By Smita Adhikari, Pokhara, June 21: Agricultural activities in Sidhane village, which lies on the way to the tourist destination of Panchase Hill across the Phewa Lake, have increased of late.
One could hardly see youths except the local elderlies being involved in agricultural activities previously. But for two-three months, with a larger umber of youths being involved in farming, the image of Sidhane village has changed drastically.
Along with the regular seasonal maize and wheat farming, sheds for poultry and goat are being built in various places in the village.
The village youths have also been constructing tunnels for vegetable farming.
After the villagers who had migrated to mainland of Pokhara such as Lakeside, Khappaudi, Pame, Birauta and the like in search of entrepreneurship opportunities started returning to the village due to the COVID-19 pandemic followed by nationwide lockdown, the daily routine of Sidhane village has altered.
Sidhane is only an example. Sight of youths enthusiastically performing agricultural activities in land which had remained barren for ages can be seen in various village areas of Pokhara.
Sabin Gurung, 36, a local paragliding pilot of Sidhane, is one of the youths who have returned to the village.
“I, along with my family, have returned to Sidhane to utilise our 40 Ropanis of land for agricultural business,” said Gurung.
He said that the agricultural skills that Nepalis had inherited from their ancestors had come in handy during the hard times. “I believe I can grow ‘gold’ in my ancestral land,” he added.
Gurung, who had returned to the village 15 days after the lockdown has already constructed a farm sufficient to grow around 500 chickens and 30 goats. Currently, there are 100 chickens in his farm.
Likewise, he has planted around 60 lemon plants and has grown grass in around five Ropanis of land to feed the livestock.
“I have been researching about growing market-centered fruits such as Kiwi. I will start farming them shortly,” said Gurung.
After the tourism business tumbled due to the lockdown and the pandemic, Gurung has decided to retire from a decade-long paragliding piloting and try his hands in agriculture.
The story of Kuiredanda, located at Pokhara-23, Thulakhet, is also similar to Sidhane village.
The human settlement has increased in Kuiredanda in the wake of lockdown.
After the locals who had left the village in search of employment opportunities started returning, the deserted Kuiredanda has been brought back to life.
Arjun Sunar, 49, of Kuiredanda, said, “Locals who had migrated within the country have already returned to the village while those who had gone abroad are returning.”
The villagers who had returned to Kuiredanda have planned to start agriculture in around 700 ropanis of barren land. Currently, they have started farming in around 150 ropanis of land.
The government had decided to provide incentives to those involved in agricultural business since last year.
The number of people asking for incentives promised by the government has increased massively after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After the enforcement of lockdown, the applications to register agricultural farms have increased in all 33 wards of the Pokhara Metropolitan City (PMC), said Manohari Kadariya, Chief of Agriculture Division, PMC.
According to Kadariya, the area of barren land had decreased along with increasing interest in agricultural business.
Amid the lockdown, around 20 per cent of barren land is now being used for agriculture in village areas of the valley, he added.