Between the elevations of 1000 and 2000 m in the mid-hills of Nepal, over 12 million people subsist on land-holdings of less than 0.5 hectare. These farmers are have very limited access to commercial inputs such as fertilisers and are reliant on rainfall and organic manures for soil fertility maintenance. In particular, bari lands (upper slope rain-fed crop terraces) in Nepal are increasingly becoming a focus of concern in terms of soil fertility decline and management. Previous work has shown that erosion is important during heavy rainfall events pre- monsoon in April/May and later in the season nutrient losses through leaching are significant. There is a need for soil and water management interventions which utilise locally available resources that control erosion without resulting in high leaching and so are effective in minimising total nutrient losses. Farming alternatives that conserve water and soil are urgently needed in these marginal and fragile hillside environments to sustain soil fertility and hence rural livelihoods.
The objective of this project was to ensure that nutrient losses due to leaching and erosion are minimised by devising economically and culturally viable land, soil and water management techniques, building upon the sophisticated local knowledge of the movement of water across soil and existing scientific data, and promoting them through participatory approaches to the design of technologies. To meet this objective, the project worked towards developing a process and methodology by which technology options addressing a common constraint across a range of livelihood and biophysical circumstances could be identified and evaluated. Participatory research was conducted with farmers in three contrasting agro-ecological regions; Nayatola (1000-1500 m asl, 20-25 degree slopes, l000 -1500 mm annual rainfall); Landruk (1200-2000 m asl, bench terraces 0-5 degree slope, 3000-3500 mm annual rainfall); and Bandipur (550-1000 m asl, bench terraces 0-5 degree slope, 1100-1500 mm annual rainfall). The project approach lay in combining farmers' local knowledge and practices with that of scientists' knowledge and findings, and supporting farmers' experimentation in developing soil and water management interventions. The process included six stages: problem identification; knowledge analysis and sharing; farmers' experimentation; monitoring and evaluation; adoption and adaptation; and scaling up. The results obtained suggest that incorporation of farmers' knowledge and perspectives in the technology development process, and giving farmers and farming communities a lead role in experimentation and decision-making not only ensures development of appropriate technologies but also empowers farmers' and increases participation in the process.
McDonald, M.A., Shrestha, P.K., Acharya, G.P., Tripathi, B.P., Lawrence, A. and Sinclair, F.L. 2003. Incorporation of local knowledge into soil and water management interventions which minimise nutrient losses in the Middle Hills of Nepal. Scientific report. Annex A of the Final Technical Report for project R7412. Bangor: School of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Wales. 40 pp.