The village population of Nepal meets a number of challenges when they seek to make a living. In high-mountain Humla, where the Development Fund works, the only access to the external world is by plane – if the weather is good, which it often is not. This drives up prices for imported goods, and means that export to other parts of Nepal is, to put it mildly, a challenge. In Humla, the distances between villages are also formidable, and most places can only be reached by foot. In these days, however, new possibilities are opening up, since a mountain road is being built that will allow transport of goods over greater distances, all the way to Tibet. To strengthen the market position of villagers, it is important that there exist good connections between producers and markets. The Development Fund has long experience supporting and strengthening cooperatives, where farmers organize themselves in order to offer their wares at the price and quality that the market seeks. In Humla, as in other parts of Nepal, the Development Fund supports cooperatives that are able to meet the challenges that a new road or market offers. In addition, we maintain a strong focus on keeping market activities inclusive, and to strengthen the opportunities for women and marginalized groups to participate actively in decisions and in the economic sphere.
Cooperatives in Nepal differ. Some are pure agricultural cooperatives as we know them from Norway, while others have additional functions and include savings and loan systems, where members pool their savings. This gives opportunities to invest in a small, local store, start as a local tailor or engage in animal husbandry. In Nepal, we have, inter alia, contributed to starting up a milk cooperative, which sells ice cream and cheese, a seed cooperative and a cooperative that produces cream caramels for sale. Click here to see a short film about the cream caramel cooperative.
Production and sale of seeds
Farmers involved in seed production have increased their income by selling seed to local seed banks. They also get better prices for their products. This is both because plant refinement gives better food plants and increased crops, and because marketing and access to local markets make it easier for them to sell their products. The seed banks have been particularly successful in Nepal. Documentation from local Nepalese seed banks show that some farmers make several hundred thousand rupees a year. Farmers who have used the seed banks report production increases, particularly in rice crops. It is the local community that keeps track of local agricultural varieties, and the groups themselves that build, own and manage the seed banks. This secures access to seed in bad times. They also have a small fund that may be used when investments are necessary to secure access to good food plants. The market for quality seed in in Nepal is good, since Nepal in a net importer of seed. Several of the seed banks now sell seed not only to local farmers, but also in neighboring regions, to seed retailers and to the authorities. However, they are also challenged by imports of cheap hybrid seed from India, with which Nepal shares a long common border.
Young people in Nepal, particularly in the poorest areas, often seek to escape from rural conditions. Many travel to countries such as India, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to make an income that may contribute to the family’s household economy, since there are few opportunities in the countryside. This, however, empties the countryside of its strong, young workforce, and when you visit these villages you are met by mothers, children and the elderly, who remain with the responsibility for furthering the welfare of the village. While the income made abroad may contribute substantially to the family’s economy, it often does not live up to expectations. Local newspapers regularly cover stories of human rights violations. With better opportunities locally, many would have opted to stay. Vocational training, geared to the needs of local agriculture, is essential for creating more opportunities locally. The Development Fund seeks to support young people by offering education in practical and technical subjects, and securing internships and contact with potential employers. Training is given in how to formulate business plans, set up budgets and keep accounts, as well as in general marketing.
Examples of results
- 55,586 households had, in the period from 2012 to 2016, increased their average income level through the project – in West Nepal by 50 percent, in East Nepal by 117 percent.