Food for Work - Integrated Food Security Programmes - Example: Agricultural Income Promotion in Food Insecure Remote Rural Areas in Nepal



Nepal is considered one of the least-developed countries in the World with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of just USD 291 per capita in 2006. The economy relies heavily upon the agricultural sector, which contributed 39 percent of the GDP in the fiscal year 2004/2005. The majority of Nepalese agricultural production is carried out for subsistence. Due to widespread poverty and inaccessibility in many areas, production can meet household food requirements on average for only 6 to 8 months a year. Thus, 43 districts out of 75 districts in Nepal were classified as food deficient with high rates of malnutrition in the year of 2002/2003. The decade long conflict between the Maoist Peoples Liberation Army and the then Government of Nepal (GoN) (1996-2006) resulted in a significant worsening of the situation. The remote districts of Rukum and Rolpa in the mid-western development region were generally considered as the “Heart Land” of the Maoists and  the origins of the insurgency. These districts were greatly affected by the violent conflict and its consequences in regards to causalities, damaged infrastructure and adversely affected livelihoods, thus exacerbating the chronic poverty and food insecurity. During the conflict, the Maoists controlled most parts of the districts. They did not permit the  entry of GoN officials into the villages in the districts. Thus, the physical and political presence of the GoN was limited to the district headquarters and centres. In fact, development opportunities for the districts’ population were significantly restricted for over ten years, leading to a feeling of diminishing human security. A consequence of which resulted in many young people leaving the districts in fear of being sucked into the confrontation between the Maoist Peoples Liberation Army and the then GoN.

German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) has been implementing a Food Security and Rehabilitation Project (FSRP) (2004-2008) in 31 selected communities (village development committees, VDCs) in Rolpa and Rukum districts. The project aimed to:

  1. Improve the nutritional status of poor and conflict-affected households;
  2. Stabilize the economic and social living conditions through the provision of short and long-term employment and income opportunities, and
  3. Construct and rehabilitate productive and social infrastructure in the districts.

FSRP’s target groups were poor and conflict-affected families who lack food security. Amongst them, FSRP defined women and women-headed households, widows, single parents with small children, Dalits (“lower caste” people who are traditionally regarded as “untouchable”),  disadvantaged ethnic groups, persons with limited capabilities, unemployed youth, and orphans as special target groups. In total, about 9000 households participated in income generating activities. In order to remain impartial from both conflict parties, the project delivered its services through a direct implementation structure consisting of community based organizations. Both conflicting parties basically accepted the work of FSRP due to its conflict sensitive approach.


Agricultural Income Promotion in the Context of Integrated Food Security Programmes

One of the objectives of GTZ-FSRP was to promote food security and off-farm employment and income for the target groups in the short-term and the creation of additional livelihood assets and self-sufficiency of food in the long-term. FSRP primarily supported the large-scale and labor-intensive construction of rural roads through a combined approaches of food-for-work and cash-for-work (see references: “Rural Road Construction Strategy”  and the associated example). However, to foster socio-economic development and food-security in the long-term FSRP designed the road construction scheme as a “backbone” project in the target area which was accompanied by complementary micro-projects. These were designed according to: the identified needs and priorities of the target groups; the available local resources and the potentials and constraints of the poor and conflict-affected people in accessing and making use of them. Taking this into account, the construction and rehabilitation of irrigation schemes as well the promotion of on and off-farm income activities, among others, were supported by FSRP in addition to the road construction measures. This combined strategy, focused on the promotion of agricultural income activities in the context of integrated food-for-work and cash-for-work schemes. Step 1 to 7 of the method  “Food-for-Work – Integrated Food Security Programmes“ (see references) were considered as general principles throughout all interventions of the FSRP, including the rural road construction as well as agricultural income promotion. These were: 1) objectives of activities, 2) definition of target groups, 3) ascertainment of the nutritional situation and the geographical area of intervention area, 4) selection of project measures and definition of criteria, 5) selection of participants for food-for-work and cash-for-work activities, 6) definition of payment rates and work norms, 7) supervision and monitoring.

The FRSP’s support for income generation activities followed a set of well-defined guiding principles. The agricultural income promotion strategy supported new technologies and aimed to enable the target groups to:

  1. utilise their indigenous skills and local resources more effectively, and
  2. develop self-help capacities and ownership to manage the initiated income-generating activities on their own in the long-term in order to gain food self-sufficiency, improved nutrition, and increased income.

However, the strategy had  some limitations; including an inability to create sufficient new markets for the selling of agricultural products; a long gestation period for some interventions such as horticulture promotion; a low risk-taking capacity of the target groups; and difficulties in implementing the strategy in conflict situations and geographically remote areas.


GTZ-FSRP’s guiding policies

  1. Each intervention required that at least 50 percent of the participants were women.
  2. Special target groups were given priority.
  3. Support was primarily provided to groups of families. However, in single cases and after crucial examination support was also provided to individuals or single families depending on the situation or the nature of the intervention, e.g. entrepreneurs engaged in off-farm income generating activities (such as tailoring,  bike and watch repair workshops) provided tools and equipment, vocational training and skills development (maximum worth in Nepali Rupees (NRs) was approximately 15,000 per person; where 75 NRs are approximately equal to 1 US-Dollar).  
  4. The provision of a maintenance fund (see box 1) was a must for the construction of irrigation schemes.
  5. FSRP helped the beneficiaries only in the initial stages. During the programme, the communities or families developed their self-help-capacities. They were then able to manage the project themselves following the termination of FSRP support.
  6. FRSP’s support was only a supplement to the core efforts of the beneficiaries.


Box 1: Example - Maintenance fund for irrigation schemes


The main purpose of the funds was to encourage the long term maintenance of the irrigation schemes through local efforts. The utilisation policy was developed with the prior consent of the users.

For irrigation projects, water users paid monthly or annual taxes into the funds. If possible, contributions from users were collected even before the construction had started. This helped to create a feeling of ownership amongst the users. Moreover, beneficiaries and users took interest and actively involved themselves in the repair and maintenance of the scheme.

Before the construction works started the workers and subsequent users of the scheme formed a user group. This process was facilitated by FSRP’s social team. The user group then formed a user committee from its members consisted of a chairperson, vice-chairperson, secretary, treasurer, and members. At least 50% of the members of the committees had to be women and/or Dalits. The user committees were responsible for utilizing and monitoring the fund. The main responsibilities of the user committees were as follows:

  • generating, utilizing, and record keeping of the funds use.
  • presenting the accounts to the workers and users on the payment day during the construction period. FSRP’s social mobilizers supported the process.
  • Reviewing the status of the fund during the regular user committee meetings and presenting the status of the fund to the general users annually. 


  • At the end of a project, a fixed amount of the fund was allocated as a guarantee for repair and maintenance work. 
  • The beneficiaries properly cared for community infrastructure by using local resources available to the fund. 
  • Infrastructure lasts longer and functions more effectively due to proper maintenance.
  • Operation and maintenance systems were institutionalized.
  • The community was responsible for mobilizing additional resources when necessary and ensuring the technical management to operate and maintain the infrastructure.



Putting Income Promotion Into Action

FSRP followed the following step-by-step procedure to put “Income Promotion into Action”

Step 1:    Orientation for target groups: FSRP staff and social mobilizers supported orientation of target groups (both general and special) on the conditions and mechanisms for support available for IG activities.

Step 2:    Identification and selection of target group members: Learning centres (LC) (refer to example “Certifying Community Mobilisation – Learning Centers in Nepal”)  were considered the focal point for income generation interventions.  FSRP’s social mobilizing staff trained local LC facilitators on income promotion strategies and the facilitators then transferred the knowledge to the LC participants. LC facilitators and participants jointly selected target beneficiaries for the income generation activities.

Step 3:    Needs analysis and selection of intervention type: Agricultural technicians and social mobilizing staff analyzed the needs, interests, and capacities of the beneficiaries collectively or individually. In cases involving irrigation, a team of civil engineers and technical overseers was also involved in the analysis process. After a detailed analysis, a feasibility study of the proposed intervention was conducted and submitted with recommendations to obtain support from the project.  Recommendations were made for selected interventions, which were technically, socially, and economically feasible. The district team then reviewed the requests received from the field and forwarded them to the management for approval.

Step 4:    Approval of the schemes:  FSRP management approved schemes based on FSRP’s policies, the capacity of the beneficiaries and resources available.

Step 5:    Informing the beneficiaries:  The district team informed beneficiaries of the approval or rejection of the proposed schemes.  If required, activities for the capacity development of the beneficiaries were performed during the initial phase of the scheme, either through the existing FSRP team or by outside experts.

Step 6:    Acquiring necessary materials:  Agricultural technicians selected and acquired quality seeds, saplings, livestock breeds, or other materials required for the schemes. If necessary, relevant literature or studies were reviewed. The team also consulted research farms or other reliable sources to ensure the quality of material and equipment.  Concerned district level government agencies, national and international non government organizations were also consulted whenever necessary.

Step 7:     Supply of materials and implementation of schemes: After acquiring the necessary materials and equipment for the selected schemes, these materials were supplied to the beneficiaries under the conditions outlined in the scheme.  The technical/ social team of FSRP supported the formation and orientation of user groups for the construction of irrigation schemes.

Step 8:     Technical capacity development and guidance:  FRSP carried out social and technical capacity building activities and also provided technical guidance to beneficiaries as and when required.

Step 9:     Participatory monitoring:  FSRP team members regularly monitored the interventions and provided back-up support as required, once implementation had started.  Every six months the users conducted participatory monitoring, facilitated by the FSRP team. The beneficiaries evaluated the changes and achievements of the interventions (refer to example “Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment (PCIA) – Participatory and Conflict Sensitive Impact Monitoring in Nepal”).

Step 10:     Reporting:  The achievements and lessons learnt from the process were regularly reported in bimonthly activity and semi-annual monitoring reports to the FRSP management.


Photo 1: Training of lead farmers


Photo 2: Nurseries for seedling  production


Photos 3: Small scale irrigation schemes


FSRP Intervention Areas and Conditions for Support
The following table shows some of the core areas of intervention, guiding principles, and available support for each type of intervention for income generation.

Table 1:     Core areas of intervention, guiding principles, and available support


Area/ aim of intervention Guiding principles and conditions for support Available FSRP support
1. Small scale irrigation

Aim: To increase food production by crop diversification
  • FSRP supported the construction or rehabilitation of technically, socially, and economically feasible small-scale irrigation systems in accordance with agreements between user representatives and FSRP.
  • The users own and manage the schemes with maintenance provisions in advance.
  • Water sharing mechanisms were agreed before construction.
  • The users contributed at least 20 percent of the costs in unskilled labour and/ or local materials.
  • Technical and social support with construction materials, tools, and equipment;
  • Cost of skilled labor;
  • Up to 80 percent of the cost of unskilled labor;
  • All necessary training;
2. Vegetable and herb farming

Aim: To promote commercial level vegetable and herb farming for cash income
  • Users had to allocate sufficient land and be ready to prepare compost manure.
  • FSRP support was limited to the initial phase and is on a cost-sharing basis for economically feasible products. Users were expected to continue the activity afterwards.
  • Necessary training and exposure visits;
  • Improved seeds/saplings with a 50 percent subsidy for general target group and a 75 percent subsidy for special target groups;
  • In the case of  model farms, material support of up to NRs 40,000 and regular technical guidance (75 NR were about 1USD);
  • Market-related information.
3. Horticulture with inter-cropping

Aim: To increase long-term income in cash or kind and to ensure food security through self-employment
  • Users had to be committed to inter-cropping and understand their duties and rights under the project, including maintaining fences and caring for the plants.
  • Users had to allocate land, which had to be appropriate for horticulture and been close to a water source, a road head, and a settlement.
  • Feasibility studies and technical training and exposure visits;
  • PVC pipe or channel construction support of up to NRs 40,000 for demonstration plots;
  • Subsidies for seeds, saplings, and pesticides (up to 50 percent for general target groups and 75 percent for special target groups);
  • 100 percent subsidy for transportation costs;
  • Market information.
4. Nurseries for fruit, vegetables, fodder and other species

Aim: To promote vegetable farming, horticulture and bioengineering by establishing at least one nursery in each VDC and by producing necessary saplings at local level
  • Nursery owners owned or rented land properly fenced and located close to a water source and their residence;
  • The scheme has been technically and economically feasible;
  • The owner had some knowledge and skills on nursery or be ready to acquire these skills. S/he has been ready to spare sufficient time to take care of the nursery;
  • The owner had to produce the  required number and specified species of saplings;
  • The owner guaranteed a supply of saplings to FSRP beneficiaries at an agreed price;
  • Single women with small children, women-headed households, persons with limited capabilities, and households caring for orphans are given priority.
  • Technical and social support;
  • Skills training;
  • 100 percent subsidy for the first year for seeds, watering cans, poly bags, and pesticides;
  • 100 percent transport subsidy for seeds procured from outside the area;
  • FSRP paid the agreed rates for produced healthy plants and distributed them to the target groups;
  • FSRP paid the agreed rate for other plant species for use in bioengineering activities;
  • Total support available was up to NRs 40,000 per nursery.
5. Lead farmers support

Aim: To develop demonstration plots so that every VDC has at least one agriculture learning centre for FSRP beneficiaries and other interested farmers
  • The farmers have had their own or rented land properly fenced and located close to a water source and their residence.
  • The scheme has been technically and economically feasible.
  • The farmer had some pre-existing knowledge and skills or be ready to acquire them, and should be ready to spare sufficient time to take care of the farm.
  • The farmer had to demonstrate the best agriculture practices suitable for the community.
  • The farmer encouraged and shared knowledge and skills with other farmers.
  • Single women with small children, women-headed households, differently-abled persons, and households caring for orphans were given priority.
  • Technical guidance;
  • Necessary skills training;
  • Up to NRs 40,000 in subsidies for the first year for seeds/ saplings, watering cans, irrigation, and pesticides ;
  • 100 percent subsidy for transportation costs of seeds/ saplings from outside the area;
  • 100 percent subsidy for construction of local storage if needed;

(This document uses the political correct term “differently abled persons” instead of the formerly known term of “disabled persons”.)
6. Livestock promotion

Aim: To enable users to effectively care for and manage their livestock for increased production
  • Users had to be aware of the need for and benefits of new techniques and be open to implementing them.
  • The plan should have been economically and socially feasible.
  • Users had to have sufficient livestock.
  • Users had to be ready to pay for livestock care and management services;
  • Special target groups had sufficient space and previous experience in goat/ pig raising.
  • Training on livestock care and management;
  • One tool kit for livestock management per participant;
  • Fodder production support;
  • Up to 75 percent subsidies on the costs of goats/ piglets for special target groups;
  • Transport subsidies;
  • One-time veterinary material and equipment support of up to NRs 10,000 per trainee.
7. Bee-keeping

Aim: To raise additional cash income by replacing traditional technology with new technology, especially among the landless
  • Users had to be aware of the advantages of using new technologies and be ready to make the contributions specified by the agreements with FSRP.
  • The scheme had to be economically feasible.
  • Users had to have previous experience and sufficient space in a technically feasible location for bee-keeping. 
  • Skills training on modern bee-keeping;
  • Regular technical and social support;
  • Marketing information;
  • Feasibility studies;
  • 100 percent subsidies on transportation costs for beehives and accessories;
  • 50 percent subsidies for the cost of improved beehives with accessories and bee colonies;
  • 75 percent subsidies for special target groups.
8. Agriculture inputs and services

Aim: To increase easy access for agriculture inputs and services
  • Users had to realize the importance of improved agriculture practices.
  • Users should have been ready to pay for the necessary services.
  • Service providers (village agriculture workers) should have been situated in accessible locations and have the time to work with farmers.
  • Training and basic tools/ materials for all village agriculture workers;
  • One-time seed capital support of up to NRs 10,000 for procuring vegetable seeds and pesticides.
9. Raw material processing and adding value

Aim: To promote long-term cash income through non-farm activities
  • Raw materials should have been locally available with an existing market for the product.
  • Users had to have previous experience and be open to developing this through the project.
  • The proposed scheme should have been technically, economically, environmentally, and socially feasible with short-term skills training. 
  • Short-term skills training;
  • Social mobilisation support;
  • Up to 50 percent one-time subsidies for the purchase of small machines and equipment;
  • 100 percent subsidies on transportation costs;
  • Market information and linkages.




Box 2: The impacts of FSRP’s integrated project approach changing a widow’s life

  Mrs. Roka Magar is a resident of Rolpa district.  She had a very difficult childhood because her father died when she was very young, and she had to take care of her younger brothers and sisters.  Due to her family’s economic situation, Mrs. Roka Magar never had the opportunity to go to school.

Even so, ‘where there is a will there is a way’.  Mrs. Roka Magar joined one of FSRP’s learning centers and adult literacy classes in her village and learnt to read simple words.  However, she was unable to continue on to advanced literacy classes following her marriage at the age of 17. Three years after their wedding, her husband died so she became widow.  

Eventually, Mrs. Roka Magar decided to participate in the road construction works supported by FSRP in 2004.  However, Mrs. Roka Magar’s life changed dramatically when she was elected to be the secretary of a road user committee.  This gave her the opportunity to attend a training session on vegetable farming and horticulture. She began applying her newly gained knowledge and skills in her daily life.

After the training she:
  • Conducted three training programmes on vegetable farming;
  • Established a vegetable demonstration farm by herself;
  • Sent her younger brother and sister to school;
  • Was selected by FSRP to be the social supervisor;
  • Became actively involved in providing first aid services to injured labourers and settling labour payment;
  • Effectively performed her duties as the road user committee secretary, keeping the records up-to-date.

In 2007, Mrs. Roka Magar was growing green vegetables throughout the year.  Besides household consumption, she sold some of her vegetables in the local market for additional income. Her confidence had increased, so she no longer feels inferior for being a single woman and a widow.  She gained a very clear vision for the future, and plans to improve her neighbors’ economic conditions as well as her own.  Mrs. Roka Magar has earned her neighbors’ respect, and has become an example for the other villagers, who appreciate her efforts and persistence.

Monitoring and reporting

FSRP team members in the districts were responsible for participatory monitoring.  Their assessments were based on whether or not
  • farm and non-farm activities have been implemented as planned,
  • the set targets have been achieved, and
  • the objectives have been fulfilled.  
The key indicators for monitoring were:
  • the number of beneficiaries adopting each type of intervention,
  • increases in food supply and income at group and household levels, and
  • other benefits and impacts.
In the monitoring formats, special target groups were specified and beneficiaries were disaggregated by sex, caste, ethnicity, and ability. 

  • Other areas of monitoring included:
  • timely supply of resources,
  • contributions of local resources,
  • quantities  produced,
  • consumption and sales,
  • and cost vs. income.

The technical and social team monitored the programmes using structured interview formats.  It prepared bimonthly activity and six-monthly impact monitoring reports.  The district team compiled these reports and submitted them to the district coordinators, who reviewed, analyzed the information collected, and finally submitted them to the project management.   

Box 3:     Bee-keeping as a sustainable income for landless people and marginal landholders

   Mr. Malla of Rukum district participated in a bee-keeping training organized by FSRP.  This activity was designed to cater for the needs of the special target groups with marginal land resources to raise their income (such as Dalits and single women). Before the FSRP intervention, Mr. Malla had kept bees in traditional log hives and was producing 10 kg of honey from each hive per season.  After the training, he replaced his traditional hives with modern ones and increased his production up to 15 kg of honey from each hive per season.  In addition to the increased yield, his hives also reproduced queen bees twice a year.  Mr. Malla is currently planning to increase the number of his beehives up to ten and sell the extra bees to other farmers.
Seeing Mr. Mallas success, farmers from other villages had also been encouraged to replace their traditional beekeeping methods with modern technology. The farmers formed a group that self-confidently pressured the Maoists to not limit FSRP’s training and income generating activities. The farmer’s demands resulted in a meeting amongst the local Maoist leaders, FSRP staff, and the bee-keeping farmers. This meeting formed an seven-member bee-keeping committee to plan and implement bee-keeping activities.

The committee coordinated with the Maoists and FSRP to promote bee-keeping activities in the district.  It organized the bee-keeping farmers, identified and selected participants for training, and coordinated with different agencies to solve farmers’ problems and arrange technical assistance.  Eventually, FSRP provided support to its target groups through this committee.  As a consequence, more and more farmers became involved in modern bee-keeping activities so that the committee eventually requested FSRP support for marketing of the honey.

As of August 2008, in Rukum almost 400 farmers have received advanced bee-keeping training. FSRP subsidised to each of them 4 to 6 improved beehives and supplementary bee-farming materials.  So far, at least 60 percent of the supported farmers have increased their annual income by a minimum of NRs 5000. The farmers have also planted more than 1,000 trees for bee pastures and have started buying additional modern beehives. They have also started raising bees themselves. Locals, including the Maoists, became convinced that bee-keeping could be a sustainable source of income for the farmers.

Photo 4: Traditional log beehives