Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

The Commercial Pocket Approach for Smallholder Commercialization and Empowerment of Women and Disadvantaged Groups

This post was written by Luke Colavito, the iDE Country Director for Nepal. The photos were taken by Bimala Rai Colavito, an iDE Volunteer. This is the first post in a series of blog posts on the MAWTW project. Read the second post here and the last post here.
 
Commercial Pocket Approach
 
The Market Access and Water Technologies (MAWTW, 2013-2016) project was implemented by iDE and partners SAPPROS, NTAG, Samjhauta and International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and supported by the USAID Innovations for Gender Equality Program. It targeted three districts in Nepal's far western region, which is the poorest region of Nepal and holds conservative attitudes toward women and disadvantaged groups. As a result, women and other marginalized groups often have very limited opportunities. Additionally, the region has a weak market, with the agro private sector present only in district capitals and major towns. 
 
MAWTW piloted the commercial pocket approach to commercialize smallholder agriculture with a focus on involving and empowering women. The approach involves working with communities, the private sector and government to facilitate sufficient volume of production to: 1) establish community-managed collection centers for market access and services to member farmers, and 2) to establish community-based local service providers, known as Community Business Facilitators (CBFs) who market agro inputs and equipment as well as provide training to their customers. These CBFs earn a commission on their sales
 
Over the course of the project, MAWTW has brought over 10,000 farmers93 percent of them womeninto commercial agriculture and has developed 14 community-managed collection centers. 
 
Water Technologies and Multiple Use Water Systems (MUS)
 
The program includes a strong focus on marketing water technologiesdrip irrigation, micro sprinklers, shallow tube wells (in the plains) and multiple use water systems (MUS)that save labor, increase production, and enable production in the dry season. MUS are piped systems that provide sufficient water for domestic needs and additional water for high-value crop production. They greatly reduce the workload of women and girls that carry water. Even with new agricultural activities, women save net time and MUS free up more time for girl students to dedicate to their studies. MAWTW has developed 60 MUS and contributed to the institutionalization of the MUS approach
 
MAWTW MUS farmers utilize drip irrigation to save water, labor and increase production. Nigale VDC, Khailali District.
 
Women's Empowerment and Focus
 
A key focus in MAWTW was to facilitate and build the capacity of women to become entrepreneurs and community leaders so that they may serve as role models in their communities. MAWTW helped empower more than 9,000 women to become commercial farmers (93 percent of MAWTW farmers) with an increase in annual vegetable income of $205. Forty women have become entrepreneurs marketing agricultural inputs or produce, and 85 women are members of marketing and planning committees that manage collection centers (57 percent of members). Finally, 292 women who serve in MUS hold key management roles (62 percent of members). 
 
The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) did a field review on the commercial pocket approach in 2012 and found that it was important for establishing women role models in the community. MAWTW also provided nutrition and health training to more than 2,000 women farmers who were pregnant or had young children within the 1,000 day period when nutrition is critical for child development. The program also focused on the use of safe integrated pest management (IPM) approaches and encouraged the consumption of nutritious foods, including vegetables.
 
Study and International MUS Workshop
 
With support from MAWTW, IWMI conducted a study of early MUS (7-10 years-old) and found that 85 percent of systems are fully functional—nearly double that of conventional systems, with a benefit-cost ratio of 11 to 1 in terms of agricultural income only (Clement 2015). This study resulted in an international MUS workshop held in Nepal (February 24 and 25th, 2016) for the exchange of best practices and knowledge, as well as to promote the MUS approach. The workshop was co-organized by iDE, the Global MUS Group, IWMI, the Farmer Managed Irrigation System Trust (FMIST) and by the Ministry of Population and Environment, which recognized MUS as important for climate change adaptation. Proceedings and materials from the workshop will be hosted by the Global MUS Group. Key findings and results of the workshop include:
  • The importance to transition from a project to program approach with recognition of MUS in government norms. Most governments and development organizations have a separation of investments for domestic and productive uses of water. South Africa is one of the few countries that formally recognizes MUS.
  • There are a wide variety of MUS designs depending on water resources and community needs, including for agriculture, livestock, sanitation, hydropower, productive enterprises and more.
  • MUS are an important climate change adaptation allowing communities to better allocate scare water resources. Farmers earn more from reliable irrigation, and people have increased access to nutritious food in dry seasons. It is also important for protecting landscapes and water sources in the face of climate impacts.
  • MUS are more sustainable than conventional drinking water systems due to the income they generate.
  • The workshop resulted in the formation of the Nepal MUS network linked to the Global MUS Group to share information and promote the MUS approach.

International MUS Workshop held Feb. 25 and 26, 2016, Kathmandu, Nepal.

In the next post in this series, we will explore a case study that follows the experience of Til Sari Thapa, the Chairperson of a Collection Center formed by MAWTW. Stay tuned!