How can research and development help upland farmers to improve their farming system? Experiences in participatory technology development
The vast amount of marginal sloppy land available in Nepal is greatest challenge for research and development interventions. These areas are typically remote in access, marginal in agricultural production, lack cash generating opportunities. Soil erosion and land degradations have been a serious concern. In last few years, various technologies found to be effective in conserving soil and water, enhancing soil fertility and increasing crop production. However, inadequate consideration of farmers’ local knowledge and resources, and poor participation of farmers in the research process resulted in low adoption of such technologies. As a result researchers are now given priorities to the farmers in the whole process of the technology generation.
This paper is based on the experiences of the research project aiming to identify integrated agricultural technological packages suitable for slopping land areas of Nepal. Participatory Technology Development (PTD) approach was used in the project to generate appropriate technological packages on soil and water management which will enhance food production and on-farm cash income. The paper examines the various agricultural technological packages identified, tested and adopted by research farmers. Participatory contour hedgerow, intercropping of legume with maize, mixed vegetable farming, strip cropping, forage and fodder production and other support mechanisms are some of the interventions. Various Participatory methods were used along with soil depth measurement and soil sample analysis. Farmers have tested these technologies and modified them according to their need and species adoptability. The initial results demonstrate the effectiveness of contour hedgerows in increasing the nitrogen content of soil, improving soil texture, soil deposition and maintaining the soil pH. It has been observed that the technology is promising in biomass production, promoting species diversities and providing economic benefit to farming households. Adoption and Adaptation of the technology is taking place gradually in the research and near by sites. Some of the government line agencies had already mainstreaming these technological interventions in their annual work plan. However, there is still a need of coordination and linkage among different stakeholders with possible mechanism for its wider scaling.