Chaubise Rural Municipality, Dhankuta sees its future in kiwifruit

By Nepal All

Updated 08:34, 14 Oct 2020

Photo: Getty Images

BIRATNAGAR:  Previously, Aaita Sodemba Limbu, 47, of Chaubise Rural Municipality-6 Rajarani of Dhankuta was a cardamom farmer. He would fetch handsome income from this exporting cash crop from Nepal's hills. 
He said he had instances of selling cardamom at the rate of maximum of Rs. 92,000 per 40 kilogrammes. Limbu has grown cardamom in 25 ropanis of land.  Good income made by yearly sales of cardamom had inspired Limbu to abandon his transient job in Bahrain as a Nepali migrant worker years ago. 
Of late, however, his earning from once big-earner cardamom has dwindled badly. ''I am compelled to sell 40 kilogrammes for just Rs. 21,000,'' said Limbu, adding, ''This is five hundred percent lower than highest amount we would earn in early years.'' 
Together with income loss, the cardamom production has also decreased. ''Now I just grow 3 Man (120 kilogrammes) whereas I would grow 8 Man (320 kilogrammes) in the past,'' shared Limbu. 
These days, Limbu, a father of a daughter, has shifted his farming focus on kiwifruit. He had planted 25 kiwifruit saplings this year. He is in mission to increase the nutrition-rich kiwifruit volume in the days ahead. 
''Kiwifruit has growing demands not only in Dhankuta district but also in nearby markets of Dharan, Itahari and Biratnagar of our State-1,'' said an optimistic Limbu. He added, ''Kiwifruit is suitable in our surrounding as well as it can earn minimum of around Rs. 100 per kilogramme here in our farmlands itself.''
Kali Prashad Limbu, a 55-year-old farmer from the same village, shared similar sentiment. Father of a daughter and two sons, Limbu is also growing kiwifruit in his 10 ropanis of land at Rajarani of Chaubise 
Kali Prashad Limbu, 55, has plans to intermix his ongoing piggery and upcoming mid-scale kiwifruit farming. ''The manure obtained from pig farm is very useful to kiwifruit,'' he said, ''This is good combination to grow pigs and kiwifruit together. Kiwifruit demands higher manure and pig farm is useful for this.''  
Local Government in support of kiwifruit farming
Kiwifruit growers like Aaita Sodenba Limbu and Kali Prashad Limbu are being supported by the local government. Chaubise Rural Municipality has distributed kiwifruit saplings in the last year. It is also doing so in the upcoming year. 
''We had allocated Rs. 500 thousand to kiwifruit last year and gave 50 percent grant to saplings imports for our farmers," said Khajindra Rai, the chair of Chaubise Rural Municipality. He added, ''In the current year we have allocated Rs. 1.4 million to support our farmers for the growth of the premium fruit items like kiwifruit.'' 
The chair Rai, however, said his local government would not give support to farmers on an individual basis. He said local government would support only on farmers' collective, company and cooperatives. 
''Once we give kiwifruit saplings to individual farmers, they are less likely to be accountable. However, once we support them based on farmers' collective, company and cooperative, they will be responsible both to the growing and to the local government,'' opined chair Rai. He further added, ''This practice would create community-level effective monitoring among farmers lessening burdens only on the local government.'' 
Chair Rai said the local government has adopted a policy and plan to declare some environmentally suitable villages as kiwifruit zones. Rajarani of ward number 6, Basantatar of ward number 8, Mudhebash of ward number 2 and Basantatar of ward number 1 are listed for kiwifruit villages. 
The Rural Municipality has a total population of 19,283 based on national census of 2011. Owing to outmigration, the population still hovers around the same digits, said chair Rai. He said around 90 percent people are in farming and animal husbandry practices. 
A wine factory of kiwifruit encourages for mass production 
Kiwifruit, which is known as Thekifal in Nepali language, has gained more farmers' interest at Rajarani area of Dhankuta after the establishment of a wine factory. 
The Mount Everest Winery Private Limited, which manufactures kiwifruit wine at Chaubise Rural Municipality-6, Rajarani of Dhankuta, has boosted farmers' confidence in kiwifruit cultivation since its establishment in 2018. 
''When we were producing kiwifruit few years ago, we were sceptical on markets for our sales,'' said Aaita Sodemba Limbu, a farmer. However, after the operation of a wine factory, farmers like Aaita Sodemba Limbu are not sceptical on market access. ''Even we did not fetch good market price; the factory buys our products for around Rs. 100 per kilogramme from our farmlands itself. Last year also, they bought on the same price,'' he said. 
Bishnu Bastola, a noted food technician and one of the owners of the wine factory, informed the factory has annual processing capacity of around 300 thousand kilogrammes of kiwifruit. Bastola said local production is not enough to run his winery.  
He added, ''We are compelled to import kiwifruits from places like Sindhuli just because local supplies are not enough to run our wine production in full-fledged capacity.''  The kiwifruit wine, branded as Princes, has two varieties namely 'Sweet Red Wine', and 'White Sweet Wine' both of which are made out of kiwifruit. 
According to Bastola, the factory with the investment of around Rs. 200 million rupees has plans to train local farmers to grow kiwifruit in bigger scale. 
Khajendra Rai, the chair of Chaubise Rural Municipality, said his local government is collaborating with the wine factory to equip farmers for mass production.

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