“When I got married and was brought into this village there were just a few houses around. The forests were lush and dense. Then, we were not tormented by the problems of drought and landslides that now affect us each year.” —Nari Maya is a resident of Rumse, a tiny village atop a remote hill in Nepal’s Nawalparasi district.
Not very long ago, Nari Maya's tiny village in Nepal's Nawalparasi district was surrounded by abundant forests. But local farmers were too heavily dependent on the forest and not careful about how they used the resources it provided. They used the timber for household fuel and construction materials and the fodder to feed their livestock. And then, when someone just needed more space, they would haphazardly burn large sections of the forest to make room for whatever needed to be built or grown. Small patch by small patch, this forest land now has drastically fewer trees and there is an increased risk of landslides. These practices have contributed to environmental degradation and income loss for the farmers.
A few years ago, Bani Sara Thakuri, a local farmer, lost her farm to landslide. Before the landslide, her family cultivated corn, mustard, millet, ginger and lentils. This allowed her family to have an annual income of approximately 80,000 Nepali rupees, or about $800. But the landslide washed all of that away.
In addition to washing out topsoil, landslides bring tons of debris. Landslides leave the land completely infertile, which means huge loss for farmers like Bani.
Examples like hers are common in Rumse and all over Nepal.
But Heifer is helping. For the past two years, through a local Heifer project, families have been working hard to undo the environmental damage caused by deforestation. They have been planting fodder and forage on the edges of their farms to stop soil erosion. And local women’s groups in the project in Rumse have planted varieties of fodder, forage and other trees on 1.6 acres of communal land.
Even better, they are working extensively on an advocacy program for the conservation of forest resources in their village. They are advocating for local laws to be changed to stop or regulate the deforestation. Members of this group are hopeful that, in a few years, the frequency of landslides will decrease and life on the hill can return to normal.
Story and photos by Alina Karki, Heifer Nepal