Bill Brower is a Field Program Officer with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout South and Southeast Asia. On April 24th he visited communities involved in ASHA Nepal’s sustainable agriculture projects. His “Postcard” from the visit:
The overarching goal for ASHA Nepal’s projects, including the sustainable agriculture training, is the empowerment of women in families and communities. If the mindset of the daughters of the women involved in the program can be taken as any indication, ASHA Nepal seems to be succeeding. I met with two sets of women in neighboring communities, representatives of the five women groups in the Okharpauwa area. At each I came across a young woman who seemed unlikely to put up with being pushed around.
Barsha Phuyal, an eighth grader who heads up an environment and health club at her school (see her describe it in the link below), proudly told me, in impressively good English, that she wanted to be a lawyer when she grows up. I asked her why. She replied, “There are so many in this country who are in darkness, and I want to help bring them light. I want to change my country,” with a sincerity and determination in her eye that made me think she just might.
At the end of the meeting with the second group a kilometer up the road, women of the Tamang ethnic group speaking a different language than their neighbors, Nabina Phuyal (actually from the first community but of no relation to Barsha) read a poem she’d written in Nepali about the importance of women in society and how women need to fight for their equal rights.
The husbands, initially skeptical, are also coming around to the benefits of the women’s group and their pursuit of organic agriculture and other economic activities. According to the women and verified by one of the husbands, at first the husbands thought the women were just pretending to be busy by going to the meetings. But once they saw money coming in from what their wives were doing, they were OK with it.
In neither group were the women using 100% organic practices, but it sounded like they were transitioning in that direction. In the first group, one woman estimated that 25% of the women were mostly organic, using chemical inputs on a small portion of crops that they wanted to sell in the normal market (where appearance is king). In the other, the chairwoman of the group said all use some organic methods but none of the women use no chemical fertilizer or pesticide. She said synthetic fertilizer use had been cut about 50%. The group said the primary reason they adopted organic practices was the health benefits associated with fewer chemicals. They also mentioned that it was better for the soil and reducing chemical usage saved them money.
We visited several of the women’s homes and they showed off their organic practices. All of the ones I saw were collecting urine from their livestock for fertilizer and pesticide, collecting and saving seeds and collecting wastewater. I also saw one family composting. The women in the attached picture are showing us the pesticide they make from urine and herbs—many of which were growing just meters away. They said this pesticide was more useful than the chemical variety since it didn’t discolor their cauliflower and other crops. The tank shown is enough for 1 hectare, so three families share in its production and use.
ASHA Nepal is a small organization but seems to be having a big impact in the lives of the communities they’re involved in. Thank you for supporting their efforts!
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IDEX Latin America Program Director