Laakam Sir's Farm

Escaping the vicious cycle of poverty requires much more than a five-year plan—it requires unflagging determination and persistence. Dilip Raj Joshi’s tenacity that raised a community from poverty stands proof.

Everyone in his village still calls him Laakam Sir. Dilip Raj Joshi from Laakam, Bagarkot VDC in Dadeldhura district only recently retired from his role as a headmaster of a local school, after working for almost three decades. “I retired on 29 Baisakh, 2070, having worked for twenty-nine years, nine months and nineteen days,” he shares with precision—a quality that has helped him in his other profession as well, that of a farmer, for which he is equally known in the village.

Joshi’s farm spreads across a slope of a hill. The topography of the hill accommodates three different climatic conditions. In the portion where sunlight is ample, mango trees are planted; in the portion with moderate conditions, several kinds of vegetables are planted, from cucumbers to tomatoes; and where sunlight is scarce there are walnut trees. Joshi casually shares that last year alone he made a few lakhs from the sale of tomatoes; he adds that a few other farmers in the village made even more. Agriculture has brought immense opportunity in Laakam, which has been supported by fledgling financing systems, made up of self-governed co-operatives and micro-finance banks.

Forty years ago, however, before Joshi even decided to start vegetable farming in Laakam, no one in the village had ever done so. The staple produce was rice and maize, which was only enough for the farmers to survive on. The young Joshi who had just lost his father was going through trying times—caught in poverty and lacking the channels to escape it. “I still remember, I was awake at night contemplating on becoming a criminal—trying to think of a rational way to escape the hardship” shares Joshi candidly.
Instead, he got a few vegetable plants and planted them in his family’s fields. The community did not take the inquisitive and proactive efforts positively—everyone revolted, even his family and friends. Giving up a piece of valuable land for a young lad’s experiments was never going to win favors.To make matters worse, wild animals destroyed most of the vegetables that grew. After this, Joshi was almost ostracized. His friends, neighbors and even his brothers stopped talking to him properly. Despite the failure, Joshi learned a few lessons: vegetables can grow in these hills, and animals didn’t eat bitter melons (tite karela).

The next season Joshi tried again. He got thirty-four orange plants from Dailekh and planted them in the farm. Everyone objected. His brother, in a few days, planted rice in the same place destroying all the orange plants. “I was distraught, I had failed my objective. In the process, I had also distanced myself from my own family,” he says. But he managed to pull himself together, and in the start of the winter hetried planting vegetables again and even made nurseries.His estimates were four quintals of production, but to his surprise it turned out to be forty quintals—he even sold a chunk of his produce. With the unprecedented results, Joshi’s family now stopped complaining.

In time, Joshi’s farm grew. Being educated and having an inquisitive personality, he was able to learn new farming methods to further grow his farm. The Ministry of Agriculture also selected his farm as a Namuna Bari (Model Farm). Soon after, the rest of the community followed suit and started planting vegetables. Today, farmers of Bagarkot are not living on the threshold of poverty, trying only to manage their survival; they produce to sell, earning enough to provide opportunities for their children.

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