Distribution of composite vegetable seeds have helped locals of Sakarapur in Saptari return to farming following the 2017 floods and earn supplementary income from sales of surplus produce

When her entire village was inundated in the flooding triggered by heavy monsoon rainfall in 2017, Deb Sunair Mandal of Sakarapur in Saptari lost almost everything. With a husband who suffered a physical disability and eight members in her family, Deb already had her hands full, but things seemed even direr now.

While she manage to scrounge up grains for food, finding vegetables was a real problem since the family’s farm had been submerged in the water and the crops therein destroyed. And they certainly did not have the means to buy vegetables from the market.

And so, to help the Mandals and others flood-affected families kick start recovery by means of farming, UNDP Nepal—as part of its Community Infrastructure and Livelihood Recovery Project (CILRP)—began distributing composite vegetable seed packets in the area in partnership with the Koshi Victims Society (KVC).

Before the floods, Deb would grow a few local vegetables in her farm, enough to feed the family, and a little left over to sell to visitors. But she was not familiar with these new seeds, and soon saw that they were a great deal more effective than what she had been using.

 “The package was a gamechanger,” Deb says. “We had enough to eat and sell in market. It was just what we needed in those desperate times.”

There are four weekly markets in the neighbouing villages, and Deb visits these regularly to sell her surplus produce. Each market day, she earns anywhere between Rs. 200 to 300. “It’s been very good…. the extra income helps us keep our children in school and buy our daily essentials,” she says.

Encouraged by her success and eager to expand her prospects, Deb has also installed a hand pump for irrigating her farm. And many other families have fallen suit, says Sakarapur ward member Rita Devi Shah. “Apart from rendering people more food secure and boosting incomes, the support has also helped to raise awareness among locals about how small steps can lead to substantial changes in productivity.”

Each package consisted of seeds of a dozen varieties of vegetables, including ladies’ finger, cabbage, radish, pumpkin, bitter gourd, carrots and different kinds of beans, among others. “We wanted to make sure these families were growing nutritious, healthy crops,” says Sukadev Chaudhary, program officer at KVC.

This is a point that Deb makes as well, claiming that ever since they’ve started farming using the packaged seeds, not only have their financial circumstances seen a turnaround, but so has the family’s overall health. “There’s been a definite change,” she says. “While my grandchildren used to fall sick often in the past, that doesn’t happen so frequently anymore.”

The area had been identified for seed distribution because it was the most appropriate support given the local context, says KVC executive director Dev Narayan Yadav, who has been overseeing the project. “Most people here own some land, and have been growing their own crops for a long time,” he says. “So we thought it would most useful for them to be given seeds since they were already familiar with farming.”

CILRP was launched in response to the extensive damage and displacement caused by the 2017 floods in Nepal’s southern plains. Eastern and central Tarai districts experienced the heaviest rainfall recorded in the past 60 years, and the floods took the lives of 134 people, destroying over 43,000 houses, partially damaging 192,000 houses, and displacing tens of thousands of people. Over 80 percent of land in the southern Terai was inundated. A post-flood assessment conducted by the Government of Nepal found that 1.7 million people were affected by the disaster.

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