Farm entrepreneur Bishnu Bhujel did everything to not be a farmer like his parents in Sarlahi. Subsistence agriculture had ruined them, so they could not even send their children to school.
Bishnu migrated to India for work when he turned 20 so he could support the education of his young siblings. He worked as a carpet machine operator in Banaras, a mechanic in a furniture factory in Rajasthan, and then repaired diesel generators for a living.
Confident of his hands-on technical skills, Bishnu returned to Nepal to start his own furniture shop in Kathmandu. But running a business was tougher than he expected — operating costs were high due to long power cuts, staff salaries and high rent, and the furniture market was highly competitive. Profits were marginal and Bishnu lost all his savings.
He then joined a local handicraft factory, where he made wooden buttons for shirts and tools for singing bowls. The salary was so low he could not even afford rent, so he started a bicycle shop, bought a taxi and ran a vegetable store. But after piling up debts, he sold all his businesses.
Desperate, Bishnu decided to go back to farming as a last resort, even though he knew the pitfalls. “It was risky. We had heard stories of how small farmers struggled, but we went ahead because we had run out of options,” recalls Bishnu, now 49. He scouted around Kathmandu Valley and finally found an unused farm in Jharuwarasi, 20km outside the Ring Road in Thaiba Municpality. He and his wife Sanu leased 0.3 hectares of it for Rs100,000 a year.