The secret is out! Farmers all around Sankhuwasabha District have heard about macadamia nuts, and they want to plant trees. This year CLN had planned to add 150 new farmers to the project–and we actually added 454! With a generous grant from Friends of Nepal, we acquired seedlings, started two nurseries, and grew 5700 seedlings–1700 more than we had originally planned anticipating that demand was going to be higher than supply again this year. When it came time to distribute the seedlings, we had hundreds of new farmers asking to be part of the program! The mayor of neighboring Bhojpur District asked to have one of their village areas included. Although it’s outside of our general work area, we included them in the seedling distribution because they were so motivated to learn and start planting.
We now have almost 600 farmers in the CLN program, up from 141 last year. The total number of macadamia nut trees planted in the district is now over 15,000 and will be enough for commercial production once these trees are fully matured. We also trained 50 farmers this year, for a program total of 200 farmers trained with macadamia-specific knowledge and new/improved general horticultural techniques which can be applied to their other crops also.
Our education program also helps farmers better understand the role of organic cash crop farming in environmental conservation and offsetting the impact of climate change. Macadamia trees are proving to be a good crop alternative in areas where climate change such as drought, intense hail, and shifting rainfall patterns have made subsistence agriculture much more tenuous.
CLN has active field staff who visit farmers in our program and help to share technical knowledge. When it comes time for planting, we inspect the planting holes and require farmers to dig deeper if necessary to meet the technical guidelines. Digging in hard ground is difficult labor, and farmers sometimes stop too soon thinking it’s good enough, when the roots will actually need more space and additional rich compost fill soil for proper growth. When our staff hold firmer standards, it helps the seedlings grow better and also spreads word throughout the project area about the correct planting techniques.
Our best practices this year included onsite coaching for individual farmers or small groups of farmers at plantation time plus close tracking and follow up on the performance of trees to address any problems. In addition, we are working closely with the local government to ensure that our program benefits can be maintained and expanded in the long-term. This year elected district officials were invited to actively participate in collecting the seedling requests from farmers, disseminating information about macadamia nut farming, selecting feasible clusters of farmers, and to personally attend seedling distribution and planting. This is making local governments more accountable to our project in ways that will ensure the program becomes self-sustaining. Local government is beginning to allocate annual funds for macadamia nut farming. Also the District Agricultural Office has agreed to list macadamia nuts as a feasible crop in the district and the District Forest Office has agreed to start supporting macadamia trees. Both of these policy decisions help create government support and funding for long-term sustainability of the project.
About 100 of our earliest-planted trees fruited this year. We anticipate a harvest of approximately 600 lbs next year which will provide seeds for our local village nurseries. Growing seedlings instead of purchasing them will significantly reduce the project’s cost of supplying seedlings to farmers, creating a sustainable model as our project continues to expand. In 2024, we plan to train 50 more farmers as well as start to work more closely with government agricultural extension offices so that their technicians have better macadamia-specific knowledge and can begin to offer more technical support through the existing government structure.