Integrated Farming System key to Sound Economy and Protected Natural Ecosystems

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Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.

- Wayne Huizenga

Maden in front of his house. Photo Courtesy: Harish Chandra Chilwal

The story of Prithivi Maden’s life rings true to this statement. Aged 49 and hailing from Phungling Municipality, Ward 1, Taplejung, Nepal, Maden was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He is a simple man who lives with his wife and son in Taplejung. He is satisfied with what he is doing and more importantly, what he has achieved. This was not always so.

His life has been full of ups-and-downs but he never gave up and continued to maintain a positive outlook. Like thousands of Nepali youth from across rural Nepal, he dreamt of someday going abroad to earn money so he could provide for his family and secure a bright future for them. 

Seeing no possibilities for earning a good income in his own village, Maden migrated to Saudi Arab and lived there for seven long years. He recalls, “Those years were the toughest of my life... staying away from home and family for years and working 18 hours every day. But I kept struggling to ensure a better future for my child”. 

When his wife got extremely sick, Maden decided to return. He also wanted to do something in his own village. Upon his return to Nepal, he first stayed in Kathmandu for a couple of years overseeing his wife’s liver and ulcer treatments that cost him a great deal of money. After that, he returned to Taplejung. Much to his surprise, he saw that local farmers were growing large cardamom extensively as they had benefitted enormously from it. Inspired, Maden too started his own cardamom farm, incorporating good agroforestry practices such as using Alnus tree species to provide shade for cardamom plants. Not content, he started poultry and pig farming. He then also got into goat husbandry.

Integrated cardamom farming. Photo Courtesy: Kamal Aryal

Maden reaped ample benefits in a short space of time.  Last year, he generated over NPR 100,000 in revenues, selling poultry, pig, and goat. He plans to increase production this year. He has also added vegetable farming and cattle to his portfolio. Cattle manure is used on the cardamom field. Vegetable farming has taken off nicely. He has an integrated farming system going on his patch of land, with crops and livestock benefitting from each other. This is a perfect example of utilizing available local resources wisely and getting maximum benefits from them. 

He was able to produce around 80 kilograms of large cardamom last year, and plans to expand his farm, and thereby production soon. He sells organic vegetables at the nearby market in Phungling Bazaar in Taplejung and even has plans to sell Alnus for timber. 

Maden learnt about proper methods of growing cardamom from his fellow farmers and the package of practices developed jointly by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Environment and Conservation Development (a local NGO) under the Support to Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalaya (Himalica) programme. He has mastered post-harvesting techniques, and the grading of cardamom pods according to size and quality. He is of the mind that programmes such as Himalica need to be conducted for better production of large cardamom.

Today, he grows his own grass and fodder species such as kutmiro (Litsea monopetala), badhar (Artocarpus lakoocha), and bamboo to feed his cattle. This practice reduces pressure on local forests, maintains the health of the local ecosystem, and creates self-sufficiency in terms of fodder for stall feeding cattle.

He says, "Everyone in the community should participate collectively for better management of ecosystems and their services. If forests and water resources are not protected now, we will have a bleak future. We need to protect these natural resources for posterity."

He plans to expand his livestock operations, which have generated handsome profits. However, there is insufficient knowledge about proper diet for cattle and different diseases that afflict them.  Good goat and pig breeds are not easily available.  Hence, the need for proper training and availability of improved breeds for improving the livelihood resilience of the local farmers. 

Maden has an integrated farming system in place and is growing other crops along with large cardamom to diversify and reduce risks. Depending on only one crop is risky, however profitable it may be. 

He says, "If we are willing and dedicated, we can work our own land with locally available resources to contribute to our family, society, and economy, while protecting our ecosystems."

Maden's wife is happy that her husband has decided to stay back for good, after being away for so long. She remembers the hard times she went through raising their only child on her own.  

Maden is an inspiration to the young people in his village, especially to those who are torn between staying back to work their land and out-migrating like thousands of young people every year. He is an example to those migrating abroad that striving diligently, taking small but continuous steps, and not giving up hope can eventually lead to success.

Nepal needs more people like Maden who choose to stay and work here, for the country to prosper and its environment to be protected. 

Sushmita Poudel and Sanjan Thapa (Consultants for the Himalica programme’s Ecosystem Services Assessment Survey)