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Women Farmers Localize Food System in Rural Nepal

In the remote landscapes of rural Nepal, a group of women farmers is pioneering a transformation. They are creating a localized food system that connects consumers and producers directly, utilizing a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS). This initiative is not just about farming; it’s about community, empowerment, and sustainability.

The struggle of small farmers and the rise of PGS

Small farmers, especially in isolated regions, face immense challenges. Market access is limited, and the demand for quality food, organic certification, and fair labor standards is growing. However, these demands can be overwhelming for farmers who are disconnected from global consumers.

Enter the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), a method that addresses these challenges by localizing the food system and leveraging community relationships. In rural Nepal, a group of women farmers is demonstrating the power of PGS.

Local support and training: A community effort

The Sana Kishan PGS Management Group was founded in January 2018 with a mission of mutual support, training in organic and regenerative agriculture practices, and enhancing food quality. Their goal? To improve income stability for farmers.

Today, the Sana Kishan group consists of 22 women farmers, who have recently been recognized by the Nepali government as a PGS group. They are revolutionizing their community’s health and food security by reducing pesticide use and enhancing nutrition in the food they grow.

Women farmers in rural Nepal

PGS groups: building direct connections

A PGS emphasizes direct farmer-to-consumer connections, shortening the supply chain. It incorporates a local network of support, training in organic farming practices, and committed local buyers.

The system fosters learning and capacity building, but equally important, it nurtures social support and professional development. Farmers share knowledge, resources, and local partners bring in expert consultants to guide the community’s commitment to organic growth.

Krishna Chaudhary, a member of the Sana Kishan group, reflects, “I am a daughter of a farmer. Since I started organic farming five years ago, I have seen a lot of change in my life and my farming practices. The task is double the hard work, but also double the repayment.”

Farmers sell vegetables to local customers at a community event

Farmers sell vegetables to local customers at a community event in April 2023, in Surkhet, Nepal. Photo courtesy of BlinkNow.

Why not traditional “organic” certification?

Third-party certifiers are often unattainable for smallholder farmers due to fees and paperwork. PGS groups offer a local quality assurance program that benefits both producers and consumers, allowing a direct connection to verify how the food is grown.

How PGS improves communities: A case study

The Sana Kishan farmers create guidelines for organic food growing, hold each other accountable, provide sustainable income, learn from each other, and improve access to healthy foods.

With the food they produce, they can sell to additional programs like Kopila Valley School’s daily healthy lunch program, Kopila Valley Children’s Home, and other local customers.

Syani Chaudhary, another member, shares, “Yesterday I was just a mother to my children, but today I am a woman, mother, and a farmer who supports my children’s education and health. I am a proud farmer.”

Syani Chaudhary

Syani Chaudhary

This was made possible by a number of community partnerships. Nonprofit BlinkNow had been seeking reliable food sources and offered to assist farmers with group formation and training. According to Sustainability Coordinator Sunita Bhandari, “We wanted to contribute to stable livelihoods for parents, and our programs needed a consistent source of healthy food, so we partnered on the PGS project for the benefit of farmers, the children we serve, and the broader community’s increased food access.”

In collaboration with CEAPRED (Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension, and Development) and the local Karnali Province’s Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperatives, the group began to educate and model organic practices.

A global movement

An increasing number of global communities and small farmers are embracing this emerging business system. As small farmers continue to innovate, we look forward to a future of increased healthy food and livelihoods for all, driven by the spirit of community, sustainability, and empowerment.

Katy Munden Hays is the BlinkNow Public Relations Manager, a social entrepreneur, and a content writer for social impact causes.
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