ASHA Nepal

To improve the health, livelihood, education and socioeconomic status of the children and the community as a whole through: sustainable management of resources; capacity building for groups and individuals; institutionalization and advocacy for sustainable agriculture, food security, and social development.
Jun 4, 2008

June 2008 Update

As part of ASHA’s sustainable agriculture program they train women on how to make manure, collect animal urine, make herbal insecticides. They are given seeds and fruit saplings for their kitchen gardens. ASHA motivates them by sponsoring a vegetable exhibition twice a year at harvest time. The women bring their crops and a panel of judges (including ASHA staff and group leaders) decides which ones are the best. The winners from each group receive a prize (a trowel and watering can) and share their tips for good crop growing with the other women.

Many of the women were using pesticides and chemical fertilizers before joining the group. While it is true that they may have lower yields the first few years after switching to organics, the lower input costs make up for the lost income. Also, previously each woman had to travel to Kathmandu on her own to market her produce to an intermediary. Now, ASHA has helped find a vendor who comes to the village to buy the crops. By selling together, the women are able to get a better price than before, and they save the cost of travel to Kathmandu.

Mar 6, 2008

March 2008 Update

In January 2008 Yael Falicov, IDEX’s Director of Programs, met with the 70 members of three of ASHA women’s groups in Okarpauwa municipality, a hilly area about 45 minutes northwest of Kathmandu. This is her report from that meeting.

Most people here, like the majority of Nepalis, are subsistence farmers. Some had walked for two hours to come to the meeting.

They greeted us sitting in a circle on mats in the mud-baked patio of a woman's home. The women spoke at length about the improvements to their crop yields they have achieved with sustainable agriculture training provided by ASHA, and the links to the market they have made as a group. They can sell collectively in bulk more effectively than trying to sell the 5 or 10 pounds each one produces separately. And now, for the first time, a vendor comes up the road every week to collect the crops, where before they would have to trek to the city to sell at the market.

Some of the women brought out their seeds and showed me how they have learned to protect them from moths by using jars lined with local herbs and ash, whereas before they hung them in handkerchiefs which would get eaten by the moths. Through more effective seed saving, they keep funds previously used to travel to the city and buy seeds at the market. Similarly, they told me how they used to buy insecticides, even though they couldn't read the directions on the bottles. Now they know how to use herbal preparations to fight common pests, and they are happy that their children eat pesticide-free.

In addition to the agriculture activities, each group has started a small savings and loan fund. The women each give a put 75 cents a month into the fund. This money is used to provide loans to members to improve their income. Each group currently has a savings fund of $500 - $1000. This is entirely from their own earnings, so they owe no institution or moneylender. They use the fund to take out three-month loans to buy a goat, or pay school fees, or lease land. When I asked they said it hasn't been hard for them to both collect their savings quota and pay back their loans. They have learned to plan ahead, but if they fall short one month they might go work for a few hours as a wage laborer, or borrow the amount from a friend or two.

With support from ASHA professionals, the women went to the municipal office for the first time to present a proposal handwritten on their official community letterhead requesting support for the construction of the stall, which will double as their group meeting space and area to receive visitors. Thanks to this effort, the municipality has pledged 10,000 Rupees (about US$150) towards the construction.

Dec 13, 2007

December 2007 Update

Fruit cultivation training and support ASHA is currently promoting food security by providing training in sustainable fruit cultivation. The women participating in this training live in an area that is favorable to the production of sub tropical fruits and thus, ASHA has developed a training program to encourage the production of fruits such as pomegranate, mandarin orange, sweet orange and lemon.

ASHA’s training consisted of bringing in knowledgeable farmers on fruit cultivation to share and exchange existing information, knowledge and skills to produce fruits in this area. In addition to the fruit cultivation training, ASHA provided fruit saplings to members of Jalukeni and Jaleshwori women groups. In total 44 women participated in this training.