Nepal’s politicians take up farming

Nep Bahadur Chaudhary and his wife Rupa Chaudhary at their banana plantation.

Democracy is expensive and funding political activities can be costly, which is why some local leaders in western Nepal have taken to fruit farming to fund their campaigns for next year’s elections.

They have found that farming is a good way to make a living, plough funds into poll campaigning without sullying their reputation with unethical donations, and approach locals.

“To do politics, we need money,” admits Nep Bahadur Chaudhary, a former Maoist guerrilla. “That’s why I farm. It does require a lot of hard work, but it also gives us the chance to make money. Direct contact with other farmers and traders also helps our campaigning.”

Chaudhary, from Kailali’s Tikapur, is a local leader with his own banana plantation. During the armed conflict, Chaudhary was the Maoist’s seventh division secretary. He and his wife, Rupa Chaudhary, former Constituent Assembly member in 2007, have been managing their banana farming business since 2011.

Chaudhary’s 3-hectare plantation is on loanfrom a local secondary school, and makes a profit of about Rs10 million a year.

Laxmi Acharya, from Kailali’s Godavari municipality, is also from the Maoist Centre party and has been tending his own banana farmfor the past eight years. His farm, spread across 5.5 hectares, brings him yearly profit of Rs200,000.

“It is necessary for us politicians to stay connected,” he points out. Since farming involves human resource and generates employment, Acharya believes his occupation actually helps further his political career.

Read also: Building an information bridge for Nepal’s farmers, Naresh Newar

Farming is also a cost-effective vocation, as Ganesh Dhakal has discovered. He cultivates dragon fruit in his Bhumiputra Livestock and Agriculture farm in Kailali’s Lamkichuha. Dhakal was also a former Maoist and enlisted into the militia at age 17 during the insurgency. He was a secretary with the Netra Bikram Chand-led faction of the Maoists.

Dhakal became interested in dragon fruit because of its high yield in a short span of time. And since he is one of few farmers in this region cultivating the fruit, he has an easy market.

Demand for home grown fruits is picking up among consumers. Indian banana imports are being replaced by those cultivated in these politician-run farms. Kailali ranks first, with Kanchanpur second, for banana cultivation in Nepal.

Farmers from Kailali and Kanchanpur have also proven that they are hard-working and have entreprenurship. Three banana farmers from Tikapur, Udhami Kalu Himal, Binod Shah, and Ram Bahadur Kunwar from Nepal Agriculture Farm in Kailalihave been awarded the President’s Excellence Award.

Read also: A parliamentarian's apple grove, Mukesh Pokharel