Drip Irrigation and Kitchen Garden: Innovation for Family Nutrition and Income
Farmers in Dhungrekhola, Nepal experience drought from January to May each year. This seriously limits agricultural production and leads to land being left fallow after harvesting the monsoon crops. During this dry period, only small areas are planted with winter crops. Most of the water sources remain dry and irrigation from rivers and streams are inadequate for vegetables and other crops. This leads to serious losses in crop production and, as a result, farmers must spend a large portion of their income on buying vegetables and spices.
To minimize these impacts and improve families' nutrition and income, Heifer Nepal set up 25 drip irrigation systems and introduced a variety of vegetable seeds to 25 members of the Dhungrekhola self-help group. One group member said, “This technique is simple and easy to adopt. One or two days of labor is sufficient to prepare the garden and plantation.”
Farmers use biodegradable kitchen waste and livestock waste to prepare manure to use as fertilizer on their kitchen gardens. This helps sustain water longer during dry spells.
Group member Sangita Kyapchaki has successfully adopted drip irrigation technology in her backyard kitchen garden. She said, “This kitchen gardening technique and drip irrigation system introduced by Heifer has been beneficial to me and my family. I didn’t have to worry about buying vegetables during the lean season this year, which saved me money. And, I earned $50 from selling surplus vegetables during the last three months of the dry season. I am able to manage my kitchen garden together with my regular household work. And, my garden is safe from thieves and animals because it's close to my home.”
Drip irrigation technology is an efficient, controlled irrigation method that can help farmers save time that would have been spent on walking long distances for water. It works by exposing the roots to a direct supply of water, and is facilitated by the use of drip emitters to slowly and steadily release water. It also prevents soil erosion and nutrient runoff. Unlike mainstream heavy farming — which requires intensive labor and high cost — this type of farming is low cost and uses less energy to grow high-quality vegetables. Most vegetables are high yielding and fruit early.
With arable land and water becoming more and more scarce, the drip irrigation technique in kitchen gardening can be an advantage for production and utilization of every square feet of available land to improve family nutrition and income.
Story and photo by: Bikash KC