NEPALGUNJ, April 17: A large number of farmers in the villages around Nepalgunj are overjoyed with their new-found love. They have switched to herbs farming. And this has brought significant change in their lives.
'Little time, little effort, little tension but more return.' This is how a seasoned farmer of Samshergunj of Raptisonari Rural Municipality, Sher Bahadur Bista, puts it. Since adopting farming of mint and chamomile, Bista's standard of life has changed. More income has given him and his family a new lease of life.
“Earlier, I used to plant paddy and wheat. Even after toiling so hard, I could hardly make enough for survival. There was huge investment but little return. Life was always hard,” he recalls.
Bista could hardly save anything out of the crops. His children would go to community school. Providing them with enough stationeries and books would always be a challenge. Access to quality health services was a far-fetched dream. Gathering home accessories and living a grand life was simply out of imagination.
That was a decade ago. Now, everything is different. He is a 'rich' man in the village.
“My boys are getting good education. I and my wife are at ease. Farming of herbs is pretty good,” he reported.
When Bista started herb farming, people were hardly aware of such thing in the village. So, he did have some doubts about its success. However, since he wasn't doing good business with other kinds of traditional farming, he thought of testing his luck in this new farming.
“I had very little to lose because things were not going smooth even before. Instead of continuing with the paddy plantation and other regular crops I rather tried planting herbs. Even in a small area, you could grow enough herbs, that was the main attraction in the beginning,” he said.
Bista allocated 10 katta of land for herbs farming. Within just two years, he realized that he made a great move. Making over Rs 250,000 per year was something unimaginable for him earlier.
“Saving was something unfamiliar to me until I got into farming herbs. But after turning to herb farming, life started becoming comfortable,” said Bista. “And herbs have not changed just my life, it has given prosperity to many here,” he added.
No wonder, many others have adopted herb farming in the last decade. Now, the fields are seen green and bushy all seasons and it is due to herbs. According to Bista, low investment has attracted many into this. “It is far more hassle free than other kinds of crops. Whether it be planting or harvesting, you need far less human resource. Often I do it all myself,” he stated.
Once he sows herbs in his field, he waits for three months. It is chamomile and menthol that he has more craze for. Those two herbs are ready to harvest in three months.
“Unlike other crops, I don't have to save it from cattle. Similarly, I don't have to use pesticides. In fact, those herbs themselves fight pests,” he stated. “When I used to grow other crops, protecting them from wild animals as well as my own cattle would be a great challenge,” he added.
Bista sows herbs in the month of Poush every year. After three months, he harvests them. Then they are processed for oil. The oil is sent to the market.
“The oil is actually costly. I make over Rs 250,000 in a year in total,” he said.
Other crops and vegetables are grown in small amount to suffice for household consumption. This saves his money. So, what is earned through herbs is often saved.
“I don't have to spend much for other things. This is a village and we don't have much expenses. But earlier, we had no money and life was different,” said Bista. “Educating children in modern school was merely a dream,” he added.
His elder son is perusing civil engineering and his younger son is still in school. Both of them are living in Kathmandu for their education.
In Shamshergunj, there over 40 farmers who are into herb farming. Reportedly, herbs are cultivated in around 15 bighas of land and it is constantly expanding.
According to manager of Herbs Procession Industry Pvt, Sher Bahadur Gharti, the company was established to enable farmers to process the herbs at the village iself. “The farmers are happy with this facility,” he said.
The company is in operation since the last 15 years and there is still much more scope for herbs' market, he noted.