Updated: Feb 12, 2021
It all began in September 2013. I was visiting Nepal during my summer holidays and I had just finished the Poonhill trek. Awestruck by the beauty of the nature around Pokhara and its countryside, a desire to live and work in this city aroused within me. The lakes, the mountains, the view of the majestic Annapurna range, sunrises, sunsets and the jolly people made me fall in love with Pokhara. I wished I could live in this city one day, enjoy its perks and contribute to its society in some way.
At that time, I was just starting my masters in Sustainable Agriculture in the Netherlands. After my trip, I went back to Europe and kept on day-dreaming about practicing my profession in Nepal. I enjoyed every bit of my studies which were all about reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture and feeding people in new ways. But what interested me the most was finding novel ways of improving the livelihoods of hardworking smallholder farmers in developing countries by using what I have learnt so far. Their lives are tough and their subsistence is not guaranteed by their profession which is making them to slowly leave their lands and migrate towards the cities or leaving overseas hoping for a better life. This has made Nepal even more dependent on food imports and Nepali citizens suffering more and more from unprecedented price hikes on basic items like rice, lentils and oil.
Feeding the world using innovative ways sounds great but can we really feed the world without our smallholder farmers? Nope. 70 per cent of the world population is fed by smallholder farmers and not by the industrial-scale farms led by multinationals. Because their rights are not protected, they get no support from their governments and get no recognition from the society. If nothing is done to make their lives easier there won't be any rice terraces or orange orchards or vegetable gardens when we hike up in the mountains.
In 2017, I had enough of my wishful thinking and I decided to act for real. So I took a leap and jumped in a plane to start a new endeavor in Pokhara.
After almost a year and half of intense struggle, Permafarm emerged out of an old abandoned building. Not magically though. It was tough and at times I felt like quitting. Even when I felt like quitting many times, something inside me made it impossible for me to give up on trying.
Before trying to tackle the problems faced by farmers, I realized, I had to be a farmer myself to have the firsthand knowledge. This realization gave me the energy to transform an old abandoned farm into a thriving urban food forest. With the help of my newfound family, we managed to transform what seemed to be a crumbling building into something beautiful.
Pictures can describe better than my poor words.
We managed to make it look like this.
A constant work in progress, it looks like this after three successful seasons of vegetables. We are almost self-sufficient in vegetables, herbs and fruits. But we have bigger plans.
We have added permanent shrubs and tree saplings which will one day transform this place into an even denser food forest.
Of course, there is still a lot to learn and I am merely starting the steepest part of the learning curve but it feels good to have a workstation where you can face real problems, attempt to solve them, learn a lot and keep on evolving.
When you get caught up in the day to day life, you tend to forget how far you have come and lose the sight of where you want to go. By keeping aside a couple of hours a week to write this blog and share tits and bits of my adventure in Nepal is going to be my next new habit. I hope you enjoy the read.