Ratnadevi Saud working in her vegetable farm. Photos: WFP/Deepesh Shrestha
Previously unable to provide for her family's daily needs, Ratnadevi is now considered one of the most successful farmers in her community. Read on to find out how she turned her life around.
LADAGADA - In Meltoli village of Doti district in far-western Nepal, a small vegetable farm stands out on a terraced hill that is dominated by wheat fields. Thanks to the hard work of Ratnadevi Saud, a 35-year-old mother who supports a family of seven through the income generated from her vegetable garden. She has become a role model for her community members after she switched to vegetable farming with support from WFP and KOICA under the Zero Hunger Communities (previously known as the Food-For-New-Village) project, launched in 2013.
"For all those years, I had been growing traditional crops like paddy and wheat in my field. Sometimes we would have a reasonable harvest but most of the time the crops would fail as we had to depend a lot on rain,” recalled Ratnadevi.
She, along with 25 other farmer group members, received training on seasonal and off-seasonal vegetable farming in early 2013 under the project that focused on improving livelihoods of rural communities.
“Two years ago, I didn't have any knowledge on vegetable farming. All the credit goes to WFP and KOICA for teaching me about cash crops and vegetable farming, which was not a common practice in our village," she explained.
“The crops I grew were not enough for my family to eat three meals a day. However, a year after I was introduced to vegetable farming, our condition has improved significantly. The fresh vegetables I grow now not only feeds my family but allows me to sell them in a nearby market – so this garden provides us with good nutritious food and a means to earning an income," she added.
Ratnadevi started vegetable farming on a small land (0.05 hectare) after receiving training and free seeds from Good Neighbors International (GNI), a local implementing partner of the Zero Hunger Communities project. She grew tomatoes, capsicum, brinjal, coriander and cucumber last season and was able to earn around Rs. 30,000 (US $310) from the sales.
These days she is regarded as one of the most successful farmers in her community.
“I used to till people’s land and carry stones and sand to build their houses in order to meet the daily expenses of my household such as paying for my children’s school fees. However, now I am enjoying a much more relaxed life as I work on my own land and on my own pace” she said.
According to GNI, around 160 food-insecure households in two villages of Ladagada and Pokhari are now engaged in vegetable farming under the same scheme.
The Zero Hunger Communities model consists of a multi-pronged development approach combined with a mixture of asset creation or rehabilitation, livelihood strengthening through income generating activities, enhanced basic service delivery, and capacity development activities to improve the living standards of poverty-stricken people in Ladagada and Pokhari in a sustainable manner. The programme was launched in 2012 targeting nearly 1,700 households - made possible through a donation of US $3 million funding from the Korean Government for three years.
Encouraged by her newfound success, Ratnadevi has expanded the vegetable cultivation to 0.15 hectare of land and now even her husband has joined her in the farming business. The farm is now dotted with cauliflower, tomatoes, radish, potatoes and onions.
“This year I am planning to earn double what I earned last year. The produce sells very well and as there is always a high demand for fresh vegetables,” she said. “Even my neighbours are showing interest in vegetable farming instead of relying on growing traditional crops.”