Until the 1990s, Humla was self-sufficient in terms of agricultural production. Due to the internal conflict that has plagued Nepal for several years, generating a steady income for households in local communities has proven to be a challenge. The fight for educated and skilled people has been disastrous, with varying impacts on different sectors and the traditional way of life. The disappearance of the know-how farmers, to which has added to the development of free food aid programs and employment opportunities abroad, resulted in a lack of interest of the population in agriculture and therefore a decline in agricultural production. Some areas are now dependent on foreign aid and malnutrition is endemic in local communities. This change has also contributed to the stagnation of economic activities between Humla and Tibet.
The Nepal Trust, in partnership with Swiss NGO Norlha, is currently working on a major agriculture project, which will focus on vegetable production and bee-keeping. We have appointed experienced and local staff in Simikot to implement the project. The project aims to re-vitalize agriculture development and expand vegetable production and bee-keeping in the Humla area by supporting 325 farmer families in 5 different groups of villages (Bargaon, Simikot, Dandaphaya, Khagalgaon, and Muchu) in the district by 2015.
Today tourism is a viable income source for families along the trek routes, where there is an increasing demand for vegetables and agriculture products. Additionally, since most of West Tibet is semi-desert with low agricultural productivity, the border markets offer trading potential for local farmers.
There is a need to develop diversified products based on market demand. The use of improved tools and techniques can help increase production; however, most farmers in Humla lack knowledge of such opportunities and even if aware of them often lack the resources and know-how to exploit them.
By providing technical input and resources the project is targeting to strengthen and diversify the production and sale of high yield vegetable products. Initially these initiatives will be owned by farmers’ groups living in the Bargaon, Simikot, Dandaphaya, Khagalgaon and Muchu VDCs. The groups themselves will select 65 lead farmers and 260 support farmers to work with the NT on developing more efficient agriculture production; the transfer of technical skills and knowledge; and the demonstration of practical results.
There is also scope within the project to link in with the Great Himalayan Trail Development Project as the farmers’ production will be linked in with tea house development (local product sales outlets), the new NT Service Centre project (repair/construction) and the NT Guest House (promotion).
More information on Norlha and the project can be found by clicking this link.