Two years ago Mong Tamang sold 1.5 hectares of his farm. When the new owner built a road along the land to turn it into a new housing colony, local farmers were up in arms, and prevented it.
Dhab Thapaliya sold half a hectare of his land to Kathmandu-based businessmen three years ago. But villagers again prevented houses being constructed, and Thapaliya had to return the advance he was paid.
Today, 2,000 out of 3,500 households in Piple raise cattle and grow vegetables, and much of the credit goes to Nabaraj Onta, who returned from Korea after 25 years and put into practice what he learnt there working in a farm. He brought back seeds, and distributed it free among his fellow-villagers.
“He has a vital role in encouraging us to take up farming and protect our land,” says Rameshwar Oli of the dairy cooperative in Piple which has a farmers’ savings and loans scheme providing low interest loans to farmers to buy seeds and buffaloes. All loans are paid in time, and the cooperative also has a livestock insurance scheme.
Farmers in Piple village of Chitwan say their farms are much more valuable to grow vegetables and and raise livestock than to be converted into real estate, and have united to preserve cultivable land from being bought by developers for housing and factories.
Unlike anywhere else in Nepal, they have enforced zoning criteria to classify farmlands and residential areas, and have prohibited buildings anywhere other than in areas along the road.
“Legally we can’t interfere in decisions about private property, but there is an understanding among us to not sell cultivable land,” explains Danda Raj Pandey one of the farmers who started the movement.
It has been ten years since Piple people have turned to vegetable farming and animal husbandry, and turned their village into a model agricultural settlement.
Pandey himself used to buy oranges wholesale in Dhading and Gorkha and sell it at the Kalimati market in Kathmandu. Today he sells vegetables and 15 litres of milk every day from his own village, and does not have to travel away from home for livelihood. He now makes Rs600,000 a year, and with his savings has expanded his farm so he can grow more.
Moti Rijal was a daily wage worker until he started farming a small plot of his ancestral property. The farmer made more than Rs100,000 by selling just cabbages, and decided to expand into commercial farming. He has now leased more land from neighbours to grow other vegetable cash crops.
Rama Dalakoti also grew beans in her small plot, and her farming is so intensive that in the last season she made Rs400,000 just from selling it in the market. Piple has now overtaken Gitanagar as the dairy capital of Chitwan, and local farmers sold Rs12 million worth of milk and supplied Rs10 million in vegetables to Kathmandu last year.