A Village Goes Organic

Chhatra Karki, CNS Correspondent
Situated at an altitude of 2,400 metres, Toplang, a village in the South West district of Dhading, Nepal, has been successfully maintaining its identity as an 'organic village' of the country. The village is merely an hour's drive along the Chandragiri hill from Kathmandu's Thankot pass.

Although the entire district is famous for its commercial vegetable farming, the villagers are determined to continue with the use of compost manure instead of chemical fertilizers since the past ten years. A local farmer Bhairab Bahadur Lama said that, "Chemical fertilizers are used in most of the villages in Dhading, but till to date we have refused entry of chemical fertilizers in our village. We only use cow dung and biodegradable organic manure to provide the much needed nutrients for the plants."

Although chemical fertilizer-free vegetables are sold at high rates in some of the departmental stores in Kathmandu, the villagers are yet to reap the benefits of growing organic vegetables that are not only very healthy, but tastier too as compared to vegetables laced with chemical fertilizers.

Farmer Manoj Lama remarked that there is lack of adequate dissemination of information to consumers regarding chemical-free vegetables grown in the village. "We could have earned a fortune by selling these vegetables to hotels and foreigners in Kathmandu if somebody could relay the information," he said.

Still the economic condition of the locals has definitely improved as a result of this. The villagers said that the youth were motivated to grow organic vegetables realizing its profitability. On an average, each family is now earning 50-60 thousand rupees annually. The leader of a local women's group, Shree Chancha Lama, recalled that till about a decade ago, the villagers had a difficult time ensuring even two square meals a day. “But now,” she said, “The income from selling organic vegetables and fruits has made it possible for families to add amenities to their households and provide education to their children."

Beans, tomatoes, cabbage, and soya beans, and fruits like banana, pears, lemon and oranges are some of the products that are sold in the capital city. The rise in income is evidently providing the much needed drive to the villagers to continue with organic farming. For example, Bhairab Bahadur, who used to spend his days playing cards or drinking alcohol is now busy in the productive work of farming. Forestry, sanitation and environmental programmes have also improved life in the village.

The villagers are also actively involved in the construction of around eight kilometers of road from Toplang to Chandragiri so as to ensure easy access to a better market for their vegetables. In an effort to assist the government in speeding up the construction work, each villager has been contributing five days of labour every month. Out of the 50 lakh rupees estimated cost for the construction of the road, the government has given only Rs. 5 lakhs, while the rest of the burden lies on the shoulders of the enthusiastic villagers.

The biodiversity conservation programmes carried out by USAID in Nepal in building technical, organizational and advocacy capacity of the community through SAGUN programme have helped grow different medicinal plants and help wildlife conversation in the region. Rishi Bastakoti, Former Executive Director of Resource Identification and Management Society, Nepal, said that,"The programme has assisted to develop a transparent and participatory system of self-governance, biodiversity conversation and livelihood improvement with sustainable forest management."

The villagers are now looking forward to technical assistance from the government and concerned sectors to enhance their productivity through latest developments in the area of organic farming, including vermin culture-production of manure fertilizers by using earthworms.

Chhatra Karki,  Citizen News Service - CNS 
25 September 2014