Greenhouses

After a successful pilot project, we have begun the expansion phase. 25 new greenhouses are underway, and the new farmers are being trained as we speak. Chili, cauliflower, cucumber, garlic, ginger, and of course, tomatoes are some of the many new vegetables that are being introduced into the Gatlang locals’ diet, and sold on the market in Syabrubesi and Dhunche. Make sure you try them if you are trekking or passing through!

The first ten farmers are helping out with getting the new families involved and looking to invest in a new greenhouse each in the future.

The two widowed farmers are doing incredibly well, thanks to the generous donations we received from all our supporters – Sarki Dolma Didi has asked that we help her invest into her second greenhouse, and Somnima Didi has used the donations to rebuild the shop that her husband managed.

Our plans for the future are to trial new designs, starting with a pit greenhouse, to expand the market into China, and to keep extending the greenhouses to more families in Gatlang over the coming year.

Sustainable Steps Nepal is happy to announce our new initiative to build greenhouses in Gatlang!

Around 90% of the houses in Gatlang were destroyed in the series of earthquakes that devastated Nepal. Most people are staying in temporary huts on their farms and experiencing food insecurity. One of their main sources of income was homestay tourism, which is no longer a viable source, and won’t be until the village is rebuilt. We decided to help Gatlang by building greenhouses (complemented by modern farming methods, beekeeping and reforestation) to increase food security and provide an alternative income source. It will encourage independence and self-sufficiency, decreasing Gatlang’s reliance on the instability of homestay tourism as a major income source.

Previously, Gayaanan went to Gatlang and conducted a survey about greenhouse farming as a potential source of income. Every family who participated in the survey was enthusiastic about the idea of building greenhouses for subsistence farming and long-term income generation. Due to the support of donations and the enthusiasm of participants, SSN decided to build 10 greenhouses in Gatlang as part of a pilot project. Upon successful completion of this pilot project, our vision is to build a total of 300-400 greenhouses to benefit the 450 families in this village.

For three days, Lily, Lily, and Eliza attended full-day training sessions facilitated by Sunrise Farm in Kathmandu, where they learned about best practices in farming, including:

  • permaculture
  • sustainable agriculture
  • how to optimize farming space
  • what vegetables to use
  • how to work the soil
  • composting techniques
  • how to reduce waste
  • what plants complement each other and which ones compete with each other
  • where to build greenhouses in relation to the sun, water source and compost heaps

Armed with their new knowledge on best practices in farming, and together with experts from Seeds of Life, they went to Gatlang to assess the landscape and talk to locals about what would work best as a long term project. At their first meeting, which was held in a makeshift community shelter, excitement was brewing about greenhouse farming. The locals equitably selected ten farmers (plus a few reserves), including one farmer from each ward (except for two wards due to lack of interest or appropriate land) and four women in total. The members of the committee were chosen as well: one SSN representative, one Seeds of Life representative, VDC Vice Secretary Chewang Dorjee, One District Agriculture representative and 10 pilot farmers. Lily, Lily and Eliza returned to Kathmandu to buy supplies to build the pilot greenhouses and then headed back to Gatlang with Nelson from Seeds of Life to begin building.

SSN will be building three designs. The first design is a solar greenhouse with stone walls on three sides to increase the efficiency of heat retention. The second is a regular bamboo tunnel design, and the third is a pit greenhouse that will be 6 feet underground to improve heat retention at night. The stone wall design is labour intensive, but the others will be cheaper and quicker to build because they’ll be built from bamboo and plastic.

After a few hiccups, they began building the stone wall design by using rocks to make three walls. We also received the approval of each of the political leaders of the village to go through with the initiative. SSN had a meeting with the farmers that evening, where wages and meal accommodations were discussed, as well as fencing to protect the greenhouses from livestock. After a few days of building, SSN handed out seed packages. We communicated our expectations for the next few weeks. We will be making a Facebook group for updates to be posted, and.committee meetings will be held every week. The construction of the greenhouses, preparation of land and maintenance of nurseries will continue. Nelson has recently begun work on the second design – the bamboo tunnel greenhouse.

Greenhouse farming has a lot of potential to be a sustainable income source; one greenhouse is expected to provide $200-300 in revenue each year. If we build 300-400 greenhouses, the local economy could be boosted by 90 to 100k every year. It would only cost $30 to 40k to build all of the greenhouses. Farmers will be able to pay off the cost of the greenhouses by using the profits that they make over 5 years.

We also intend on introducing reforestation with fruit trees and beekeeping as complementary income sources. Seeds of Life is assessing the environment to figure out which fruit trees can be grown in this area. This is a promising project because it not only improves deforestation that has increased the risks of soil erosion and landslides in this area, it also helps to increase the variety of available food sources and provides another possible source of revenue.

SSN will be working with Paramendo (an organization in Rasuwa that specializes in high-altitude beekeeping) in facilitating the beekeeping project in Gatlang. Beekeeping will help with pollination in the greenhouses, which are isolated systems that have limited access to natural pollinators. In addition, beekeeping provides honey that locals use for medicinal purposes and an additional source of revenue. Beekeeping tends to be successful in rural areas and supplement natural farming. Representatives from Paramendo will train our volunteers and locals on techniques to culture medicinal honey in Gatlang that can be sold to generate revenue.

This project will have a significant impact on the socio-economic status of the Gatlang community. Greenhouse farming, modern farming techniques, beekeeping and reforestation will provide alternative sources of revenue for a community that has lost its major income source in the aftermath of the earthquake. Moreover, this project will introduce a variety of grains, vegetables and fruit into people’s diets, contributing positively to each individual’s overall health and greatly improving food security. It will also create a valuable research and learning opportunity for interns from Kathmandu University, as well as the local students and adults who will be educated in innovative, eco-friendly farming methods.

If successful, our long-term vision is to expand our project to other villages in the Tamang Heritage Trail and perhaps even the rest of Rasuwa district. Contact us if you would like to connect us to relevant contacts or contribute any ideas about this project (or future sustainable income projects)!


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