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Introducing Innovation to Wheat Production in Nepal

Beneficiary in her wheat farm

Mercy Corps has been responding to food insecurity in Nepal since 2007 by providing both short-term safety nets through cash for work programming while working with smallholder farmers to improve agriculture production.

Recently, Mercy Corps trialed an innovative approach to improving wheat production for food insecure households in Far Western Nepal. Wheat is the third major cereal grain produced in Nepal. 42% of wheat is produced in the mid and high hills of the country, areas that rely on wheat production to sustain household food consumption. Working with its existing smallholder farmers in these regions of Nepal, Mercy Corps introduced the System of Wheat Intensification (SWI).

SWI is a relatively new cultivation technique showing promise of increasing productivity and contributing to household level food security. SWI adapts techniques from System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in terms of sowing, weeding and irrigation and targets smallholder farmers to increase yield on minimal land. While SRI has been tested in Nepal, SWI is a new and innovative technique.

Mercy Corps tested SWI in 16 trial plots. Under traditional wheat cultivation practices, productivity was limited to 150 kg per ropani of land. SWI trial plots yielded as much as 225 kg per ropani, that's a 50% increase. Since the average land holding of a household is 5 ropani (.63 acres) additional wheat production through SWI will produce sufficient food for consumption by an additional three months.

Introducing new cultivation techniques, along with access to improved seed varieties and agriculture tools, has not only increased wheat production it has significantly reduced the amount of labor spent on harvesting and irrigation. Given that a larger proportion of women (76%) than men (50%) are engaged in agriculture, SWI decreases the burden of labor on women in Nepal. As males migrate seasonally in search of labor, the decrease on the burden to women that SWI offers has been a particularly noteworthy benefit.

For more information on this pilot, please click here to read the full report

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