Agriculture-Bring It Back!
|| KATHMANDU, Nov 8: According to the January 2011 report by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)’s Rice Market Monitor Nepal is one of the ten largest importers of rice in the world from being the second largest rice producer until 1995.
An agrarian country with almost 70% of population engaged in agriculture, Nepal has suffered decline in agricultural share in the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by 12% since 1991 and 4% since 2001.
Although the per capita income of Nepalis has doubled in the last one decade, the priority to service and industry has created a huge difference between income generation in rural and urban areas. At the rate that it is going with productivity of meager 2 per cent, Nepal is most likely to headline the list of low-income food-deficit countries.
From L to R- Manjil Tandukar, Bishal KC, Saugat Rimal, Bijay Raj Giri and Asim Shrestha.
The recent issue of food scarcity in Jajarkot is an example of how the country’s prime source of income is going downhill. The people of Jajarkot stopped growing maize and paddy in large quantity after the food depots in the district started importing rice. Jajarkot’s production of food grains used to be exported outside the district.
With all food depots out of stock, food crisis is looming over 18 villages in Jajarkot.
Every year, a large number of young people are graduating with degrees and looking for employment in service or urban business sector. Similarly, youths are migrating to foreign countries for employment opportunities.
With majority of young people migrating to urban areas or working in the Gulf countries, the agriculture sector has had a huge loss in manpower. And with the mentality among educated youths that farming is just a traditional occupation, the problem is getting worse with each passing year.
With this situation in mind, Bishal KC, Asim Shrestha, Bijay Raj Giri, Manjil Tandukar and Saugat Rimal started animal husbandry and organic farming in Banepa. They started the project through group investment around three months back and have just completed the construction phase.
Bishal is studying MBA at Apex College, Asim and Bijay are also studying MBA at Presidential Business School while Manjil and Saugat are studying BLAS (Bachelor of Liberal Art and Science) at White House College.
There are 14 cows and buffaloes in their farm and they have been selling milk to the local dairy for now.
“We wanted to start a business of our own. So five of us put our ideas together. We started off with animal husbandry while organic farming is a follow-up idea. We decided to take it up so we can utilize manure and expand our business,” said Saugat Rimal.
When asked why animal husbandry, Bijay said, “We found out that the demand of 100,000 liters of milk is not being met even in Kathmandu. There’s a huge gap between the production, distribution and consumption of milk and other dairy products. We decided to target this problem and contribute to problem solving through our collaborative effort.”
The organic farm is on hold for the five of them are testing the feasibility of farmland with large-scale production in mind. They have started off with cauliflower, radish and rice in small quantity. Saugat pointed out how majority of cultivation around Nepal focuses on high production which is why almost everything we consume is inorganic.
“Even the items imported from India are inorganic while organic food production has a good scope. Not many Nepalis can afford organic food as of now because limited production calls for high prices. If organic farms are promoted, everybody will be able to afford organic food and eat healthy,” he added.
The land the group has bought in Banepa is already inorganic, so it is going to take at least three years for the soil to be completely organic, the group informs.
They have plans to expand the business to poultry farming with local hens and ducks along with fishing. A sample pond has already been dug to experiment before starting it off on a commercial level.
They are also planning to combine Saugat’s ancestral business of Ayurvedic medicine with animal husbandry. Plans are ahead to use cow urine collected from the farm for ayurvedic medicine and organic pesticide and cow dung for biogas purposes.
Saugat is looking after his family’s ayurvedic business which is three generations old and also has his own company, Quality Management System. Bijay looks after the sales at Sipradi Trading while Asim has his own cooperative that he looks after.
“If not for anything we need to stick to our jobs to invest in the farm. But if it fares well, we may be able to sustain with the revenue from the farm. Let’s see what happens,” said Asim.
The conversation delves deeply into the lack of optimum utilization of resources and it seems that the group is hopeful of the future in agriculture despite the few difficulties they’re currently facing, from problems in registration of the farm, fluctuation in weather which has affected the health of animals in the farm, and pests in the farmland.
“We decided to register the farm but the fees are too high as the government charges per square foot. We don’t have enough budgets for that now. With hope, we’ll be able to move on from the official hassles by the end of the first year which we’ve considered a learning phase for this business,” said Manjil.
The group has applied for a loan of Rs 200,000 per person from the Youth Self-Employment and Small Entrepreneurs Fund of Nepal Government. They deem this provision provided by the government as encouraging.
“Young entrepreneurs can apply for the loan at low interest rate and start their projects,” suggested Bijay.
The group is positive about the future of this venture of theirs.
“As business students, we’ve tried our best to utilize our knowledge in this project,” said Bishal when asked what they think about its sustainability and if they should consider looking for other jobs.
“The reason agriculture is considered an occupation for the backward community here is due to the lack of technology in this sector. If we were able to put up milking houses, we would be producing milk on large scale. It’s this mentality that business-minded people don’t involve themselves in cultivation that has degraded agriculture when we should’ve made significant developments.”
This news item is printed from myrepublica.com - a sister publication of Republica national daily.
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