Rice Duck Farming in Nepal: A Community Based Adaptation for Combating Climate Change
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Food insecurity and malnutrition is an alarming phenomenon in Nepal. Persistent poverty and faster growth in population than food production have exacerbated food insecurity situation in the country. As stated by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation 2012, out of the total malnourished children in the world, 70 per cent live in Asia. In Nepal alone, 39.9 per cent of population consumes minimum calories than the prescribed level. As a result, more than 46 per cent of children under five are malnourished. The problem is more severe among smallholder farmers. To address this issue, small projects have been undertaken by Practical Action on a pilot basis by utilizing the existing resources and knowhow.

What is it?

Rice-duck farming is an integrated type of farming technology. It is especially suitable for resource poor farmers to produce organic rice in low cost. The evidence from various countries including Japan, Bangladesh, Philippines and Vietnam has proved the integration of ducks in rice field as a successful and productive farming technology. In case of Nepal, study or research regarding this technology has not been done so far. However, duck raising in small scale is a common practice in particular regions and communities. Likewise, integration of ducks in a fish pond is also occasionally practised.

How is it of advantage?

Rice-duck farming technology has good potential in Terai regions of Nepal, especially among Tharu communities. The pilot research carried out by Practical Action from April – November 2013 proved this technology to be beneficial in terms of providing social, economic and environmental benefits. In this type of farming technology, ducks are released in the field after 10 – 20 days of rice transplantation till the time of flowering. The integration of ducks in rice field creates symbiotic relationship between rice and ducks yielding mutual benefits to both entities as follows:

  • Ducks eat harmful insects and weeds averting the use of chemical pesticides and manual weeding in the rice field.
  • Ducks gets nutritious diet from eating insects and weeds in rice field.
  • The dropping of ducks act as a natural fertilizer to the rice crop preventing the use of chemical fertilizers.
  • The continuous movement of ducks in the rice field provides natural stimulation and aeration, which increases the availability of nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash to the rice crop.
  • Rice-duck technology causes the reduction of emission of methane gas from rice field contributing to reducing the global warming.

Against the traditional rice farming system, integrated rice-duck technology supersedes in terms of minimizing the cost of production, increasing rice productivity, providing environmental benefits and increasing the income of farmers through sale of organic rice and duck meat. Rice-duck farming technology can increase the productivity of rice by 20 per cent and net profit to the farmers by 50 per cent. Duck meat has high content of protein and other nutrition which can significantly contribute to address the problem of food insecurity and malnutrition.

Poverty alleviation, food security and climate adaptation

The project was initiated on April 2013 and implemented directly by Practical Action, Nepal, with the community participation in the Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts of Nepal. Grand Challenges Canada was the main sponsor of the project. The project was implemented with a project manager at the top with one project officer in the field for execution with the support of field mobilizers. The objective of the project was to improve food security status of smallholder farmers and reduce the malnutrition among children under five years of age.

The specific objectives of the project were to increase the income of the farmers and make the availability of nutritious diet. Women in Nepal are primarily engaged in agriculture activities; they enthusiastically participated in the project since they were the primary stakeholders in the project. The total cost of the project was about 112,000 CAD with the cost of about 100 CAD for an individual unit. There was no subscription charge from the community or any matching grant from any corporate of private sector. However, the villagers suo moto contributed locally sourced materials for fencing their farmland.

Potential for Sustainability

The traditional rice farming and duck farming have been integrated in this project and that has gained acceptance after analyzing the productivity and reduced expenditure on fertilizers and pesticides. Since the project has a built capacity of more than 50 local resource persons and had established linkage among intermediary business service agencies, the concept is now being replicated in the neighboring villages. Thus, it can safely be assumed that the practice will be adopted by many and will be sustainable.

Appreciation and Challenges

Nepal is primarily an agrarian country where more than 80% of its population is in the agriculture sector. Due to age old technology and traditional farming practices coupled with increasing demand, the sector is not proliferating as it should. The project aimed at bridging this gap and enhancing the food and nutrition security of the poor. The project has been highly successful in terms of achieving its results. Now people are suo moto showing interest to adopt this technology. Being a new concept, the project had faced initial resistance at some pockets but there were no major challenges faced during the course of the project.

One of the important lessons learnt in this process is that, small ideas can have the potential to bring a remarkable change in the lives of poor.

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The case studies compendium research and coordination was supported with funding and technical input by Oxfam through its Asia Resilience Hub.

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