Back on the land for Nepalese farmers

For 24-year-old Dipesh Tamang, strawberries are his life. A resident of Nuwakot district, he is a micro-entrepreneur who has been involved in farming strawberries since he was a teenager.

“The strawberry business was flourishing,” he said. “It had improved our standard of living three-to-four fold.”

Highlights

  • 160 micro entrepreneurs, 60% of which are women, received 1,500 strawberry runners to help revive their enterprises.
  • The early recovery project supported 12,059 micro entrepreneurs after the earthquake.
  • The revival spurred the production of an average 500–750 kilograms of strawberries per household.
  • 900 children are now being educated in the community, as a result of the micro entrepreneurs success.

So it was particularly hard on him when a devastating earthquake struck the country on April 25, destroying his harvest. In the ensuing aftershocks, Dipesh lost millions of rupees worth of fruit as he was unable to visit his fields to take care of his runners.

Similarly, Sukumaya Tamang, 52, lost more than 10 kilograms of strawberries that were being nurtured for cultivation in the quake. 

“I was plucking strawberries leaves when the earth began to shake,” she recalled. “Even now, when I am on the field, I am often haunted.”

At least 51 percent of people in Nuwakot district were affected by the earthquake, with deaths of over 1,000 people and injuries to an additional 1,050.

Five months after the earthquake, 160 micro entrepreneurs like Dipesh and Sukumaya were eager to restart their plantations. Through UNDP’s Rapid Enterprise and Livelihoods Recovery Project (RELRP), with support from the Australian government, each micro entrepreneur received 1,500 strawberry runners to help revive their enterprise. The entrepreneurs are all from marginalized communities, and 60 percent are women.

RELRP is UNDP’s early recovery project to support 12,059 micro entrepreneurs created by the Micro Enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP) and Micro Enterprise Development for Poverty Alleviation (MEDPA) in seven districts hit hard by the recent earthquake. The 160 micro entrepreneurs supported by RELRP are among the 500 entrepreneurs who were instrumental in promoting Kakani and Okharpauwa areas of Nuwakot as Nepal’s first commercial strawberry production hub.

Strawberries from Nuwakot are in high demand and are exported to Calcutta, India.  Kancha Man Tamang, a pioneer in this enterprise shares, “The strawberries in Nepal is rich in flavors than produced anywhere in the world, hence we have so much demand here. Its aroma is the essence to why everybody loves it.”

The revival has spurred production of an average 500–750 kilograms of strawberries per household, helping them restore livelihoods destroyed by the earthquake. This support has created additional employment opportunities in the community which has benefitted over 1,000 family members to move out of poverty.

“We thought we might never revive our business,” shared Dipesh, “but with support from UNDP we are slowly recovering.”

He is optimistic about the future.  Last season, he harvested 450 kg of strawberries from his farm, earning around Rs.40,000 (US$371), and expecting an additional 150 kg this spring. Sukumaya is expecting to earn Rs.350,000 (US$3,248) this season after harvesting 5 tons of strawberries.

 “If UNDP had not provided me with 15,00  strawberry runners right after the earthquake, it would have taken another 5 to 6 years for me to get back to business [as it was before],” Dipesh expressed. “We were all so scared [of aftershocks] and were not able to start again.”

To help with emotional recovery, 63 percent of participants received psychosocial counselling training.  This is the first time UNDP introduced PSC intervention and as a result, it has significantly helped the entrepreneurs to overcome trauma and revitalize their lost or damaged enterprises.

RELRP also provided the entrepreneurs with items such as plastic sheets for green houses, water pipes, seeds, and juice making machines, as well as skill or refresher trainings. In addition, the plants that were given away were a new variety, which had better yields.

Before the earthquake, Dipesh planted 20-25,000 strawberry runners, but by next year, he plans on at least 30,000.

“I have heard that there is a new variety which yields even better. The domestic demand is growing now and we have no problem of market. I hope to continue and expand this business.”

The biggest achievement following the support from RELRP has been that the micro entrepreneurs could send their children back to school. Nearly 900 children today are being educated in the community.

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