Nepali Times
Engineering a future



Nirab Bhattarai, 28, wakes up early every morning and catches the 6:30 bus from downtown Ratna Park to Sankhu on the Valley's eastern edge. After an hour long hike, he reaches his small farm on the foothills of Shivapuri National Park.

In 2010, Nirab and his seven friends travelled to Gagal village to get away from the city's chaos. "We stood on the edge of the hill and stared at the congested Valley below us and wondered how it feeds itself," recalls Nirab. The group of unemployed electric engineers joked amongst themselves about buying a patch of land and starting commercial farming.

While other young professionals look to build their CVs and make easy money, Nirab, an MBA graduate, and his friends chose to get their hands dirty over the typical nine to five job. Today, they can be found on their farm, tilling the land, watering seedlings, picking cucumbers, and grazing cattle.

Nirab admits it hasn't been easy starting out in a field for which they are not qualified. They lost 100 bulbs of mushrooms planted last year due to lack of care. "We know how to use machines, but dealing with animals and plants is a completely new experience and we are still learning," he explains.

Sushant Karki, who quit his job at an airlines company to help Nirab in the farm, remembers being ridiculed by his coworkers for leaving a comfortable job and wasting his engineering degree. But Sushant has no regrets. "Rather than jumping into the ugly rat race, we are engineering our own future," says the proud farmer who believes agriculture has huge potential as demand for food will continue to grow with less hands toiling and more mouths to feed.

Nepal has gone from becoming a food exporting nation to a food importing nation in less than a decade. The country spends millions every year importing fruits and vegetables from India to feed Kathmandu's three million residents. With fuel prices likely to rise, Nepalis will have to pay more for their food in the coming years.

The group is working on creating an organic farm and wants to turn it into a commercially viable venture. They recently built a shed above the vegetable garden to replenish the soil below with manure and urine. They also planted grass on the slopes to hold the top soil together. Water from the kitchen is drained into the garden. Instead of pesticides, the farmers have begun using repellent plants to drive away insects.

"The vegetables we buy from the market are laced with harmful chemicals and pesticides and do more harm than good. By growing our own food we make sure our families are eating healthy," says Sushant.

However, not all of the eight men are full-time farmers. Mahabharat Shrestha works with the state's rural energy program, but dashes off to the farm on weekends. Says Shrestha, "It gives me immense satisfaction to grow my own food, but I cannot commit full-time to farming because it doesn't pay all my bills."

In an effort to decrease the staggering unemployment rate, the government launched a youth self-employment program in 2011, which provides vocational training and loans up to Rs 200,000 to young Nepalis so that they can start their own businesses.

Nirab and friends have applied for the loan which will help them expand their farm. "It's not a big amount, but if you are motivated, then it's enough to get you started," say the farmer-engineers.

1. suraj pandy
Great job guys. Even I have started the same part time job. I want to meet you soon. Cheers

2. amit
simply great !!

3. Sanjay Gelal Kupondole
The youths are welcome for doing agricultural tasks. I salute them for ther undaunted courage to seek success from their new work. And of course, they are themselves a good slap for other people who feel shame for farming.

4. Gaurav Gautam
Hats off!!!! Its simply awesome. If everything goes as smooth as m thinking right now, you people would be in history books. TRUE LEADERS!!!!! CHEERS!!!!

5. SL
 Its the way how our youth should be motivated, rather than just running behind big dreams & cursing only leaders for not doing anything good. Taking first step is halfway to success. Hope someday i would get a chance to buy & taste your organic vegetables. good job guys, best wishes.

6. Deepak Upreti
outstanding work...hope you will make a difference ...

7. ram sharma

gr8 wrk guys!


8. SRK
Great inspiration for Everyone!!! You guys are true Engineers ..pioneering your own future and destiny. Keep up the good Work!!!

9. Bishal Ghimire
gr8 work Nirab bro  :)

10. Amol Ghimire
wish you all the Best Nirab (bhanja) :D

11. Sachin Baidya
Really an inspiration. Carry on guys. Best of luck for your next big venture. 

12. shirshakg
bravo and keep it up

13. Indu Pant Ghimire

Inspiration story. We need many more youth like Nirab


14. Bhushan Adhikari
great job guys!!!

15. chabhil ko don
Proud of you guys...cheers..

16. Ritesh

Great job Nirab and guys...!!! proud of u...


17. Meekha Tuladhar

Proud of you sathi haru...keep up the gr8 work.

18. Biraj Bhurtel
Yes, Now its worth saying.."AAL iZ Well... AAL IZ Well" good job guys,,All the best.

19. A Nepali

The country and society dealt these engineers lemons (lack of good engineering employment), and they decided to try and make lemonade out of it (try their hand in small-scale organic farming). It is a sentimental story. However, what kind of message does this send to young students who may be aspiring to be engineers, doctors or other specialized professionals that Nepal will need in the future to advance and compete in the global market? Don't bother, and don't waste your time and money in college education; try your hand in subsistence farming, or carpentry, or brick-laying, etc. As the country's population grows and the land holdings get ever smaller, even subsistence farming may no longer be able to sustain families. I wonder what kind of a reception a news story like this one would have created in the United States if the NASA engineers who just landed a $2.5 billion rover in MARS decided to give up their engineering training and buy and operate a small farm instead. After all, the unemplyment rate in the U.S. is still above 8%.

20. Anuj B
Great example !!! Remember, knowledge never gets wasted.  

21. Binu
A very good news. may be inspiring to several others.

22. SL
@ A Nepali, this one is not a sentimental/emotional story rather favors the logic & reality, reality of our country. Though old, but our forefathers have rightly created so many Ukhan, "Ghati heri haad nilau" , "Khai Na Payi Chhala Topi lai", which is still so practicable. We should stick to the reality of our country & resources which are accessible. Maybe this news will create a laughter in US, but we aren't laughing cause agriculture is one of the reality of our Nepal. But again, ignoring this fact & news about planning to build a rocketship will certainly make the whole world laugh.  Moreover, I don't take this news as a provocation to quit one's college or profession, it is just an inspirational story of some motivated & self determined youths who are utilising their time & energy to help themselves & other people, inspiring others to be useful irrespective of their profession.

23. dhedubadar
# 19 @ Nepali. The message here is dignity of labor no matter what kind of work you do its good. In Nepal, where a son with a 2nd division SLC degree feels he is too educated to help his father in the fields, this type of message need to be promoted. And before you throw out numbers from the US did you check the numbers on Nepal? The unemployment rate is staggering 46%, the % of tertiary education enrollment is 4.6 % which is the lowest in South Asia. Innovation and entrepreneurship are always to be promoted in subsistence farming, carpentry and yes in brick-laying as well. Don't the ancient architecture scattered all over Nepal tell you anything? They were built by innovative and entrepreneurship spirits at one time and were destroyed when we stopped valuing them.

24. mejor

yap this story is quiet interesting and also sentimental about introducing our country in the world  but it makes me laugh to read why our skilled manpower beheaving like this? be popular.........?or why........?.........but i don't think it is his work and he should not be motivated to do those jobs.........because he should be in what he should because unskilled manpower can't take his responsibility ..........and also the thing is that it is not time to motivate others,government  should be responsible to motivate people to stay in nepal and should create possibilities there are many people in oversea wanna to do this kind and government make it pssible  but its time to develop our country to make like other country in the world........jahile pani kuwako bhyaguta kuwama hunu hudaina............but i dont mean he should not do those kind but we should think what happen if skilled manpower is going to do such work ?who will upgread our  country..... ?

25. A Nepali

Re: the response of #22, 23, and 24:

# 22 and #23 did not get the main point of my comment. # 24 did. The story is sentimental because it tells how individuals tried to make the best of a bad situation. However, what is good for individuals is not necessarily good for society, or to the country. All the comentators clapping on the sidelines and writing "Gr8" should be asking how can this situation be remedied? Organic farming is not innovative in Nepal. The Jyapus have been doing it for generations. Given the same plot of land, I would bet that an uneducated Jyapu farmer from Kathmandu Valley will outproduce these engineers. As implied  by#24, when engineers do the job of a Jyapu farmer (or a carpenter, or a brick-layer), the farmer (or the carpenter or the brick-layer) cannot do an engineer's job. The "Gr8" comments would have been merited if these engineers were graduates of the agricultural campus in Rampur and had decided to go into business for themselves when they could not find a job in their professional area of training. It would also have been "Gr8" if these engineers had opened up an engineering workshop to build windmills or design more efficient solar panels, or something along their line of professional training. A training and knowledge not utilized is a training and knowledge wasted.

26. kalomanche

27. Binita shrestha
GREAT JOB GUYS..........BEST OF LUK.......

28. E Shrestha
Kudos to you guys. There is no shame in growing food. Keep up the good work. It's the diligence and hard work that counts at the end of the day. I was wondering if there is a possibility that you guys can use solar energy to dehydrate your produce. In the long term, you could also set up a business supplying indigenous solar technology to rural farmers. Just a thought since it's not area of expertise. You guys are engineers, maybe you know better than me.   

29. Sanjeeb Ojha
Great job guys, Doesn't matter which profession you choose, the most important thing is to do some work. And more than that, a work that is different than what you've learnt from university. A courageous decision and most suitable work in the context of Nepal. Wish you all the best. I'd like to encourage you to expand this more commercially. You guys are engineers , and when you have chosen farming as your career, I wish you use your engineering and MBA knowledge to enhance your job. You guys are engineers so I'd suggest you guys to implement advanced and smart tools to make farming more efficient.
Best of Luck! 

30. Entrepreneur
Kudos to you guys. 

An entrepreneur does not look at company or job or place. He or she finds challenges, solves the problem and changes the world. This is what all great entrepreneurs in the world have done. 

I wish you the best. I am sure you will be a billion rupee company if you work hard aim high and persevere. Farming is a multi billion rupee business. Be the dominant player here. Help us Nepalese get good quality good and solve the polluted food problem we have. 

You guys are geniuses. 

31. Ayacee
These guys could be the role model in society. At a time when whole country is relying on remittance from foreign employment and educated youths are tarrying their career blaming the system, this offbeat step could be precursor in transforming society. However, achieving commercial success through farming needs to overcome lots of hurdles. It's very important that program itself is financially viable and must be able to generate a fair share of income/profit. I hope such initiative will get support from all concerned sectors. I wish you all the best and hope to read your progress and success story in due course through Nepali Times.

32. Dev
Good Work but would be more motivational if your academic skills of MBA/Engineering or whatever is merged with agriculture. We are really hoping for the success stories where we will read more about how one used his education in leveling up agriculture. I know practical ground is far low from the sky but we got to dream if we want to create a magic. Cheers! 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)