The project is being implemented in four districts, Humla, Jumla, Lamjung and Dolakha, representing the different rainfed regimes of the mountain areas of Nepal, spanning from the east to the western Himalayas. Each of the four sites contains a wealth of unique local crop diversity of the mandate crops with variation of functional traits, adaptive to different abiotic and biotic stresses. Covering this range of mountain agroecological zones will enable cross-site on farm experiments of traditional varieties to identify crop varieties with higher resistance to drought and temperature stress and to different pest and diseases, when they are grown outside their home environments.
Chhipra VDC, Humla
Hanku VDC, Jumla
Ghanpokhara VDC, Lamjung
Jugu VDC, Dolakha
Humla is the largest district of Nepal in terms of area (5655 km2) but is sparsely populated with a total population of 50,858 of which 51% are male (CBS 2011). The population is distributed in 9437 households with an average household size of 5.37 (NPC, 2011) residing in 27 VDCs. Simikot VDC, the capital of Humla has 13% of the districts families that is more than three and half times of the average VDC population of Humla. While 62% of males aged five and above are literate in Humla, only a third of females could read and write in 2011 (CBS, 2011). Elevation ranges from 1524 to 7337 masl and the district can be stratified into three distinct regions: i) high Himalaya (75% of land) ii) high mountain (22%) and iii) mid-mountain (2%).
The village development committee (VDC) of Chhipra is situated almost in the middle of Humla district. It is surrounded by Karnali river to the east, Thama hill and Bajura district to the west, Syanda VDC (Mehalgad) to the north and Raya VDC to the south. Chippra has a total area of 282 km2 and is situated at the altitude range of 2000-4800 meters above sea level (VDC Profile, 2010). Chippra is 4 hours of walk or 12 km to the south-east) from the district headquarter of Simkot. As of 2014, Chippra has 234 household of which 7% were Brahmins, 53% were Chhetris, 25% were Thakuris and 15% were Dalits.
There are two distinct cropping pattern followed in the Chippra: two crops per year at lower altitudes and three crops in two years at higher altitude. Rice is an important crop in lower altitude khet land even though the area under paddy cultivation is small in Chhipra. Finger millet is major crop in terms of area in Chhipra as well as Humla and is grown through transplanting and direct seeding with direct seeding being more common.
Jumla is one of the five districts of the Karnali zone with a total area of 2531 km2 and a population of 108,921 (1:1::male:female) in 19,303 households. Recently four VDCs (Chandannath, Talium, Kartikswami and Mahat) were combined to form the Chandannath Municipality with includes the district headquarter at Khalanga Bazaar. Elevation in Jumla ranges from 2100 to 6400 masl.
Jumla is the major administrative and commercial centre of Karnali. However, high-hill location of Jumla, irregular air and road accessibility that depends on weather, difficulty in communication, and lack of modernization has led it to be categorized as one of the remote areas of Nepal. Challenges in accessing chemical fertilizers and herbicides and an effort for finding national market for foods produced in Jumla, District Agriculture Development Office (DADO), Jumla declared it as an organic district in 2007. Regardless, all 26 VDCs in Jumla can be reached from district headquarter within a day.
Hanku VDC is about 8 km from Khalanga Bazaar and has an elevation range from 2000 to 4600 masl with cool temperate to alpine climate. As of 2014, there were 580 households in Hanku with 42% Dalit, 35% Brahmin and 23% Chettri/Thakuri families. Despite being right across the Karnali Highway, there are no motorways to link the VDC. Foot trails connect Hanku with highway at two points. In the low land khet rice, barley, finger millet, potato, foxtail millet, amaranth and soybeans are cutivated, while in the upland bari barley, beans, wheat, finger millet, proso millet, maize and potato are cultivated.
Lamjung is a district in the Gandaki zone covering an area of 1,692 km2 and an elevation ranging from 385 masl (Ramghatar) to 8,162 masl (Mount Manaslu). It has a population of 1,67,724 with a 45%:55% male to female ratio. According to Nepal Human Development Report 2014, Human Development Index (HDI) and Human Poverty Index (HPI) value of Lamjung is 0.507 and 26.98 respectively. Based on Climate Change Vulnerability mapping for Nepal (MoE, 2010), Lamjung is one of the very highly vulnerable districts of Nepal with very high vulnerability to landslide, overall climate change trend (temperature and rainfall) and Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF).
Ghanpokhara is one of the 58 VDCs of Lamjung with an area of 56.4 km2 and an elevation ranging from 850 to 6,983 masl (Mount Lamjung). However human settlement can be found only at altitude range from 850 to 2175 masl. Approximately 80% area is covered with forest, rangeland and remaining 20% is under human settlement and agricultural cultivation. 98.46% HHs still use firewood for cooking purpose in Ghanpokhara. Ghanpokhara has 648 Households with total population of 2,893 (CBS, 2011) with mix of ethnicities including Gurung, Biswakarma, Brahmin, Chhetri, Tamang and Damai. Gurung community is dominant (60 %) followed by Dalit (35%). It has a literacy rate of 55%. Ghanpokhara is part of the Annapurna Conservation Area.
Dolakha district lies on Janakpur zone and has 2 municipalities (Bhimeswor and Jiri municipality) and consist of 47 VDCs. Charikot, the district headquarter is in Bhimeswor municipality. Dolakha covers an area of 2143 km2 with an elevation range of 732 to 7148 masl. The district has 56, 686 ha (26.4%) of cultivated land, 10, 1500 ha (47.3%) of forested area, 29,500 ha (13.7%) of grass land and 5,665 ha (2.6%) of snow covered mountain areas.
Jugu VDC covers an area of of 33 km2 and an elevation range from 950 to 3000 masl with steep slope topography. It is located at North-eastern slope of Tamakoshi river watershed and the settlements has arranged facing south-west and west-north slope. The climate of Jugu VDC can be categorized on sub-tropical, warm temperate and sub alpine climate depending on attitudinal gradient.
The district of Dolakha was one of the hardest hit areas of the April and May 2015 earthquakes and Jugu VDC was also severely affected. While no human causalities were recorded in Jugu, all the houses have been damaged, with the project’s site office being one exception. Aftershocks still continue even 8 months after the earthquake.