Down in Sherpa’s farmIsrael-returnee runs a profitable agro-business while also helping other Nepali farmers thrive
Members of Nepal’s Sherpa community are known the world over for their mountain climbing expertise. But Ang Phurba Sherpa is proving that the inhabitants of villages below Mt Everest can be equally expert farmers.
Just away from the hustle and bustle of the city in Gokarna Ang Phurba is busy on the morning rounds of his dairy farm, inspecting the milking machines.
The farm is spread across half a hectare in Sundarijal amidst a lush backdrop of Shivapuri National Park. The smell of cow dung is mixed with the odour of disinfectant at the door to prevent lumpy skin disease that is spreading across Nepal.
Read also: A family that works together stays together, Sahina Shrestha
Ang Phruba has 175 Jerseys, 85 of them milking cows, some are lazily chewing the cud while others feed on hay. Cows that just delivered are in a separate maternity ward. The lone bull has a corner all to himself.
Salaka Dairy Farm was established 10 years ago, and is one of the two largest dairy farms in the country producing 1,300 litres of milk every day sold to 700 households in the Gokarna area who subscribe to home delivery. Customers also visit the farm for fresh dairy products, and there is an outlet in Boudha for paneer, rasbari and other processed products.
What sets the Salaka apart from other dairies is the productivity, a concept Ang Phurba says he learnt when he spent eight years in Israel working a floriculture farm. His cows produce up to 22 litres of milk a day when Nepali cows on average give only 5 litres daily. What is his secret?
“I just give them nutritious feed, as much as they can eat. Water is important, they drink the same quality water as I do,” explains the 34-year-old Sherpa as he shows visitors around his farm guarded by fierce-looking dogs.
Sherpa also uses the new technology for artificial insemination that ensures that nearly all the calves born are female. This further increases the productivity of his farm.
Ang Phurba is originally from Salleri in Solu Khumbu and left on a work visa to Israel where he trained primarily in floriculture. But after eight years, he was determined to start something of his own back home, deploying the techniques he had learned in Israel.
Three months after he returned, Ang Phurba leased the farm in Gokarna and started growing vegetables for sale in the Kathmandu market. He was doing fairly well, but faced a chronic shortage of organic fertiliser.
At the same time he found that the demand for milk was much higher than any other agricultural product in Kathmandu. Which gave him the idea to start a dairy which would also allow him to produce his own manure.
The idea worked brilliantly. Today, Ang Phurba’s farm is making more money from selling organic fertiliser than from selling milk products. Vermicomposting is a simple but highly cost-effective technology of converting farm waste such as cow dung into organic manure with the cooperation of willing earthworms.
Read also: The 'Organic' uncle of Chitwan, Anita Bhetwal
Salaka produces 1.5 tons of vermicompost per day and the product is so much in demand from all over Nepal, that it is out of stock at the moment. Even when it is available, Ang Phurba’s employees cannot fill the sacks fast enough to meet demand.
Ang Phurba Sherpa is a different breed of businessman-farmer, who is not looking just for quick returns, but sees the larger picture. He trains other farmers and willingly shares his knowledge, and sells his vermicompost at just Rs18 per kg even though it can fetch anywhere up to Rs100 in the market.
Read also: Milking every opportunity, Sahina Shrestha
Asked why he does not sell it for more, Ang Phurba replies:
“I am not interested in getting rich fast, the idea is to make fertiliser affordable and accessible to local farmers so that they can also be more productive. As long as I am not losing money, I am happy. I will prosper if everyone else prospers.”
Ang Phurba still grows vegetables in his adjoining greenhouses, fertilised by his own compost. He has plans to expand his dairy, and modernise his workflow.
Read also: Biodynamic agrepreneurs, Sanjib Chaudhary
He is in Israel this week to attend workshops on recent advancements in the dairy industry with a special focus on low-emission technologies for energy-intensive farms.
Ang Phurba believes in hard work, building a strong network of local farmers and taking one right step at a time. He says: “Eventually I want to manufacture fully processed UHT milk that people can drink directly out of the bottle without having to boil it like elsewhere in the world.”