On the way to Syaphrubesi from Dhunche, we saw a small board advertising “Fresh Rainbow Trout”. As is what happens with most people from Kathmandu, the word “fresh” drew our attention and we decided to stop over. The board led us to a restaurant which looked much like home. Upon entering, we discovered that the restaurant belonged to Temba Gyalsing Tamang. We also learnt that he had received the “President Best Farmer Award” from the Ministry of Agriculture, the certificate for which was hanging on a wall in the restaurant. The few of us who were drawn towards that restaurant by fresh fish were now more interested in knowing about Tamang than we were in tasting the fish.
We started asking questions and Tamang was more than willing to share his fascinating story of success with us. He started telling us his story as he prepared a fresh fish meal for us. I was listening intently, realising that it wasn’t just a meal, but a story to be shared, that was in the making. As I was listening, I was also looking at the 20 fish ponds of varying sizes (14 for big fish and 6 for fry) that were located behind a modest house that he owns.
Pic - Yanjing Tamang welcoming us at the Turning of Thulo Bharkhu Syaphru-5, Rasuwa
Ten years ago, Tamang used to work at a cheese factory. His wife, Yanjing, looked after the household and cultivated the small farm they had. However, what they earned was just enough to feed them and their three children and to send two of the kids to school. There were no savings and any emergency expense was a burden on the family.
With hopes of improving his economic condition, Temba decided to go abroad to work. He flew to Malaysia and started working there as a labourer, earning close to ten thousand rupees per month. He worked there for three years and was able to save NPR 300,000. He returned home with a changed perspective and a willingness to do something at his own place.
Upon his return, he got an opportunity to learn about trout farming technology through the Agriculture Research Council in Ranipauwa, Nuwakot. He also came to know of the Nepali government’s “Afno Gaun Aafai Banaun” (translates to: Let us build our villages ourselves) programme operated by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), which provided support to local entrepreneurs. He then decided to make use of both of these opportunities. He received technical guidance from the Agriculture Research Council of Trishuli (Nuwakot) and 25 percent economic support from the FNCCI, and set up two ponds for fish farming in 2011. By 2013, his business had grown to such an extent that he could build two additional ponds. He later received an NPR 2,600,000 grant from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which helped his business grow further. After that, he took a small loan from a local bank and was able to build 16 ponds and a house. This was the house we were visiting, the house which was now a restaurant with arrangements for home stay for tourists.
Pic 2: ADB-supported ponds for trout farming
Pic 3: Proud owner of the trout farm and restaurant, Temba Gyalsing Tamang with his son and daughter.
The results he’s received over the years have been very encouraging. In a span of six years, his life and lifestyle have changed drastically. Earlier, he used to look around for jobs in other companies and countries; now, he owns his own enterprise in his own village. Earlier, he was able to earn around NPR 100,000 a year; now, he is able to save around NPR 200,000 a year. Meanwhile, he is making good headway in terms of repaying his loans. He has earned not just money, but also a name for himself in the village. He is considered a motivational farmer in his village, looked upon as someone worthy of being emulated.
At present, Tamang is selling six-eight kilograms of fish per day from his farm, where most of the sales take place through personal links and contacts, and minimal advertisement. The fact that his restaurant is located en route a major trekking destination in Rasuwa does help, but there is so much more that can be done. Proper market linkages with opportunities for growth and economic revenue can be provided to help Tamang further his business.
Amidst all the positivity, there are some concerns that Tamang has for his business. Declining water sources are a major challenge for his business. In order to tackle this, he tries to tap even the smallest source of water around his field. Till date, he has been able to adapt to the changing scenario on his own. His comparatively well-to -do situation has enabled him to do so. However, in the context of the changing precipitation and temperature scenario, he is worried for the years to come. He doubts if he will be able to adapt to these changes on his own over the years. The provision of options for water reuse, for instance, will strengthen Tamang’s capacity to a great extent.
The framer-entrepreneur’s life story gives a clear message: A strong resource base is one of the major determining factors for increasing the adaptive capacity of locals. If only enabling bodies could intervene and provide a range of options for the same, the adaptive capacities of many like Tamang would be increased.