Every year for more than 20 years, Nepali farmer Keshab Bahadur Singh had to say goodbye to his family and make the long trek to India to find work.
His fields could only produce enough food for four months of the year, so Keshab would leave his wife and four children to work on construction sites or do whatever other work he could find.
Now at the age of 53, Keshab is finally putting those times behind him as new knowledge about better farming practices is putting him back in charge of his life.
A programme run by Tearfund partner United Mission to Nepal (UMN) in Bajhang district, funded by the Isle of Man government, is revolutionising Keshab’s livelihood and others in poverty like him.
UMN has brought farmers together to form groups to improve their skills and boost their food production. As well as training about diversifying into growing vegetables, group members have received practical help, such as more resilient seed varieties and equipment for irrigation.
The groups also save money together and offer loans to members looking to start new enterprises or to pay for unexpected costs, such as medical treatment.
Since joining his local group, Keshab has seen a jump in earnings for his crops of tomato, mustard, radish, onion, garlic and chilli and the added income means he’s better able to provide for his family and repay his loans.
Steve Collins, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Nepal, said, ‘You couldn’t describe Keshab Bahadur as being well-off as his fields still only produce enough for eight months of the year, but that’s a huge improvement.
‘It means Keshab can find enough work locally to top up his farm income, so the long trek to India is a thing of the past. And at 53 years of age, that’s something he’s very pleased about!’
More than 800 farming households are now part of 39 functioning farmer groups, with just over half of the members being women.
Before this project, there was little vegetable production but now 806 households are managing kitchen gardens and demand for vegetables is rising at local markets as awareness of their nutritional value grows in the community.