Coffee farmer Dil Kumar Tamang sold around $2000 of coffee this year from 600 trees. These first trees were planted in 2015, and he now has 4000 younger trees that will begin to produce in the coming years, continuing to increase his income. Dil Kumar lives in a village with only 35 houses and supports a family of 5—his wife and 3 children.
Before coffee, Dil Kumar earned only $300 each year from selling eggs, chickens, piglets, and extra grain from his subsistence farming of corn, millet, and rice. He first learned the value of cash crop farming when he grew cardamom and earned almost $3000 per year, which was good income. However, a disease destroyed cardamom production in the area, and he was left once again with only the income from animals and grains.
This year, Dil Kumar has more than doubled his income through coffee. He reports that he never studied in school, but this year he has sent his son to study in Kathmandu for a Bachelor’s Degree because he now has enough income to pay for college.
Bimala Simkhada and her husband Nabin made ~$1500 this year from 500 coffee trees they had planted in 2015, almost doubling their income from other farm products. Nabin worked in Qatar and Saudi Arabia for 10 years doing manual labor in the desert. The money he sent home was spent on basic needs (e.g., food, clothing, medicine, roof), so the family still had no savings, even after a decade of hard labor. They have two children under 5, a boy and a girl.
When Nabin came home to Nepal a few years ago, the coffee project was just beginning. He and his wife own land that’s not good for farming grains and vegetables. They planted 500 coffee trees on fallow land (too steep and rocky for grains) and grew millet for food. Bimala says, “In the beginning, most importantly I wanted my husband to be with me (long laughter). I expected I would be able to earn cash from coffee. Fortunately it has good price and good market now. With the income from coffee, we are able to fulfill the family needs and even save a little.” Bimala and Nabin are convinced that they can make good money from coffee and just planted 4000 more trees this past year!
When we took this photo, a local man encouraged Bimala to take off her knife to look good for the picture. A khukuri knife is traditionally a man’s tool (while women traditionally carry a sickle blade), and notions of beauty and femininity are still very traditional despite some of the advancement of women. Bimala basically said NO WAY—she’s a farmer and she’ll wear the knife. She was clearly proud of her efforts and success. With her husband gone for 10 years, Bimala had to step up and handle farm and home labor. Today, she works together with her husband and wears the knife with pride as a sign of her own strength.
Shova Bhandari lives with her son and daughter-in-law. She earned $400 this year from 100 coffee trees, and she has good land with fertile soil. Shova plans to expand: she planted 500 trees this year and will plant more next year as well.
The United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development states: “Unless we invest in rural areas, and develop strong rural economies with attractive prospects for young people, they will be forced to migrate – first to the city – and then, if they cannot find decent employment – across borders to neighbouring [sic] countries and beyond… Rural development is central to ending hunger and poverty.” This is exactly the situation in Nepal. One of the goals of Changing Live’s Nepal’s coffee program is to help build a rural economy that can provide attractive income to people living in villages so that they can remain on land they own instead of migrating to urban areas or going abroad for hardship labor…and we are well on our way!!