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Participation to promote innovation in Nepal

More than 200 local innovations have been identified so far (© LI-BIRD)
More than 200 local innovations have been identified so far

Rural people continuously test new ideas and technologies in response to changes in their surroundings. Unlike external technologies that are often expensive and inaccessible to many smallholder farmers, solutions generated from local innovation use locally available resources. Many local innovations, however, go unnoticed. To support the process of local innovation and farmer-led innovation development in agriculture and natural resource management, an international network known as PROmoting Local INNOVAtion (PROLINNOVA) is working with 19 national networks in Africa, Asia and the Andes.

Recognising indigenous knowledge

Recognising the dynamics of indigenous knowledge and the importance of strengthening farmers' capacities to adapt to change, PROLINNOVA-Nepal identifies, documents and assesses local innovation according to technical feasibility, economic viability, ease of dissemination, gender sensitivity, environmental friendliness and social acceptability. Local innovations that meet all these criteria are then shared more widely through workshops, seminars and other meetings. Innovations that are deemed to be promising, but incomplete, may then be taken through a process called Participatory Innovation Development (PID). At the heart of PID, is joint experimentation in which farmers, NGOs, government organisations and scientists investigate ways to improve the innovation.

More than 200 local innovations have been identified so far, of which 35 have been directly promoted and 55 have benefitted from PID. Inspired by single horse-pulled carts, Krishna Regmi, from Tanahun district, developed a single ox-plough after struggling to plough his steep and fragmented pieces of land with a two-ox plough, which required too much space to turn around. "I am happy with this innovation, because I don't have to spend a lot of money to buy a pair of oxen, nor do I have to feed two oxen," Regmi happily states. "Many other farmers have learnt the idea from me and started adopting the practice. I believe both will and dedication give birth to new ways."

Regmi developed a single ox-plough (© LI-BIRD)
Regmi developed a single ox-plough

A technique for making organic compost from kitchen waste was developed by Ms Tulashi Gyawali, from Bharatpur, Chitwan. "PROLINNOVA supported me to promote my innovation and identified my home as a model. The village where I have exchanged my knowledge has also become a model. I aim to teach the technique to one woman in each house because all women in the country should learn to manage waste in a similar way," she says. Other noteworthy local innovations include a refined jalkhari (a feeding net for goats and sheep) which has made it easier to fill with grass and reduce waste, a paddy thresher, rodent trap, cane juice extractor, winnowing fan, wasp trap and underground storage for apples.

Need for wider dissemination

PROLINNOVA-Nepal reports that although they have identified numerous local innovations and worked with farmers to further develop their good ideas, the outcomes need to be more widely disseminated. "While we are promoting the process of farmer-led innovation and the outcomes of this process, we need to open the eyes of more agricultural researchers and extension agents so that they can recognise even more local innovations," explains Dr. Pashupati Chaudhary, program director of Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD). "They can then use these as a starting point for developing and spreading new ideas that smallholders are able to easily apply."

Rural people continuously test new ideas and technologies in response to changes in their surroundings (© LI-BIRD)
Rural people continuously test new ideas and technologies in response to changes in their surroundings

Through the process of PID, PROLINNOVA encourages extension workers and researchers to interact with farmers on equal terms, stimulating reflection and contributing to policy dialogue about extension approaches. The ultimate goal is for the Nepalese government to integrate PID in their regular research and development work. "Stakeholders facilitate and contribute to the process, but the local farmers are in the driving seat," LI-BIRD senior programme officer, Mr. Suman Manandhar explains. "Innovation ideas tend to be more easily accepted than introduced technologies, and more readily integrated into smallholder farming systems."

Due to the low cost and environmental friendliness of many of the innovations, PROLINNOVA is calling for more intensive exchange of information at a global level among actors involved in rural development so that smallholders in other countries are able to benefit. "Promoting local creativity and collaboration in innovation as an approach to extension needs to be scaled up," LI-BIRD senior programme officer, Mr. Puspa Tiwari concludes. "It is also important to identify local innovations that help to mitigate or adapt to climate change and, more importantly, to enhance the capacities of farmers and supporting agencies to continue to adapt to change."

* In Nepal, Prolinnova is implemented jointly by Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD), Ecological Service Centre (ECOSCENTRE), Practical Action, TUKI-Sindhupalchowk, District Agriculture Development Office (DADO)-Mustang and the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS) of Tribhuvan University

Written by: Suman S. Manandhar, Dr. Pashupati Chaudhary and Puspa R. Tiwari, LI-BIRD

Date published: March 2012


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