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Although the agricultural sector employs 4 out of every 5 people, most families in Nepal face malnutrition or lack of sufficient food at least occasionally, and in many cases, regularly. Most rural families do not own land and must scrape a living by working in the fields of the wealthy.
According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, 21% of Nepali babies are underweight at birth; nearly 50% of children younger than 5 suffer from moderate to severe growth stunting.
Vitamin A deficiency is a particularly big problem for children and adults alike, and often leads to blindness, impaired immune function, and birth defects.
These problems occur even in good harvest years. During a drought year, or when other factors lead to poor harvests, the problems are even more severe.
For nearly 20 years, ETC has been combatting food insecurity and malnutrition by making greater self-sufficiency possible for families and villages. We offer sustainable agricultural development programs that increase farmers' yields and the variety of nutritious foods grown, using ecologically sound and inexpensive methods.
All ETC women's group members receive seeds, tools, and training to help them start kitchen gardens immediately outside their homes. The food they can grow there, year-round, greatly improves their families' nutritional intake and adds variety to their usual meals. Many women are able to grow enough so that they can sell the excess, increasing their household incomes.
In every Village Development Committee (roughly equivalent to an American county) where ETC works, we set up a demonstration farm. Here, we offer hands-on training in the best practices of crop farming.
ETC also enables women to raise livestock. Members of our women's groups can take out low-interest loans to start livestock businesses, and participate in training to learn how to feed and house their animals properly. Popular types of livestock include goats, poultry, and water buffalo. The milk and eggs can be sold for a profit, and are good sources of calcium and protein.
We offer periodic animal health clinics, to which villagers bring their animals for check-ups and routine vaccinations. At our most recent animal health clinic (held in early March 2013), two veterinarians and five veterinary technicians saw more than 3,000 animals!
...and practical, hands-on experience. Each participating school has a demonstration garden in which students apply what they have learned in the classroom. They pass along their newfound knowledge to their farming families, who can apply it in their own gardens. The area in the forefront of this photo was ready to be planted with spring crops!