A Way to the Water: Sustainable Agriculture and Forest Sectors

I had the opportunity to meet with the project managers of BICAS, which stands for "Building Inclusive and Sustainable Growth capacity of CSO in Agriculture and Forest Sectors" when I was in Jumla, Nepal. They brought me around Jumla and neighbouring areas to meet with a handful of incredible people.

If you're like me, you're probably scratching your head and wondering who comes up with these names and acronyms because it's both impressive and daunting at the same time. By the way, CSO stands for "Civil Society Organisations", and it is the all-encompassing term for organised bodies that are directed by citizens. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), for example, fall under the umbrella of CSO.

Essentially the name is quite vague from "inclusive and sustainable" to "agriculture and forest". But it was precisely this broad project title that enabled so many unique and different small activities to take place within this project. So let me share some of the unique and special components that give life to the project title.

Lifting Water with Solar Energy

The first group of people we met was a community that received a water irrigation system. Essentially water was being drawn from the river and lifted through a tube using only solar energy. This water is stored in a small reservoir and a pool, which is important on cloudy days where there is not enough energy to pump the water.

We sat down on the grass in the open air on the fields. We sat in a large circle and made sure that the discussion was informal to allow people to speak up. As a first question, I was curious to know how the water-solar pump has affected their lives.

One woman spoke up immediately and shared that the water system changed her. She said, "previously we used to bring water on our back from the next village down the river. Now our workload has decreased.

The woman used to carry water on her back

It seemed that everyone sitting on the floor agreed as she spoke fervently about how access to water impacted her life in big and small ways. She even mentioned that because of the water reservoir she is able to wash her dishes.

Min Bahadur, the president of the Solar Water Lifting Irrigation system

I asked Min Bahadur, the president of the Solar Water Lifting Irrigation system if their nutrition had improved because of the access to water. He nodded his head and said, "...Previously there were no green vegetables to eat because there was no water".

Do we often take for granted how water is a vital source of life and health?

Min Bahadur continues to share the highs and lows of the project starting from when he was the only one who believed in the solar-powered water pump."The community thought it was impossible to have this water here, but I managed to convince them that it was possible. Now we all benefit from it."

I learned from Min Bahadur that the water would help with the irrigation for the apple orchards (Jumla is famous for apples) and that they were not only expecting the apples to grow in size but for a 20-25% increased in productivity.

I realise there are many stories similar to this, where access to a certain resource (often water) changes peoples lives. What was impactful about my encounter was that the community was able to transform from a place of scepticism with "new" technology to realising how a small difference could make a big change.

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