Nepal is the world's third largest ginger producer, but farmers need help to reduce high levels of disease amongst their crops.
In the mid-hills of Nepal, ginger farming is one of the most significant sources of cash income for poor smallholders. The net incomes of farmers involved in ginger cultivation is significantly higher than that in competing crops, such as rice and fresh vegetables. However, over a third of Nepali ginger producers fall below the poverty line, many of whom face both geographic and social exclusion.
One of the most significant constraints facing producers relates to disease management – an estimated 50% of ginger farmers in Nepal suffer from disease in their crops. Given its importance to poor women and men in Nepal, disease-related reductions in ginger income can thus directly lead to increased indebtedness and a lack of funds for food, health and education.
The provision of ginger disease products in Nepal has been dysfunctional to date. Previous donor programmes have supplied a bio-fungicide called Trichoderma directly to ginger farmers or local authorities, but this has failed to result in steady or sustained access to the product.
The DfID-funded Samarth Nepal Market Development Progamme (Samarth), managed by Adam Smith International in collaboration with The Springfield Centre and Swisscontact, is employing an alternative approach. Instead of taking a direct role in supplying Trichoderma, Samarth is unlocking the potential of two national importers, Crop Pro Tech Nepal (CPTN) and Everest Agro Trade Nepal (EATN), to improve their supply chains to smallholder farmers.
By utilising a market-based solution, Samarth is working to improve commercial provision in order to both guarantee sustainability and enhance outcomes for poor farmers – creating a 'win-win' situation for both farmers and suppliers. Farmers will have improved access to this essential product (and in turn increased incomes) while commercial players will expand their outreach and increase revenues.
Samarth has worked in partnership with Mercy Corps to help the suppliers develop demonstration sites, a sales-agent model and a voucher system for tracking demand. According to the executive director of EATN, Mr Nagendra Pandey, this has helped them in understanding the commercial potential, providing a clear incentive to provide "embedded services such as information on disease management…as well as sustainable farm practices such as the best ways of intercropping for ginger farmers."
It is estimated that this intervention will lead to an increase of incomes for over 10,000 farmers totalling over £1.2m over the life of the programme, while also increasing the profitability of local companies in the supply chain. Samarth is also rolling out complementary interventions in relation to post-harvest handling, processing and marketing in order to leverage greater change in this important sector for Nepal's farmers.
As the executive director of CPTN forcefully states, "by strengthening the market system, the Samarth project is supporting the private sector and the farmers in a more sustainable manner."