By Dhirendra Prasad Shah Rajbiraj, Feb. 19: Ram Prakash Mahato of Surunga Municipality, Saptari, spent over four years in Malaysia, earning his livelihood as a struggling migrant worker. In the course of all those years, Mahato amassed around Rs. 700,000 working for companies such as Globes Factories among others. Today he earns as much or even more in just a matter of a year at his home turf. "If you are going to put as much effort here in Nepal as you do working abroad, you can earn four times more," said Mahato. "I am glad that I am able to make Rs. 700,000 to Rs. 800,000 staying here with my family," he added. So to what set of particular skills does Mahato owe his meteoric rise? The answer, as he puts it, is farming. As a child, he grew up watching his father Jibachha Mahato and his flair for commercial vegetable farming. At the time, senior Mahato used to tirelessly work in his farm, which was spread across two bighas of land. Spending time in the fields at the tender years of childhood, Mahato inherited his father’s skills and upon returning to Nepal, finally began treading his old man's footsteps. Mahato now cultivates vegetables such as cabbage, green beans, brinjal, onion, potato, lady’s finger, green pepper, pumpkin, garlic and bottle gourd among others in their respective seasons in over two bighas of land. “Reducing all the expenses while cultivating the vegetables, I earn about Rs. 60,000 a month. All I had to do was put the knowledge and skills that I had gained over the years to better use,” said Mahato. According to him, there are still several people who are yet to wake up to the lucrative nature of agriculture and farming. "Even I didn't know how beneficial it can turn out. The government has also been providing encouraging assistance to farmers," he explained. “We don’t even need chemical fertilisers, if we use organic manure properly. It is what I learnt through my father; I hope to let people know of this technique but there is no proper awareness generating programme conducted here,” Mahato added. Mahato was provided with Rs. 200,000 loan at a low interest rate through Kamalpur Community Savings and Cooperatives. The cooperatives facilitated the loan through Youth Self-Employment Programme under Youth and Small Entrepreneur Self-Employment Fund of the Nepal government. “We received Rs. 5 million under the fund and we provided it as loan to 28 aspiring farmers. Ram Prakash Mahato is one of them and like him, all beneficiaries are earning handsomely through farming. The loan helped them afford necessary equipment,” said Bhawani Prasad Chaudhary, chairman of Kamalpur Cooperatives. Mahato was struggling for loan until he finally came across the cooperative's loan scheme under the Nepal government. He was looking for a little more but even Rs. 200,000 came as a boon to him. “The loan gave me a much-required kick start. But capital isn't always enough. The government must also provide training and expand awareness to let people learn about its schemes for farmers like us,” said Mahato. Youths and locals like Mahato have been doing either commercial farming, poultry farming, animal husbandry, fish farming and even cycle mechanic through the loan. Nevertheless, all are earning enough to pay their loans while also earning a decent profit. “I have been able to pay all my loans in the first installment and have saved the remainder to pay for the study of my children, earn daily livelihood and add some property. All we need is a government to help us start our business, and citizens who will work determinedly to utilise their skills,” he concluded.