How are we going in answering our key research questions?

It is important to consider the progress we are making in our project which aims to improve the livelihoods of women, marginal and tenant farmers in the Eastern Gangetic Plains, through improved dry season irrigated agriculture.

Overall we can be pleased with progress. While there is still much to be done, the foundation is sound. Connect to the project web site to get examples on some of our activities on the ground.

Now is a good time to reflect on how far we have come and how we are progressing towards answering our key research questions.

The newsletter link below summarizes progress to date.

Newsletter March 2016


A gender-sensitive approach to dry season irrigation: Piloting a participatory gender training for farmers in Saptari

by Stephanie Leder, WLE-IWMI, and Dipika Das, IWMI

In all project sides in the Eastern Gangetic Plains, we observed gendered divisions of labor in agriculture, as well as gendered norms in the villages on speaking up and mobility, which hinder women to take up tasks. Within this context, how can the groups work effectively as groups, being aware of those gendered restrictions?

Our aim was to develop a participatory gender training for our farmer groups in which farmers are sensitized to discuss these “gender issues”. Based on prior field work, we noted the need to raise awareness on gender roles and gendered behavior and how this influences the adoption of DSI4MTF interventions and trainings. Further we saw a need to increase farmer group interaction and empathy through discussions on collective support and increasing the willingness to mitigate the gendered division of labor within the groups. Lastly, we aimed at promoting bargaining skills which equip farmers to confidently negotiate with their group members and others in cases/management of conflicts.

The objectives of the gender training for farmers are:

  1. To uncover myths on women and men roles relevant in agriculture and the DSI4MTF project interventions by discussion and introducing the concepts of biological “sex” and socio-cultural “gender” through visual input, as this helps to interlink knowledge
  2. To enable farmers to understand the relativity of and changing gender division in reproductive and productive labor as well as community roles (triple work load); reflecting on women’s tasks with a life cycle approach
  3. To discuss gender factors which influence whether women or men become successful farmers
  4. To promote bargaining skills by encouraging role plays between male and female farmers
  5. To spontaneously integrate any issues which farmers might bring up in the training schedule

Based on these objectives, we developed, piloted, modified and implemented a gender training twice in Khoksar Parbaha and Koiladi, Saptari, in the Eastern Terai of Nepal. The training was tested with both male only (1 group), female only (2 groups) and male and female (1 group).

The training consisted of 3 activities and 2 discussions:

  • Activity 1: Boy or Girl? – Understanding gendered constructions of community
  • Activity 2: Gender Position Bar – discussing the gendered division of labor
  • Discussion 1: Sex and gender
  • Discussion 2: Visioning male and female successful farmers
  • Activity 3: Role play – bargaining as the other gender

The following pictures illustrate our experiences during the gender training.


Briefing the support facilitators on the training structure


“Girls care for their parents when they are old, work hard and are birth of Laxmi (the Goddess of wealth), that means they will bring wealth” Activity 1: Boy or girl? – Understanding our own and our community’s constructions of gender, and that gender roles are already changing in agriculture in the last years and decades


Group work discussing boy or girl preferences – and noting that the reasons are actually rather similar


Gender Position Bar – discussing the gendered division of labor


Facilitating discussions in Koiladi


Whose task is it to dig, to irrigate, to transplant, to harvest, to take care of the elderly, to cook, to buy seeds….? Every farmer chose one picture, described it and placed it along the gender position bar, giving a reason for their choice.


The longer chain of activities indicates activities to be performed by both in future


A participatory approach means that every farmer is encouraged to express her or his views – we ensured this with the help of pictures. That way it was at one point every farmer’s turn


A female farmer group in Khoksar curiously looking at the pictures from the field



Farmers instantly developed their own story and characters for role plays: Impressions from the bargaining role play – female farmers playing male farmers in Khoksar Parbaha….


…and male farmers playing female farmers


Our male farmer group was very strong


Female farmer group in Koiladi after the training

Training in soil sampling with the SRFSI team


By Debojit Dutta and Prasun Deb Kanoe

In early February 2016 the DSI4MTF team and the SRFSI team collaborated to undertake training in soil sampling. Alison Laing from CSIRO and Arunava Ghosh from UBKV (Department of Agricultural Statistics) were able to accompany IWMI and UBKV field staff to Dholaguri village in West Bengal. In Dholaguri, the senior scientists spent almost ½ a day with the field staff and two farmers undertaking hands-on, practical training in how to collect agricultural soil samples in the intervention potato and tomato fields.

The staff learned how to select a representative sample site, how to use soil coring equipment, how to composite, collect and store samples as well as the importance of appropriate labelling of samples and collecting replicates.

The samples have been taken to UBKV soil laboratory for gravimetric soil moisture, nitrogen and texture analysis.

Importantly, the training was delivered across the sister projects to develop the skills of the junior staff but to also ensure that a consistent method was used in both projects.

Earlier in the same week, Michael Scobie from USQ was in the field with DSI4MTF staff training in the use of a TDR (time domain Reflectometry) probe for measuring soil moisture.

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A new Paradigm for Agriculture?

Recent press coverage of the India Union Budget 2016/2017 highlights the close alignment of our work to national priorities. The article below provides a good summary. The need for production of non-cereal centric crops, with emphasis on better irrigation management using ponds and groundwater is emphasised. The need for improved water and fertilizer use efficiency and better energy management is stressed. Collective management of dry season irrigation production systems, by marginal communities, the focus of our project, can go a long way to inform future agricultural development needs.

Mint- A New Paradigm for Agriculture, 03032016



Wheat irrigation in Gangetic plains of Bihar – It’s time for a change


Rice-wheat cropping system dominates the agriculture in the Gangetic Plains of the North Bihar. Rice is cultivated during the kharif (monsoon) season with transplanting dates matching with onset of monsoon. Sufficient monsoon rainfall generally precludes the need of irrigation for this crop, except in the event of dry spell. Wheat, which is the main rabi (winter) crop of the region, requires at least three irrigations during the critical stages of the plant growth to make wheat cultivation profitable.

A field survey revealed that a 4 or 5 hp diesel pump set, which is most common in the region, is used to pump water from tube wells. Water is conveyed from the source to fields using either flexible polyethylene pipes or, in few cases, using field channels. Fields usually do not have intra field water distribution channels and water is delivered at the corner of the bunded field or at some point in the field, which farmer feels, will be appropriate to distribute water to entire field (flood method of irrigation). The cloddy and uneven fields in combination with closely spaced wheat stems offer lot of resistance to the waterfront, slowing down its rate of advance. During the course of the irrigation, water delivery point in the field is shifted to other desirable locations depending on the depth of the standing water and area covered by the current delivery location. Before changing the delivery point, farmer ensures that sufficient depth of water is applied at the farthest point from the present point of delivery. This eventually requires sufficiently longer irrigation events so that water reaches the farthest end, resulting in huge deep percolation loss in the vicinity of the delivery point. The deep percolation losses, combined with losses from faulty connections and punctured conveyance pipes incur an extra expenditure on irrigation.


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Wheat field Water delivery the wheat field
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Leakages in conveyance pipes

Ground water is the major source for wheat irrigation and farmers are purchasing it at the rate of Rs. 120 per hour. Farmers informed that it takes about 10 to 12 hrs for a 5 hp diesel pump to irrigate an acre of a wheat field. Many farmers afford only two to three irrigations for a wheat crop and pay Rs. 2400 to 3600 to the tube well owner. Interviewed farmers reported an average wheat yield of 10 quintal per acre which provides a gross return of about Rs. 10000 per acre. This indicates that irrigation takes away 24 to 36 % of the gross return depending on the number of irrigations applied. It is important to reduce the water losses and consequently the expenditure on irrigation so that farmers can afford more number of irrigations and get improved wheat yields. Adoption of efficient irrigation systems like ‘sprinkler irrigation’ can help in achieving these twin objectives. Apart from reduced deep percolation losses and uniform water application, sprinkler system offers better control over the available water flow. Farmers, mostly tenants and women farmers cultivating the wheat crops in the region, need to be informed about the sprinkler irrigation systems. It’s the high time that we demonstrate the applicability and potential of sprinkler irrigation for wheat cultivation.

DSI4MTF has gained momentum in Saptari

Raj Kumar G.C, Program Director, iDE Nepal
Rabindra Karki, Program Engineer, iDE Nepal
Gun Magar, Senior M and E Officer, iDE Nepal

Overview of project progress

Since initiating the project one and a half years ago, it has encountered massive earthquakes and political strikes with a devastating blockade of essential supplies that still hampers full operation of the project. Despite these drawbacks, the project has made significant progress. A series of meetings with landlords was conducted in Kathmandu leading to a Memorandum of Understanding between the farmers and the landlords.

Furthermore, the project was been able to form six farmer groups in Khoksarparbaha and Koiladi with contractual agreements with landlords that permit the land to be used for improved cultivation, installation of water technologies, and recognition of the farmers right to organize seeking common benefits. Five of the six groups have already started saving 100 rupees per month per household with a good understanding as to how their savings will be used.  Technical training workshops have established an understanding of the cultivation of high value crops and improved cereal crops.






Figure 1 : Group meeting at Khoksar

The project team is now mobilizing shallow tube wells water pumps, micro irrigation, solar pumps and small water storages in Koiladi and Khoksar

Nursery raising off-season vegetable cultivation trainings

An agriculture technician from the local NGO conducted four on-farm training sessions on nursery cultivation for off-season vegetables. Each training session was five-hours-long. In addition to theoretical content, the training included three practical sessions: demonstration plot preparation, seed bed preparation and proper use of fertilizer. Demonstration plot size was 2×1 sq. meters and was carried out for cucurbits, bottle gourd, bitter gourd and chili. Those crops were selected in reference to local preference of farmer’s choice, production potentiality and improved variety.


Figure 2: Meeting for Nursery raising training

The seedlings are now fifteen days old and will soon be transplanted to various farmer plots. Until micro-drip irrigation units can be installed, hand sprayers are being used for nursery irrigation

The necessary numbers of drip kits have been ordered for delivery from Kathmandu by Rupani Khadh Bij Bhandar, a local agro-vet. Purpose of the supply through local agro-vet is mainly for sustainability and timeliness.

The seedlings are now transplanted in prepared land and will be irrigated with micro irrigation technology e.g. drip.

Micro-Irrigation Technologies Training and Demonstration

A one-day Micro irrigation training was organized for five groups in both the project sites. The training was facilitated by Mr. Rabindra Kumar Karki, an engineer from iDE Nepal. The overall objective of the training was “To convey knowledge about micro-irrigation technologies and demonstrate the installation process”. Training contained theoretical as well as practical sessions. In the theoretical session, the principles of micro-irrigation, its advantages, types installation, the installation process and trouble shooting. After an all-group discussion, a drip system demonstration was conducted in the field.


Figure 3 : Demonstration of drip irrigation system in (Intervention site I) Koiladi

Demonstration plot size was 12×4 sq. meters using a four-line system for bottle gourd. As a result of this training, the expectation is that farmers are:

  • Able to explain micro-irrigation technologies and their uses
  • Able to install drip, sprinkler and mini-row basin
  • Able to select crops for respective technologies

Of the 16 farmers receiving the training, four have committed to install drip irrigation system.


Figure 4: Wheat crop ( mixed crop with mustard) in Koiladi ( Intervention site II)

Shallow tube well installation in Koladi

In Koiladi, two shallow tube well borings have been drilled and are ready to be installed with motors. The boring contained 4” PVC pipe and the wells are of two different depths; one of 48 feet and the other at 36 feet. Currently diesel pumps are being used to irrigate land until the installation of the electric pumping set can be completed.

During project meeting, the farmers decided to prioritize wheat irrigation first as the wheat is a standing crop in the field now and then irrigation will be allocated to other crops. With the installation of the pump, the farmers have sufficient water availability for both the irrigation of cereal crops and vegetables.


Figure 5: Shallow Tube Well Installed at Koiladi

Project Interventions in Khoksar

During a farmers meeting, prior to installation of the shallow tube well, it was determined that the soil condition of the fallow land plot selected for the well had low moisture content and would be exceeding difficult to till. Hence to overcome this difficulty it was important to moisten the land prior to which installation of shallow tube well was needed.

Two initial borings were drilled in Khoksarprabaha but did not work properly. After several trials failed, we decided to drill two additional borings. One boring was successful but other failed. The successful bore has a depth of 55 feet.


Figure 6 : Drilling shallow tube well

Considering the season and the need to maintain the farmers’ interest, a diesel pump was connected with the shallow tube well to moisten the land. With additional help from a light rainfall, the land has now been ploughed and reallocated among the tenant farmers. It was previously virgin land.


Figure 7: Moistening fallow land by diesel pump

A tractor was used to plough the land at the cost of NRs. 4,000 rupees per bigha. It was completed in a day (12 hours) for 3 bighas. Maintaining damaged bunds and creating new ones, the land has been leveled and shared equally. Average size of land is 3 kattha i.e. 1014 sqm.

After this initial tillage, farmers are ploughing land by themselves using their own bullocks.


Figure 8: Ploughing and leveling of land in Khoksar


Figure 9: Conducting training in Khoksar

Figure 10: A farmer transplanting the seedlings


Figure 11: MIT training in Khokshar


Figure 12: Transplanting seedling

Installation of sunflower pump

Two sunflower pumps have been installed in the Khoksarprabaha. Sunflower pumps were coupled with 1.5’ boring holes. The depths of borings are 45 foot and 52 foot. Pumps are using for supplementary irrigation during the current dry season.


Figure 13: Farmer sowing seed and sunflower pump

Pump house construction:

To protect the pump from rain, sunlight and theft, a pump house was constructed at Khoksarprabaha. The house is brick masonry and it is 2 meter length and 1.5 in width. The house also enables farmers to store tools and equipment related to their farm work.


Figure 14:Sunflower pump-2 and Pump house construction


Design of the pump house