Whilst Nepal’s golden fields may look beautiful, the serious issue of food security is a real concern. The majority of the people depend solely upon agriculture for fulfilling the basic needs of their family, although across the country the amount of food which is provided is insufficient. To address this issue, investment in agriculture is important, and children/young people need to be provided with basic skills so that they can successfully farm in the future.
In Nepal, borrowing money to try and improve your land, buy tools or machinery, or a better quality of seed, is often very difficult to obtain, especially if you are poor and marginalised. Even if you are able to access loans, the interest rates are generally very high and have a short repayment schedule, meaning that it is difficult for people to make long term investments. GAN’s model is different: we invest in Women’s Savings Groups (typically 15-20 people), who take on collective responsibility for the loan. We work out a repayment schedule which is fair for all concerned. To date, using this system, we have never made a bad loan.
GAN’s income generation programme takes place mostly in Lalitpur District, investing in women’s groups who generally put this investment towards either livestock (e.g. goats and chickens) or agriculture (e.g. in poly-tunnels, in order to increase yield). The investments will have not only short-term but also long-term benefits, since the animals are able to breed, and capital investment in agriculture will be felt for years to come.
GAN also makes investments in individuals as well as co-operatives. One such individual is Rabina Sunuwar from Bhainsepati. As a tenant farmer, she only had the funds to purchase one cow. GAN provided her with another, since looking after two cows does not require significantly more effort, but can have a huge financial impact. The profits on the sale of the milk are divided equally between Rabina and GAN, with the GAN share going towards our education projects in the local area. One additional benefit is that Rabina can also use the dung produced by the cow to improve her crop yield.
Schools in Nepal are always short of money, and often lack the cash for even the most basic functions. One of GAN’s longer-term, ongoing projects with schools in Lalitpur is to provide them with the skills, knowledge, and capital to become more self-sufficient. A recent project with Tri Ratna Secondary School saw us support them in creating their own kitchen garden, which produced vegetables including brinjals, spinach, tomatoes, okra, pumpkins, and chayote. The vegetables were sold locally and the profits reinvested into school programmes.
Students are involved directly and indirectly in the production of these vegetables, helping to water and clear the weeds in the field as a part of their learning about agricultural knowledge. At the same time, they observed how the plants are grown, making clear links to the science and environment curriculum.