Off the Swivel Chair

Off the Swivel Chair

Taking a break from the desk and chair, and entering the field, for a change. The field gives you fresh smell, inspires you and helps you strengthen your horizon, beyond the four walls of your office space and beyond the virtuality of the internet.

After merely a couple of weeks into a Shinghadurbarian research task and I had already felt like a Shinghadurbarian. Placed in a moderately facilitated spacious room, from 10 to 5, trying to create some magic formula for the whole country, but, distant from the reality of the soggy field, inside the walls of “Singhadurbar”.

I was not comfortable. I had to see the land being ploughed, feel the soil and inhale the air in the woods.

Begnas Coffee Farm, Lekhnath, Kaski:

The view of Begnas Taal from the Begnas Coffee Farm/Photographer: Sujan Adhikari

Consultation with some industry experts on the best business practices at the local level led me to Pachhvaiyaa, a couple of kilometres to the east of Pokhara.
Mr. Arjun Lamsal, the owner of the Begnas Coffee Farm, was engaged in agro business for many years.

The traditional method of subsistence farming that was going on for generations did not yield much economic reward for the family.
“I knew that I had to change my traditional mindset if I am to become a professional in this field”, said Mr. Lamsal, “I decided to have commercial orientation in cultivating Coffee- a realm in which I had some basic knowledge back then.”

He began coffee production at the small plot of land at this home. The fresh cherries of coffee from his garden would be sent to pulping centres in nearby town. And that was it.
In order to reap maximum benefits from coffee cultivation, he knew that he had to move forward in the value chain. But his scale of production was too low.

Mr. Lamsal, then, led the integration of the whole community in the coffee supply chain. He helped his fellow community members, right from planting the coffee to plucking fresh cherries after a couple of years.
“The cultivation of coffee by the whole community increased the supply of coffee cherries, which helped us move forward in the value chain”, Mr Lamsal says.

In the process of empowering the community, Mr. Lamsal empowered his family members as well. His wife and son currently manage the various aspect of the business operation, while Mr. Lamsal is more engaged in external affairs. I was pleasantly surprised to learn and see the leading role played by Mrs. Lamsal in managing the affairs of the firm. It is not often that we get to see women leading businesses, and that too in rural Nepal. Lamsal family is a perfect example of changing times in Nepal.

With the support of various government and non-governmental agencies, they were able to set up a pulping centre at their firm.
They have grown a lot since; from fresh cherries to dry parchment, green beans and finally, roasted bean, they do all the major work involved in the coffee supply chain at their own firm. They’re trying to make Begnas Coffee farm a mini resort. That would provide visitors an opportunity to learn about the other side their favourite hot drink.

The view of calm Begnas, over the coffee shrubs, seen through the window and, weather permitting, the sight of the majestic Himalayas, the mini resort would be an oasis of serenity to the people from a bustling city. Add the hospitality of the Lamsal family to that, “the mini-resort would be a mega hit” is hardly an overstatement.

On my way back to Pokhara that evening, I could not stop thinking about the wonders that Lamsal family had achieved. An enterprise entirely profit-oriented which has not only helped the family earn profits but also has had a large impact the whole community!

Income of the Lamsal family has gone up, and so has the income of their community members, engagement of women in entrepreneurship and leadership, poverty reduction, gender empowerment, equality – add your own labels to the story. The Lamsal family are an enterprise producing wonders in Nepal. I wonder what the situation will be if more Arjun Lamsals come up and more Begnas Coffee Farms are able to reach their actual business potential!

Later that day, over the evening tea I met a couple of journalists in Pokhara. I shared my thoughts on the power of entrepreneurship, to bring equality in the society and to bring progress. Sensing my eagerness to see the wonders in entrepreneurship, the journalist friends referred me to another community-based farm in Baglung. Some excellent works were being initiated in the district, with a potential to bring massive progress in the whole community.

I couldn’t wait to meet them. I made arrangements to travel to Baglung the very next day. As I went to sleep, I had a sense of comfort in my mind, something that I would not have experienced had I limited myself to the swivel chair at my office.
Nepal is changing and towards good.

((Hopefully) To be continued…)

Author: Sujan Adhikari is a Daayitwa Summer Fellow 2016 working with the Trade and Export Promotion Center, Ministry of Commerce.

View Your Choice is an outreach partner for Daayitwa.



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