeping along with the development of business plan and irrigation management plan. Although this community-private partnership agribusiness model is still under development, specific enterprise options – production of wheat, tomato, lentil, cauliflower and other vegetables for home consumption; commercial production of wheat for selling at local market and vegetable seeds for export to international market were identified as feasible options and profitable to the potential entrepreneurs through rapid assessment of prospective end markets focusing on organic products.

As the involvement of community along with district and local level government stakeholders and NGOs in the program is necessary to continue the best practices showed by the project, the project closely worked with the local level government and civil society organizations towards the sustainability of the initiative. After the termination of the project, local communities have already received funding support of NRs. 600,000 from Wai VDC for the construction of a reservoir at the higher elevation to irrigate more area of land, and from the District Soil Conservation Office (DSCO) for the building of irrigation canal in Bandhu VDC. The initiative in these two communities of Bajura district, one of the most remote and geographical difficult terrain, shows that the agribusiness model that ANSAB tested in different regions with provision of appropriate capacity, inputs, tools and practices is effective in terms of food and income security to the rural community.

Acknowledging the initiative as the successful community driven climate change adaptation initiative that have potential for scaling to reach more people and larger areas in Nepal, it received the Adaptation at Scale Protsahan Prize funded by the Department for International Development-UK in December 2016.