Livelihood and Health programmes in Mugu and Bajura

A Programme Insight

Mugu and Bajura are remote districts of Western Nepal, PHASE Nepal has been working in Bajura for two years and is embarking on a new programme in Mugu too.

Raj, the core project manager from our PHASE Nepal Kathmandu office, visited the team of PHASE workers stationed in the field recently. It was an exciting trip to see how the health and livelihood projects are progressing in the area and to begin the implementation of a new nutrition project in Mugu.

New Nutrition Programme in Mugu

Malnutrition is a serious problem in Mugu; around 60% of children under five have stunted growth and one in five children under the age of five is severely underweight. Over a fifth of women of reproductive age are underweight too making it a priority area for PHASE Nepal to work in.

Children supported by PHASE programmes in Humla district during a nutrition awareness session

Children supported by PHASE programmes in Humla district during a nutrition awareness session

It is one of PHASE Nepal’s core values that our projects should be integrated wherever possible. When it comes to nutrition, livelihood and health programmes are strongly interconnected and our field staff work together to share knowledge and ensure that messages in the community are strong and consistent. Raj visited with Sangita (Health supervisor for Humla area) and also Laxmi (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) and Shanti (Junior Technical Assistant). Laxmi and Sangita have before been working in PHASE project areas in Gorkha but have relocated to Mugu for this nutrition programme.

The programme is funded through PHASE Worldwide by the Innocent Foundation. It aims to:

  • Increase food security through increasing the number of months a family can feed themselves from their own land
  • Improve diet through greater productivity, better crop selection and better access to vegetable produce and animal protein to supplement diet

Firstly, three Focus Group Discussions were conducted in three VDCs of Mugu district; Ruga, Kotdanda and Hyanglu. A semi-structured checklist was developed beforehand to help the team collect information about food security, livelihoods and health and nutrition in the communities. All the information collected on the trip will help the team implement the most effective activities to benefit as many of the community as possible.

In addition, a discussion session was organized in the Mugu district headquarters to share information about the project with key stakeholders including the acting Local Development Officer and the Chief District Officer, Chief of District Public Health Office (DPHO), District Agriculture Development Office, and District Forestry Office. The meeting was very helpful and it helped develop relationships with the local community and leaders in the area; all attendees declared their support for the programme. It was recommended by the chief of DPHO that one more VDC (Jima) should be covered by PHASE Nepal initiatives as there is a great need in the area, especially for health care services. It was decided that some discussion should be held with the community to help decide if they would like PHASE Nepal to start working in the area. Six focus group discussions will be carried out with the following groups in Jima:

  • Farmers groups
  • Mother group
  • FCHV
  • Local leaders, government and non-government stakeholders

Four enumerators were selected, three males and one female, to begin a household survey in the six VDCs where the programme will run, as well as Jima. The data from the household survey will be available by the end of January and will help PHASE Nepal implement the programme effectively.

Existing Livelihood and Health Programmes in Kolti and Wai, Bajura

In Bajura, Raj collected information about existing programmes by direct observation and discussions with the staff and community. He was very impressed with the impact that projects were having in the area and the dedication of PHASE staff to the community.

Health Programmes in Wai and Kolti

Discussions with local leaders were very positive and they were pleased that health facilities were available to their community who would otherwise have great difficulty in accessing any medical support. They said that the presence of the PHASE health workers in the health post has helped to save the lives of many local people who were previously deprived of medicines and other health facilities.

Staff felt that being permanent residents of the community had a very positive impact and built relationships well, more women were seeking their assistance for safe delivery of babies and for ante and post natal checkups.

Livelihood Programmes in Wai and Kolti

Raj also held discussions with saving group members in Wai VDC: the comments from the group were promising. The members have learned saving and credit activities, how to maintain proper recording and documentation of their savings and the interest earned from their savings. They are all aware of how their monthly saving has contributed to increase the group fund. This has helped to get access to local economic opportunities and to start small enterprises like goat rearing by getting financial assistance from the group.

Meeting with the saving and credit group of Wai

Meeting with the saving and credit group of Wai

Vegetable seed support and training has been very effective in the area and has helped to meet some of the community’s immediate needs.

About Seed Support and Training

The aim of seed support and training is to provide farmers with the tools and knowledge to grow new crops and diversify their agricultural outputs. This in turn means a more nutritiously varied diet for the farmer’s family and therefore improved health. It also reduces the risk of food insecurity: if only one crop is grown and it fails then the family are likely to face difficulties but with more crops available this is less likely to happen.
Farmers are provided with seeds and training for new vegetables such as radish, tomatoes, fenugreek, spinach, peas, coriander and cauliflower. Depending on the seeds, the training could include how to provide the best conditions for germination, the transferring of seedlings into the field and the cultivation and harvest of these once growing in the field.
Training is carried out by JTAs (junior technical assistants) who work closely with the health teams in the areas. This integrated approach means that the best nutrition messages are communicated well throughout the areas we work in for the best outcomes and a greater impact.

Learning points and suggestions for the area

After visiting the area Raj felt that because Wai and Kolti are water scarce areas, mulching, plastic tunnelling and alternative irrigation ideas should be tried as part of the livelihood programme. Training in these techniques could provide better yields for the local community and improve the diversity of crops available to farmers.

The environment would also be an ideal location to grow high value crops such as mushrooms.

It is also clear that more regular meetings with the local government authorities are effective to ensure the best coordination of work in the area and make sure that they are aware of the benefits that the PHASE Nepal livelihood programme is bringing to the community.

A vegetable field in Bajura, part of the PHASE Nepal livelihood programme in the area

A vegetable field in Bajura, part of the PHASE Nepal livelihood programme in the area