Rural Development Programme
We at Nepal Fund think an integrated approach to problems at village level is the only way of achieving success. Such an integrated approach would tackle the following areas:
- Organic farming
- Organic husbandry
- Quality and quantity of water
- Sustainable energy
- Better schooling
- Preventive healthcare.
As all of these areas to which we wish to pay special attention are linked to one another, we need to approach them in an integrated way. For example: we can avoid felling trees currently needed for home fires that in smoke-filled ovens cause lung disease by using smokeless ovens. In this way we can counteract deforestation that lays the earth bare and vulnerable to flash flooding bringing with it soil erosion and meaning less crops can be grown. Or: regulated water supply of sufficiently high quality can lead to higher crop yields and less likelihood of disease. We could quote more examples but you get the picture.
Many areas of Nepal are characterised by a highly vulnerable natural balance. This demands an extremely laborious way of farming. Artificial intervention can have unintended consequences. So in Nepal let’s try and avoid the traps that we fell into in the Netherlands in the past. The challenge will be to use other farming methods such as crop rotation or growing different kinds of crops such as tomatoes and quinoa and by processing crops so that they will keep well turning them into such foodstuffs as chutney and juices. This means mules can carry the produce in caravans across mule trails to markets in larger towns. In this way organic farming can provide rural villages with added economic value.
The character of husbandry in Nepal will always remain small-scale. Nepal does not have the advantage of a sea location enabling bulk supply of affordable cattle feed, as in the Netherlands. Farming land in Nepal ought to be used to feed the population besides which large-scale cattle breeding would be at the expense of the potential nutrients available in the soil. Moreover this avoids the risk of diseases that develop resistance to antibiotics. So small-scale organic farming is very much the way ahead for Nepal. Added value can certainly be attained by using different types of poultry, goats, pigs, rabbits and bees and by using other types of species than was the case until now. When combined with generating produce that will keep, such as cheese, sausage, advocaat and honey, we can enhance organic husbandry enabling greater added value than is currently the case.
Quality and quantity of water
Sufficient water is available in many areas of Nepal though often not in the form of a steady supply. Controlling the existing flow of water and/or installing water pumps would help to ensure a regulated and sufficient supply that poses no danger to public health. Often the provision of a regulated supply of water would not entail any substantial investment using for example rope pumps. Moreover such pumps often offer families the opportunity to irrigate far more farming land than would be the case using traditional methods.
Here we are talking about forms of energy such as biogas, solar thermal collectors, windmills and hydroelectric turbines. This would help to call a halt to the felling of trees and relentless deforestation. Though electricity is available in
Nepal even in a city such as Kathmandu this is not always all day long. Many ways of generating sustainable energy cost relatively little money especially when tackled at village level. This in turn creates the significant added advantage of processing at the local level turning agricultural products into items that will keep long enough to be brought to market.
There is sufficient primary school education in Nepal, even if children from rural areas often have to walk a long way. Great gains could be made however by introducing alternative teaching methods focussing more on comprehensive education. Private schools could help in providing teachers with further training in how to use new teaching methods. Besides schooling, we need to support the development of skilled craftsmanship in particular areas to provide for more blacksmiths and stonemasons who can build rope pumps and power plants run on biogas.
Various healthcare projects are already up and running in Nepal such as mother-and-child care, dentistry and eye care. Within the framework of the six areas we wish to focus on as a whole, we can easily connect with villagers and make clear to them the advantages of:
a) Other sources of energy than wood
b) Clean water
c) Varied diet etc.