Nepali Times
Making A Difference
Everything organic



Paatlekhet, 12 kms down the mountain from Dhulikhel, seems like just another scenic village you pass while speeding down the Arniko Highway.

Few stop here. But this is where Americans Judith Chase (pictured) and her husband Jim have made their home, practicing and promoting a model of sustainable agriculture in their small but busy organic farm. There are more than 1,000 species of vegetables, fruits, berries and fodder here, all grown without using chemical fertilisers or pesticides.

The farm has a strict policy against using hybrid and GMOs and encourages use of Nepali open pollinated seeds. Even with less input the yield is high and their fresh produce are a hit at organic markets of Kathmandu where they are bought at good price by expats and an increasingly local clientele. But growing and selling organic products are only a part of what they do at their farm called 'Everything Organic'.

The farm serves as a school to train Nepali farmers on the methods of bio-intensive agriculture based on deep-digging, use of compost and insect control through diverse cropping patterns and botanical sprays. "We teach farmers right from the basics, impart them the skills, and when they start cultivation, help them find market for it," Judith says, "the goal is to develop a community of organic farmers with a cooperative marketing system."

Judith is hopeful because a similar initiative she started in Thimi in the 1980s trained 200 local women many of whom are still growing organic vegetables. At Paatlekhet, she hopes to replicate the project on a larger scale. "There is no reason why Nepali farmers have to be poor or have to eat chemical-laced food," says Judith, who is now looking to promote high value nuts and fruit trees among Nepali farmers.

On a clear Friday morning last week, a group of women from a nearby village were taking notes as Prem Lama, a pioneer organic farmer, was explaining the benefits of growing walnuts. Lama runs a very successful organic farm that supplies to hotels, restaurants and department stores in Kathmandu. Some of his salads and fruits are exported to Singapore.

"It is only a matter of knowing which crop grows well in which climate and are profitable," says Lama who makes it to Paatlekhet to share his ideas with farmers every week. These women are on a month long residential training where they learn about the benefits of organic farming, master the techniques of double digging and prepare compost and herbicides from locally available materials.

By the end of the intensive course which the farm offers for free, the women are sent not just with the know-how to grow organic but a market for what they produce. A shop in Dhulikhel serves as the outlet for the freshly produced vegetables by local women. With more production, the nursery hopes the prices will go down and people would be more interested in purchasing organic products.

Nanumaya Tamang is a trainee, and recounts how using excessive chemical fertiliser had ruined her soil. "I could not break the ground with my axe. I have stopped using chemicals since then but the soil is still hard."

Judith says there is a lot to be learned from local farmers and has started an initiative to save seeds by involving women. She says: "These seeds are well adapted to local soil and climate, and are better than imported hybrids. Why spend money on expensive imported seeds when we have better options in Nepal?"

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1. David Stengel
Namaste, I like articles like this, but I wish you would also do the match.  Usually the financial numbers don't add up very well on projects like this and folks get unrealistic expectations.  

2. GNR.
Let Kavrepalanchok be declared Organic District.
If not by the Ministry of Agriculture of the GON, by the resident farmers of the district themselves.
No chemical pesticides be .
 allowed in the district
 Let the people of Kavre monitor the entry of the chemicals ,pesticides that harm the earth or soil of Kavre.
Bravo Judy.   First Dadhikot, now Kavre.Continue your pioneering work
Keep it up.

3. Martin
May all Nepal be declared organic! Martin

4. Jane
David what numbers are you talking about? The inputs are minimal so costs are low and all I can see is abundance!

5. nungnami
I quite agree with David on the 'numbers' issue... one can get ever so misled by beautiful writing occasionally that the reality then becomes most disheartening!! i come from an organic tea garden and believe you me... it aint easy to be organic :-))) BUT KUDOS to the writer for covering this hard and delightfully welcome necessity and Bless the lovely people for giving it a shot...!!

6. Jhalendra
I agree with you all somehow but not in whole. Pesticide doesn't harm to the non target organisms in the level that people have been thinking about given that there must be appropriate use/handling. So, judicial use of pesticides definitely supports increased productivity which is required to feed the increased populations/settlements specially if you think about the population living in Kathmandu valley. In that case, Kavre has profound potentiality to supply fresh produce. So, my point here is some areas can be declared as pesticide free i.e organic area, it could be a small farm. As mentioned in article, "some of his salads and fruits are exported to Singapore", this kind of farming business would not only raise the profit but also improves people's health in long run. Not surprisingly, I very much like the pictured house and nearby farm....

7. Bhola Man Singh Basnet
I had seen organic farm of Judith long, long-year back in Dadhikot or Duwakot. But the areas covered by organic ways, still are very very few. A few people are talking concerning organic farms/products. In my opinion, because of the increased population pressure, we cann't generalize organic ways only. The effect of organic manures are slow but in the long-run the soil health will be better and better. We can go for organic in the commodities like orthodox tea, coffee etc or other commodities which have market. It is said any program will be successful when there is " research push and market pull ". In Nepal's conditions we can generalize for Integrated nutrient management (INM), which is more practical and proven by the long-term soil fertility trials too. Thanking you,

Bhola Man Singh Basnet
Principal Scientist (Agronomy)
Nepal Agricultural Research Council's  (NARC) Retiree
at present in Virginia, USA

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)