Himalayan Permaculture Centre: The Farmers' Handbook

The Himalayan Permaculture Centre (HPC) is a grass roots non-government organisation set up by trained and motivated farmers from Surkhet district in Mid-Western Nepal in 2010 to implement sustainable rural development programs in Nepal.


The Farmers' Handbook


HPC staff have years of experience working in remote mountainous regions leading to the development of a wide range of appropriate technologies and approaches aimed at increasing domestic farm productivity while reducing costs. Concrete and positive outcomes, such as a measured increase in crop production, vegetable consumption, and reduction in firewood use have been demonstrated. These techniques are published in the “Farmers’ Handbook” which is also used for practical literacy education. It was published in the Nepali language by co-creators Chris Evans and Jakob Jespersen in 2001 (7,500 copies) with reprints in 2012 and 2018 (1,500 copies respectively). In 2002 the handbook was translated into English and in 2009 made available as free PDF downloads on the Permaculture Research Institute’s website.


The handbook is 50 chapters in 5 volumes – a total of 792 pages, including 170 pages of colour photos and illustrations.



Above: Farmers are taught how to make a hot bed that protects seedlings


BACKGROUND


In Nepal, According to a Food Security Assessment carried out by the FAO, agriculture provides livelihoods for more than 80% of the population and accounts for some 40% of its Gross Domestic Product. Rising population and inappropriate foreign aid programmes, which often try to replace traditional practices, have combined to undermine the sustainability of traditional agriculture. The result is a disempowered people with unequal access to basic needs, struggling to grow enough food to last the year despite working all hours. The proportion of undernourished population is estimated at 40.7%, in the Terai where on average 17.7% of children under five suffer acute malnutrition.


These communities can be seen as "marginal”, lacking access to key resources such as education, health care, food security and credit. At the same time the physical areas where they live can also be described as being marginal due to the high altitude combined with poor infrastructure of roads, power and communications. These are the people and places where HPC has prioritised its work, where small inputs of appropriate technology and appropriate education can make huge differences. Subsistence agricultural practices have developed by HPC to be finely in tune with local climate, landscape and people's needs. HPC practices are intimately interwoven with the forest and other natural resources to provide basic needs of food, fuel, fodder, timber and medicines.


HPC has 178 demonstration farmers in 32 villages, known as “Barefoot Consultants” to easily disseminate working agricultural processes. HPC work has resulted in 387 kitchen gardens, planting over 51,000 fruit trees and planting over 50,000 multi-purpose trees and shrubs in agroforestry plots as well as the development of 726 smokeless stoves. Furthermore, 81 farmers have implemented SRI, (System of Rice Intensification.) This method of rice farming aims to increase yield of crop while reducing both labour and water use. The Farmers Handbook has helped in the training of over 7,000 farmers in agro-ecological practices including vegetable growing, composting, pest management, green manures, agroforestry, SRI, water management.



The HPC's work centres around 3 main strategies:

Training and Education: Assisting farmers and development workers in the process of design and implementation of demonstrated sustainable agriculture systems and agro-ecological approaches.

Resources: The seed, seedlings and published information (books, booklets, posters) needed for farmers and development workers to design and implement such systems on their own land and in their communities.

Research: This is implemented to identify useful new species and cropping patterns, or combinations of those existing traditionally, which are favoured and can be appropriated by local farmers for their own use.

HPC carries out demonstration, training, resource production and research on its own resource centres (working farms) in Kathmandu, Surkhet and Humla districts. It also carries out these activities on farmers own land, though the research needs to be risk-free otherwise they may lose valuable food crops or land if experiments don't work.

In addition to its farming-related activities HPC also works in the health, education (schools and adult literacy) and livelihood sectors because of their connection with its agro-ecological strategies.



Participants on a farmers training session learn how to plant fruit trees


WHAT MAKES THIS REGENERATIVE?



IMPACT ON PLANET

  • Increase in biodiversity and soil health.

  • Decrease in pressure on forest areas.

  • Regeneration of degraded areas around and within villages.

  • Planting of over 51,000 fruit trees and over 50,000 multi-purpose trees and shrubs planted in agroforestry plots.

  • 81 Farmers implementing SRI.


IMPACT ON PEOPLE

  • Increase in on-farm and domestic productivity.

  • Decrease in labour and resource cost.

  • Recognition of local culture, skills, technology and biodiversity.

  • Increasing awareness of local issues of gender imbalance/women's health, local regenerative economies.

  • Awareness of global issues of trade, climate change and justice

  • As it is published in the Nepali language, the Farmers’ Handbook is used for practical literacy education.


COMBINED REGENERATIVE IMPACT


Demonstrations and training resources provided so that local people can see techniques and approaches that meet holistic goals and further receive training on how to design and implement in own communities. Using Permaculture design and integrating issues such as food production/agriculture, health, education and livelihoods then settlements are designed that reduce the need to leave communities for work/income elsewhere.



Replicability: Following a farmers training session, a farmer from outside HPC's working member villages establishes a root stock nursery at his home, demonstrating the spread of HPC's activities.


SCALABILITY AND REPLICABILITY


HPC works directly in 32 villages (over 5000 beneficiaries) but as farmer-to-farmer contact spreads it's techniques way beyond this there are many other areas. The Farmers Handbook is a step by step guide in many agriculture processes that although are specifically tailored for Himalayan Conditions, the ideas in this comprehensive document can be adjusted for other agro-ecological environments.


WHAT'S NEXT FOR THIS PROJECT?


HPC wants to reduce its need for external funding by developing internal/local resilience through processing, marketing and fair trade for local, national and international trade. It will continue to offer increased resources for other organisations/communities through its barefoot consultants program.



CONTACT THE HIMALAYAN PERMACULTURE CENTRE

The Himalayan Permaculture Centre (HPC) is a grassroots regenerative NGO based in Nepal with a focus on rural development.


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