Nepal: Agriculture in dry riverbeds

Landless people in Nepal have increased their income significantly by growing crops in the soil of dried-up riverbeds.

During the monsoon season in Nepal, the rivers swell and flood the surrounding fields. From October onwards, the heavy rainfall is followed by a dry season, during which the riverbeds dry up, exposing fertile soil for four to five months.

In Dang district, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is working to ensure that the soil can be farmed during this period. In the dried-up riverbeds of the Rapti River, people who own little or no land are growing watermelons, pumpkins, cucumbers and tomatoes.

More than 3,800 very poor families who previously owned little or no land have benefited from riverbed farming – around 23,000 people in total, more than 90 per cent of whom belong to indigenous groups. Indigenous people, women and 'casteless' people are particularly disadvantaged in Nepal.

Around 525 hectares of land – the equivalent of more than 525 football pitches – have been used for farming in the dried-up beds of the Rapti River. By selling the vegetables they harvest, the small farmers have increased their income significantly, in many cases by almost one fifth for the whole year.

GIZ is supporting Nepal's Ministry of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation in its efforts to promote socially inclusive economic growth in Dang and five other districts in western Nepal. Riverbed farming is one of a variety of model projects that allow disadvantaged population groups to provide for themselves and their families through independent work, and this benefits around 90,000 people in Nepal. The project is helping to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly to end poverty and hunger, but also to promote economic growth and gender equality.

In its work in Nepal, GIZ can draw on many years of experience in promoting employment. The federal enterprise and its partners helped more than 3.2 million people worldwide earn a higher income between 2010 and 2015.