In 2008 Development Marketplace competition, Helvetas was among the 22 winners with its proposal on Riverbed Farming for Landless and Land-Poor. The project has now entered its third season of cultivation.
Cultivation is done on large tracks of dry riverbeds in the Tarai region of Nepal, where land poverty is wide-spread and where at least 20 percent of households do not own land. The Nepalese climate allows riverbed farming for a maximum of seven to eight months a year except during monsoon season.
As a part of the project, local farmers are trained as extension agents. They receive technical assistance from the District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) staff and a Helvetas agriculturalist.
Currently 3,000 households in Kailali and Kanchanpur districts are cultivating watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin and other vegetables on about 400 hectares of riverbed land. Through a lease signed between the landless groups and the land owners, (generally the village development committees or community forestry user groups), landless groups cultivate produce and generate a significant income from their harvest.