Entrepreneur at Eighteen! Kumari Mijar: The seed harvester
Clad in a blue top and orange trousers with her hair neatly tied up in a ponytail, Kumari Mijar walks down the slippery slope of a hill in Methinkot Village of Jorsalla in Kavrepalanchowk District to the plastic house where she grows tomatoes and ladyfingers, among other vegetables. Her work there entails artificial pollination of the vegetables and then harvesting seeds that she sells to the Center for Environment and Agriculture Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED).
This vivacious and enterprising 18-year-old attended a training program at the National Agriculture Research Council (NARC) at Khumaltar in Lalitpur about a year ago upon the insistence of her elder brother and there has been no looking back ever since. After the two-day workshop on farming and seed harvesting, she returned home to put her skills to test. Her family was initially skeptical of her knowledge and did not have much hope from it.
“When I showed my family what I had been taught, my brother was outright bored with the concept and the rest didn’t think much about it, either,” says Kumari, adding with delight that when she earned Rs 60,000 last year by selling the very seeds she had harvested herself with the technique she was taught in the course of her training, her family members were shell-shocked.
The ‘technique’ involves emasculation which is the removal of anthers or pollen, the male parts of a plant, and then artificial pollination where the pollens are lightly brushed over the pistil, the female segment of the plant. After the fertilization and subsequent ripening of the fruit, the process of harvesting the seeds begins.
Seeds from the vegetables need to be collected when plants are at their peak, before they are overripe and decay has set in. In the case of very wet pulp such as the tomatoes that Mijar tends to with utmost care, the seeds have to be washed from the pulp and then laid out to dry.
The process is tedious, to say the least, but Kumari is all smiles as she describes it which showcases her enthusiasm for her work. Currently, a grade 12 student of management at Shri Janak Higher Secondary School at Bhakundebesi in Kavrepalanchok, she does not complain about the hard work because funds from it pay her tuition fees and that way she has been able to give continuity to her academic life.
“Earlier, we used to survive on whatever money we could get our hands on by selling maize and milk from the buffaloes we had. We had enough to eat but every other expenditure had to be carefully planned and if it hadn’t been for the seed harvesting, I probably wouldn’t have been able to study further after appearing for my SLC exams,” she says.
A typical day for Mijar starts as early as five in the morning as classes start at quarter past six, and she has to walk for nearly an hour to reach school. After school gets over at half past nine, she has to make the one-hour long journey on foot again. But this time around she does not have the luxury to stroll and so hurries to make it back to her plastic house before it gets excruciatingly hot as the day progresses.
“I’ve to keep the temperature in mind. So I usually make it a point to be at work before it gets too hot and the flowers wilt,” she says, adding that sometimes the monotony gets to her but other times she’s happy with her hectic lifestyle.
Mijar works alone in her tiny farm for nearly six hours every single day. Oftentimes, she rushes straight to tend to the tomatoes upon returning home from school. She works for two hours before heading back for lunch. Her elder sister lends a hand but only when she feels like it, so more often than not, it is Mijar who can be been seen doing everything.
Her work comes with a fair share of ups and downs, as everything else in life, but an effervescent smile never leaves Mijar’s face as she speaks of all that matters to her – family, friends and her first love, traveling. In the past year she has been to Kathmandu, Pokhara and Sindhuli and is already looking forward to another trip.
One can see just how happy and confident this young lady is and the confidence stems from the fact that she has been able to provide her family a better standard of living and that is also a source of much pride which gleams and glistens through her eyes. Mijar now hopes to double her annual income and is working towards it with ferocious dedication and determination.
She is well settled in her own little world and likes it like that. She wishes to pursue a course in business studies but laments that the school she has currently enrolled in does not have a Bachelors’ course in management and she will inevitably have to move to Kathmandu. But she plans to return to her village even if she moves to the capital for educational purposes.
“I like my life here and find it very peaceful,” she says. “I also like the work I’m doing and want to continue with it and make a career out of it.”