Organic farming takes root in Nepal

Prem Bahadur Lama discovered the benefits of eating organically grown fruits and vegetables 12 years ago, when he was dealing with arthritis and other ailments. That discovery put him on the organic farming track.

"I heard a news bulletin on the BBC about the benefits of organic fruits and vegetables. So I returned to my village and started farming ," Lama, who lives in Ashapuri, in Nepal's Bagmati Zone, told Khabar South Asia.

His health improved, and so did demand for his organically grown produce. Lama eventually established the Ashapuri Organic Farm in 2005. Today, his farm takes up 10 hectares and employs 35 workers.

Lama and his enterprise are part of a new agricultural sector flourishing in Nepal. The 60 varieties of vegetables grown on his farm bring in NRs. 1.5m ($15,470) monthly.

"Most of our products are consumed within Nepal but we export mushrooms and ground apples to Singapore. There is a huge demand for these products in Singapore," Lama said. "We are in the process of getting EU certification. From next year, we will be exporting to Germany as well."

Increasing demand
Now, Lama is collaborating with farmers in five Nawalparasi, Bhaktapur, Sindhupalchowk, Sindhuli and Kathmandu districts to start co-operative organic farms.

"We are currently producing about 70 tonnes of fruits and vegetables annually. If demand keeps increasing like this, we will be producing about 300 tonnes of fruits and vegetables in the near future," he said.

The Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) is encouraging farmers to break their reliance on pesticides.

NARC is collaborating with farmers in Dhading district, where high levels of pesticides have been detected in produce, and offering them technical assistance in creating an "organic village".

"We are planning to create an organic village in Dhading, so that farmers can learn about organic farming and amend their ways," NARC official Navin Gopal Pradhan said.


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