A Virginia Tech-led program working in Nepal has switched gears from development work to disaster relief after the recent earthquakes.
The agricultural development program provided seed to farmers for fast-growing vegetable crops and distributed plastic sheeting to meet people's need for shelter. The sheeting can later be used to set up greenhouses.
"With the use of fast-growing vegetables such as dwarf beans, pumpkin, radishes, and mustard greens, farmers can quickly get produce that they can then eat or sell, making them less dependent on handouts," said Muni Muniappan, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management program. "The work is being carried out by our partner organization, iDE-Nepal, and builds on work that we started."
Materials distributed since the April 25 earthquake covered 457 households in the Lalitpur and Kavre districts in Nepal’s central region.
On May 12, a team from the Virginia Tech-led project had just completed distributing seed packets in the area when the second earthquake struck. "We had just distributed seeds and conducted a training that morning," recounted Sulav Paudel, the local Integrated Pest Management coordinator. "I was traveling in a van, and our driver was having a hard time controlling the vehicle. We saw an old house on the side of the road crumble right in front of us. Fortunately no one from the area was hurt."
The integrated pest management program, which dates to 1993, has been active in Nepal since 2005, helping farmers grow high-value horticultural crops without using synthetic pesticides. The program introduced such environmentally friendly practices as using drip irrigation, Trichoderma (a beneficial fungus), biofertilizers, biopesticides, staking, mulching, and pheromone and soap-based insect traps.
Nepalese women’s farming groups have also benefited, with members selling their vegetable crops and earning 50 to 250 percent more by using new techniques.
Plans for the coming months include helping nurseries in the area produce seedlings for crops that take more time to reach maturity but will produce for longer, such as tomato, chili peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, and cucumber.
"We hope that our contributions in the realm of agriculture can help the resilient Nepalese people quickly return to some semblance of normalcy," Muniappan said.
The agricultural development program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and managed by the Office of International Research, Education, and Development.
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