Farmer Sita Neupane is the talk of the town this summer. Ms Neupane earned a whopping NPR 70,000, selling cucumbers from her vegetable patch that roughly spans 375 square metres. And, she did it all without using any chemical pesticides on her vegetable farm in Naubise, Mahadevstan-7 of Kavre Palanchowk District, Nepal. Ms Neupane attributes her success solely to Jholmal – a homemade bio-fertiliser and bio-pesticide.
Naubise, like many other villages in Kavre, is known for a high incidence of pesticide use. As with many mountain farmers across the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, farmers here own small land parcels, rely heavily on chemical pesticides, and have limited knowledge about integrated pest management (IPM). A dry spell hit Kavre, last year. No rain fell in September, and the largely agricultural district suffered from high water scarcity.
Jholmal is one of many technologies introduced by the Center for Environment and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) under their pilot on resilient mountain villages (RMV) . In response to farmers’ demands for an alternative to chemical pesticides, ICIMOD and CEAPRED rolled out different interventions for adoption across four pilot sites in Kavre in late 2014. These interventions are modular, affordable technologies that can help smallholder farmers like Ms Neupane adapt to climate change and help build resilient agriculture systems. They are demonstrated in partnership with lead farmers across the pilot sites. Ms Neupane, an active member of Janajagriti IPM group, is one such lead farmer. Among the many different trainings that she had access to, she believes that the application of Jholmal combined with straw mulches yield the most optimal output. Mulch provides a cost effective solution to check water evaporation, and retain soil moisture.
Ms Neupane sprayed Jholmal on her ‘Bhaktapur Locals’ — a cultivar of cucumber highly sought after by vegetable vendors – for up to five times over a three month planting period. She irrigated them with water from the plastic pond, set up for waste water collection, next to her vegetable patch. In spite of the long dry spell in Kavre, the straw mulches she applied, saved her cucumber vines from drying up.
She managed to grow 1,400 kilograms (kg) of chemical free cucumbers over the summer. She consumed some, gifted some to her neighbours and sold the rest. Owing to the higher demand for cucumbers in markets across Banepa and Kathmandu, she sold her batch of cucumbers for upwards of NPR 70 per kg.
An elated Ms Neupane confided, ‘These smart practices helped me farm better, and added to my income. People now recognise me for my actions’.