Food Resilience through Agroecology
Dedicated to developing the required knowledge, skills, resources and technologies needed to scale up agroecology across the Himalayan bioregion
Himalaya Agroecology Research and Development (HARD) is a company founded in 2022 by a dedicated team of ecological, social and agricultural educators, practitioners and business people to bring the principles of ecology back to life in our communities and landscapes. Alisha Magar founded HARD as she wants to expand on her experience in rural community development. With a vision of empowered women leading development across eastern Nepal, she connects this region’s rich food culture with agroecology and women’s entrepreneurship. HARD has five main programs: research, biofertilizers development, women-led microenterprises, education, and generate awareness.
Partner organization: Almost Heaven Farms is a permaculture research and development social enterprise based in eastern Nepal. It is led by Zachary Barton where he researches, demonstrates and trains local farmers and international visitors in permaculture design, soil health and ecological restoration.
September 2022 to August 2025 (3 years). This project is a continuation of their work over the last 20 years.
The total cost of the project is one million USD over three years. The project is funded via the Kamala Foundation.
To develop the highest quality biological resources, appropriate growing systems, educational materials and women-led micro-enterprise models appropriate for farming communities in our bioregion.
Their current working area is called Koshi Province, the far east side of Nepal. It includes a diversity of geographical and climatic zones from the plains of the Indian subcontinent at 200 meters elevation, to the highest point on earth, Mount Everest at 8,800 meters. They are working in 7 out of 14 districts in the province including some of the most remote communities in Nepal.
Farmers, women running a small business as well as local governments and community.
They put food at the center of the movement, and then connect all fields of agroecology to it. The vision is to work across the whole food supply chain to address food resiliency for the communities living in this area.
- Employ 20 individuals in a diversity of fields related to agroecology;
- Establish 9 research plots on 56 cash crops across all ecological zones of Nepal;
- Demonstrate agroecology to 16,000 farmers;
- Establish agroecology network with 250 members;
- Construct 14 biofertilizer factories (decentralized approach);
- Bring 15 biofertilizers to market;
- Help 18,000 farms transition to organic agriculture producing 18 million kgs of food annually;
- Train 180 women to food transformation and financial literacy leading to 170 micro-enterprises being established;
- Develop 12 awareness posters, 1 agroecology/biofertilizer handbook and 48 videos to educate the general public.
They focus on four key activities:
- Research on agroecology food systems and biofertilizers
- Education and awareness
- Women’s micro-enterprise
- Biofertilizer development
They also developed a network to take care of other parts of the food systems such as supply chains.
1) Research led on agroecological systems and biofertilizers
- Designed for 6 years and are now tested on diverse types of crops.
- Big focus on on-farm trial research.
- Matrix to test results on soil health and nutrient density.
- Share the results with stakeholders, business communities and government bodies who are developing policies and budgets (seeing is believing!).
- Research plots belong to local partners and municipalities (government land). One plot is provided by a farmers group, then one plot provided Almost Heaven Farms, and a third one by another organization.
- They have Intensive crop rotation as most of the plots are in a sub-tropical zone without frosts, allowing them to grow three crops the whole year and two crops per year in a plot in a cold area. They also do polyculture and produce a lot of fruits and trees (agroforestry systems).
2) Education awareness
- Produced 12 posters related to agroecology, in location where farmers would be (tea/coffee shops, restaurants);
- Media presence ;
- 48 short attractive videos widely viewed and shared.
3) Women’s micro-enterprises
- These empower women to develop micro-enterprises to transform local organic food into products such as food packages, dried flower products, dried meat, pickles. Some women also started their own restaurants. They also learn financial literacy, bookkeeping, financial analysis. They are trained on how to access funds from local municipality, how to assess sales evolution, etc.
- Once the women finished the training process, they need to develop a business plan. They have to invest 50% of the initial capital costs (e.g. materials such as fridges, locations, cooking materials, etc.) and apply for a matching grant to cover the remaining 50%. Women do not have plots given they transform/process the food products; they do not grow the food.
4) Biofertilizer development
- They have 7 biofertilizer factories as of now.
- They work with municipal governments to add budget.
- All factories are off-grid and do not require petrol inputs nor gas and electricity. They use local microbiology and fermentation.
- They have enough biofertilizer production to support/supply 18,000 farmers.
- Governments had issues to import synthetic fertilizers and farmers noticed the bad quality of their soil, so the demand of biofertilizers increased significantly over the past years.
Effects and impacts
They collect the results via on-farm field trials. They have a small team of farmers/scientists. They assess basic soil health parameters such as fungi and bacteria, overall microbiology and water infiltration.
The approach is that people can see and visit the farms. They also share some matrix like production/cost analysis during stakeholder meetings and their Facebook page.
Lessons learned and Results
The food is consumed in local restaurants. They wanted to sell a lot of food in local farmers’ markets, but they noticed a lot of it is sold further away. They do not have the capacity to track the consumption in more detail.
They are working with one municipality at policy level to ensure that all locally organic grown food will be bought by the municipality for school projects as of next year.