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Building resilience through hubs of commercial activity

A foundation for stability and growth in Nepal

Two-thirds of the farmers in Nepal grow only enough food to be able to sustain their own families, leaving them vulnerable to starvation from natural disasters because they have no food reserves. With 67% of Nepal’s population engaged in agriculture, this means nearly half of the population depends daily on their personal food production and supply. Nepalese farmers desperately need the ability to increase their harvests in order to have extra food and income in order to withstand unplanned events that affect their families. 

iDE Hero Art NP Sitapur Visit 21X9 Rh

Photo by Bimala Rai Colavito/iDE

What’s in a pocket?

To build Nepalese farmers’ resilience, iDE engages in what we’ve termed the “Commercial Pocket Approach.” This starts by establishing a collection center that local farmers can walk to within at least 30 minutes from their farm. Collection centers not only serve as a place for farmers to sell their produce at a fair price, but also provide training on farming best practices including the use of improved seeds, fertilizer, and integrated pest management; access to loans; and a way to interact with other farmers facing the same challenges.

In a sense, iDE creates social institutions that ensure a community has all the necessary market players and information. Since women tend to make up a majority of these farming households in the poorest locations, the Commercial Pocket Approach also focuses on increasing women’s involvement in decision-making and creating new roles for women in leadership as heads of the governing bodies that manage the collection centers.

This animation demonstrates the various roles within a Commercial Pocket and shows how the approach builds resilience.

A validated approach

Since resilience is the goal, iDE developed a composite index to assess households’ ability to withstand climate stresses and shocks (e.g., flood, drought). Rather than relying on one single indicator such as income or food production, the composite index tracks those areas as well as access to sufficient water, general household health, and access to services and technologies. 

An analysis using the index showed that households in locations where we have implemented the Commercial Pocket approach significantly increase their resilience, doubling their baseline score.  In particular, the index revealed that major drivers for this increase included the community aspect of the approach that provided households with access to early warning notices, as well as the share of households using climate smart technologies (such as drip irrigation).

A platform for future opportunity

The strength of Commercial Pocket Approach is how they establish sustainable economic development zones that can be leveraged for additional developmental activities. For example, a commercial pocket could be the basis for establishing a multiple-use water system (MUS) that captures rainwater (directly and run-off) in a catch basin and manages how the community uses that water (e.g., rationing, equal sharing, ensuring water is available for later in the year). Community Business Facilitators can provide in-field training and service delivery. Technology marketers do not have to sell individually but can use the collection center to organize group demonstrations.

A multiple-use water system (MUS) and the women’s group that maintains and manages it for the community. (Photo by Bimala Rai Colavito/iDE)

The impact of resilience hubs

In the last 10 years, iDE in Nepal has reached 636,000 households (3.1 million people) and increased their annual income by at least $200/year (aggregate $127M/year). Over 200 commercial pockets have been established, supported by 400 trained Community Business Facilitators (50% of whom are women). At the same time, 500 MUS have been created, serving 80,000 people. A cost benefit analysis of the program showed a 3.6 to 1 return on investment over a three-year period, but which rises to 10 to 1 if taken over 10 years, reflecting the sustainable nature of the intervention. Even better, the same analysis showed that farmer household income had increases that ranged from 26.5% to 55% with a central estimate of 40.8% (at a 95% confidence level).

This work was partially supported by DFID under the BRACED/Anukulan project

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