Taking Nepali vegetables to the world
For an average Nepali living or studying abroad, getting a green card or a resident ID of the US, UK or Hong Kong is dream come true. Most of them wait years to get their papers so that they can remain abroad, earn more than back home, and explore more opportunities.
But for Meghendra Gurung of Sindhuwa village in Dhankuta district, returning to Nepal was a no brainer. Born in Hong Kong where his father Kul Prasad, a British Gurkha officer was stationed, he could have chosen to stay back. Instead he packed his back and returned to Dhankuta when his father retired.
Today, he is a well-known vegetable market manager in Dhankuta, helping local farmers sell their produce. His vegetables are sold all over eastern Nepal and even exported to India.
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In the early 1990s, when the non-governmental organization The Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED), trained farmers in Sindhuwa on off-season vegetable farming for the first time in Nepal, Mahendra got involved, was trained, and started farming.
He was in-charge of market management, and after the CEAPRED project ended after two and a half years he and more than 85 farmer groups were producing off-season vegetables.
But three decades ago, the Eastern Nepal market was too small. Although Dharan was a big city, the population was not large, Itahari was just developing, and there were no big markets in Jhapa either. Even Biratnagar did not consume a lot of vegetables.
So it fell upon Meghendra to find a market for the produce. He put together a group and went to Nepal's big cities like Kathmandu, Pokhara and Narayangadh to study the vegeetable market.
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"At that time we could not find a market that could handle the amount of vegetables we were producing," says Meghendra. So he turned his attention to India. He got in touch with vegetable traders in Siliguri and Kolkata and for the first time, Nepali vegetables entered Indian market.
A Nepali who came back from abroad was instead sending Nepali vegetables abroad. The effort of one enterprising man has helped reverse the tide: Nepali vegetables are going to India instead of the other way around.
Meghendra is now trying to push for Pest Risk Analysis (PRA), to identify the appropriate phytosanitary measures required to protect plants against new or emerging pests of Nepali agricultural products so that chemical pesticides do not have to be used.
Says Meghendra, "If we can do this, there won't be a problem in exporting Nepali vegetables to Indian and regional markets in the Gulf. But rather than an individual, this should be a government effort. If the state facilitates it, we can do the rest."
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