Down on Bishnu's farmA Nepali farmer who changed his mind about migrating to Korea, and feels fulfilled raising goats for a living
Bishnu Pandey’s family was involved in subsistence farming. They could only grow just enough to feed everyone, and had a few cattle and goats.
As a young boy, Bishnu tagged along when his father ploughed the fields. When siblings were too lazy to feed the animals, he would volunteer. Even when his friends invited him to play with them, he preferred the company of the goats and cattle.
Even though his family had always been involved in farming, it was just to survive — never to earn money from it.
So when Bishnu first decided to start a goat farm, his family and friends thought it was a daft idea. After all, he had a growing dairy depot, so, why give up a thriving business to take up something so labour intensive?
But as a person who enjoyed the outdoors, Bishnu knew he could only be truly happy working with livestock. So, despite the family’s mild protests he shut down his shop, and invested the amount to import three Boer goats from Australia, bought 20 local female goats and housed them in a modern shed.
Three years down the line, Ankita Krishi tatha Pasu Bikas Kendra, named after his younger daughter, is a thriving business and has 90 Boer and hybrid goats.
“They are happy now, or so they tell me,” laughs Bishnu. “My family sees that I am serious about this work and that it gives me satisfaction. They also see it is commercially viable.”
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For the first one and half years of starting the goat farm, however, Bishnu found it hard to break even. But with a ten-year plan, he was confident his business plan would work. His confidence was boosted when he sold the first purebred Boer kids for an average of Rs190,000 each.
“I understood that this profession requires a lot of patience along with hard work, so I was not only mentally prepared, I also planned my budget accordingly,” he says.
Bishnu first got the idea to import Boer goats and got the design for his shed with feeding stalls from a YouTube video of a farmer in Chitwan breeding goats.
He was worried that South African breeds would not take to the Tarai climate, they may not always have access to grazing. But when he looked up videos of modern sheds he finally took the plunge.
“Goats are cheaper compared to cattle and can easily be sold,” says Bishnu. “During Dasain and other festivals, we need to import goats but if more people do their research and get involved in this, we can eventually be self-reliant and create job opportunities here in Nepal.”
Seven years ago, as people from surrounding villages started migrating abroad in search of work, Bishnu too had set his eyes on going to South Korea where working conditions and pay were better than the Gulf.
He joined Korean classes with three of his friends, and appeared for the EPS exams. But he was not satisfied with his score, and decided to stay back and work in Nepal. He has no regrets.
“The economic condition of my friends who have gone abroad is definitely better than mine. They have rebuilt their houses and bought land. But socially I feel like I am in a better place,” says Bishnu. “People here know me because of the work I do. Moreover, I get to spend time with my family and see my children grow up.”
These days, people from adjoining districts come looking for Bishnu to learn the ropes, and he is more than happy to share his knowledge.
Over the years he has also picked up some essential skills that have helped him take care of his animals better. He mixes his own feed for the goats. He also took a 15-day veterinary training in Kathmandu since vets would be expensive.
Bishnu now employs two people to help him around the farm. But when they are not around, his wife Laxmi lends him a hand. With each passing year, he says his sense of fulfilment has grown: “It is hard work, but it is something that makes me happy.”
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Sahina Shrestha is a journalist interested in digital storytelling, product management, and audience development and engagement. She covers culture, heritage, and social justice. She has a Masters in Journalism from New York University.