Female Entrepreneurs: Critical in the Fight against Climate Change
Deepa Poudel is a resilient smallholder farmer from Surkhet District of Nepal. Deepa has emerged as a key figure in addressing the challenges posed by climate change in her community. She was trained to be a community business facilitator (CBF) by International Development Enterprises (iDE) through the support of the USAID Expanding Nepal’s Business Access to Improved Technologies for Agriculture (ENBAITA, 2015-2018) that developed last-mile supply chains for climate-smart agricultural technologies. CBFs are last-mile agricultural extension agents based in remote communities marketing sustainable, climate-smart agricultural technologies. CBFs provide training and technical support to enable smallholder farmer clients to take advantage of commercial agriculture to increase their incomes. Deepa recognized the urgent need for climate-smart agricultural practices to mitigate the impacts of changing weather patterns. She introduced innovative techniques and technologies to over 250 local farmers, such as the use of safe integrated pest management (IPM) to cope with increased pest problems and bamboo greenhouses to protect crops from hail and excessive monsoon rains. Additionally, she developed the supply chain for drip irrigation systems, manufactured by Harvel Azud, to conserve water resources in the face of increasing drought conditions. Deepa serves as a significant role model in her community, demonstrating that women can excel as entrepreneurs and community leaders.
Deepa’s dedication did not stop there; she works tirelessly to expand her knowledge and skills, attending training programs and staying connected with organizations like iDE through phone calls and social media. In 2017, Deepa was trained by iDE in partnership with the international agency Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) and the Government of Nepal through the support of the USAID IPM Innovation Lab to be a plant doctor. Plant doctors are certified by CABI and the government to conduct clinics to diagnose plant pests, recommend safe IPM-based solutions and provide information for the national surveillance system. Deepa recommends safe plant protection packages developed by the USAID IPM Innovation Lab working with the Nepal government. As a plant doctor, she continues to champion climate resilience in agriculture. She played a vital role in combating invasive pests made worse by climate change, including the Tuta absoluta tomato leaf miner, which arrived in Nepal in 2016 and caused extensive damage to tomato crops. Deepa was instrumental in testing and extending the use of biopesticides, traps and insect netting to effectively combat this pest. The invasive fall armyworm arrived in Nepal in 2019, devastating the maize crop. Deepa is actively supporting farmers to apply IPM solutions to mitigate the destructive impact of the fall armyworm.
Deepa Poudel’s journey to success as a farmer, entrepreneur and community leader was not without its challenges, including relentless demands on her time. As a wife and mother of two, Deepa has to balance her commitments to her family, business and the community. Her unwavering determination and passion to help her community allowed her to overcome these obstacles. Deepa has arranged to work flexible hours; during the off-season, she assists her family more, enabling her to provide greater support to the community during peak agricultural periods. Her story is a testament to the indomitable spirit of individuals who transcend time poverty to create meaningful change in their communities. Deepa has now opened an agro retail shop in her village associated with an agricultural finance cooperative serving over 600 primarily female farmers. Deepa also advises agro-input retailers and local government agricultural extensions on community agricultural needs and coordinates plant clinics with government extensions.
In the face of climate change-related challenges, Deepa’s work exemplifies the crucial role of adaptation and innovation in agriculture. By introducing resilient crop varieties, promoting IPM practices and providing training on climate-smart techniques like drip irrigation, she helps farmers cope with the adverse effects of extreme weather, plant diseases and invasive pests. Deepa’s efforts have not only transformed subsistence farming into commercial agriculture, but have also enabled farmers to improve their food security and economic stability. Deepa’s inspiring journey stands as a testament to the resilience and determination necessary to navigate the uncertain future of agriculture. Her work underscores the importance of locally led action and knowledge exchange in fostering climate resilience in rural communities.
iDE, as an organization, is dedicated to facilitating resilient, last-mile supply chain ecosystems to scale support for entrepreneurs like Deepa Poudel, recognizing the transformative power of women as change agents. Studies have shown that women, when empowered and given access to resources, have a remarkable tendency to give back to their communities. iDE has created the Market Systems Resilience Index (MSRI) to facilitate resilience, which is crucial for marginalized and remote rural communities. iDE aims to harness the potential of female entrepreneurs like Deepa through development of resilient market ecosystems in public-private partnerships, enabling a more inclusive and resilient agricultural sector. You can learn more about the iDE last-mile approach and Deepa’s journey in the USAID ENBAITA project video.