Irrigation canal draws communities from foraging to agriculture

Aaiti Maya Chepang in her farm
Aaiti Maya Chepang in her farm. Photo: UNDP Nepal

With the construction of Chinarang Irrigation Canal in Sahaktikhor VDC in Chitwan, living conditions have improved dramatically for the 39 households of the indigenous Chepang and Kami communities.

Community members, who had to depend on the forest to make a living, are involved in agriculture – harvesting paddy and vegetables. After the canal became operational in mid 2012, nearly 50 quintals of paddy and maize were harvested that year. In addition, they also grow vegetables and sell surplus in nearby markets.

Highlights

  • 163 projects related to environmental services, such as the micro-irrigation canal, have already completed with the support of GEF-SGP, and 35 more are being implemented currently.

“I have harvested 4.5 quintals of paddy in 2012 and sold vegetables and livestock worth Nepali Rupees 23,335 (USD 275)”, says 65-year old Aaiti Maya Chepang. The income is substantially more than what she used to earn from selling firewood. The farm work has given her a sense of freedom from her tedious routine that required her to wake up early morning to fetch firewood and grass from the forest in order to sell them for a living.

The 2400 meter long canal today irrigates nearly 24 hectare of land which had been lying barren until mid 2012.

Before the canal, the locals left the land fallow for 2 years – sowing only maize and millet every third year. Today the land is no more barren and instead yields good harvest of paddy, vegetables and broom grass every year. This has also reduced pressure on the forests as locals no longer forage excessively for firewood and grass in the forest to sell them.

The construction of the Chinarang irrigation canal had first begun in 1995. But due to budget constraint, the work wasn’t completed until 2012. In late 2011 the second phase of construction work began with support from Participatory Chiuri Plantation and Biodiversity conservation Project. The project was implemented by Youth Society Nepal with support from Global Environment Facility – Small Grants Programme of UNDP.

The project would not have been complete without the strong involvement of locals. Members of Shaktikhor VDC and Samfrang Community Forest Users Group also made in-kind contribution worth nearly Nepali Rupees 425,000 (USD 5, 000) to the project.

“We were able to mobilise resources from community level and that shows the locals commitment and drive for development”, says Mr Keshav Regmi, Team leader of the project.

GEF-SGP has been supporting in the conservation of significant biodiversity, mitigation of climate change impacts, prevention of land degradation and elimination of persistent organic pollutants and hazardous chemicals.  Through such activities, the project has also been contributing to improving the livelihood of communities.

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Paddy field in sloping land after the irrigation. Photo: UNDP Nepal