Kathmandu, a city of chaos and opportunities, is where most people come to fulfil their dreams of success and building a life. But in the process of living their dreams, people have forgotten the original definition of Kathmandu: the land of food grains, and have resorted to buying food from vegetable sellers on the roads, which is often accompanied by dust and all sorts of unsavoury chemicals. People are thus compelled to eat unhealthy food for the sake of leading a successful life in the valley.
Imported vegetables- An end to local farming?
Every day, the discussion in the sections of online news portals goes something like, “Nepal imports vegetables from India while homegrown vegetables are discarded and left to rot. Nepal in shortage of vegetable markets. “ and many more. Why? Is our country incapable of producing, marketing, and utilizing its own foods? Of course not! It’s just a matter of time before we also grow and establish our own farms and fend off the need for imports.
MetroKheti.com is an innovative social start-up, established in 2020 by a group of passionate eco-conscious individuals to set a ‘new normal’ in food production: the idea of sustainable urban farming. Urban cities like Kathmandu certainly require convenient and reliable local food production capabilities amid the busy chaos and demands of the digital world. Thus, the company attempts to provide a solution that intends to flourish in-farming for families residing in urban metropolitan cities.
But why the extreme concern? Why the extra effort?
It’s not just about the busyness or the inconveniences brought about by office work. A little time spent with the greenery is never time wasted. The main concern lies in Nepal spending a major portion of its budget importing about 9 hundred metric tons of vegetables from India daily. Worse, we have been unwittingly buying those pesticide enriched tomatoes, onions, chillies to spice up our foods, doing unforeseeable harm to our collective health. This is where we have been ignorantly bleeding away money and tacitly contributing to keeping our country underdeveloped.
“Having an organic farm amidst city homes is itself a pleasant way of promoting physical and mental well-being. You can savour the fresh food as well as lead a sustainable eco-friendly life.” shares Mr Balkrishna Dahal, the co-founder.
The future of the urban farming idea
The idea of MetroKheti took form when the students became keenly aware of the situation of Nepal with its increased dependency on other countries for food. Calling Nepal an “agricultural country” is inadequate if it can’t feed its people with its produce, therefore, the entrepreneurs created the idea of MetroKheti to contribute to the transformation of metropolitan to sustainable independent food production hubs. Starting from the communities of Kathmandu area in 2020, they plan to extend to other cities and build up to 1000 urban farms by 2022.
“We are a social enterprise and we assist people who want to operate their farms. We also build a healthy network of eco-friendly individuals,” says Mr Balkrishna Dahal, co-founder of MetroKheti.
The bright future of the entrepreneurs in agriculture in Nepal is apparent even more so during this pandemic situation, and they have taken this very opportunity to foresee their future in the development of creating an online marketplace where people can get access to information about every component to set up their urban farms right on their terrace tops!
Breaking the Stereotypes
We have always had the idea that only rural people do farming. We have this stereotypical image of villagers ploughing fields with oxen and bulls, carving water channels, and waiting for rain. MetroKheti, however, has wobbled in to break this stereotypical thinking, with its concept of establishing agriculture as a long-lasting trend by creating a thriving community of eco-conscious and organic-friendly individuals.
“People can access information about urban farms right from their phones. We ensure that along with online marketing, there is an eco-community being formed where people have their little farms at their homes.” says the happy cofounder.
Spicing the Idea of Urban Farms after the Pandemic
MetroKheti had just started amidst the lockdown and so far, they have been able to reach out to 60-70 Farmer groups who have already boarded into the idea of urban farms. Even though the enthusiastic team of 20 members from diverse backgrounds has themselves not got a chance to meet up and plan due to the lockdown, they have been working from home and have successfully been able to reach out to a wider audience through their website and social media.
Furthermore, once the pandemic is over, they aim to partner with restaurants, hotels, companies, government agencies, and educational institutions to introduce and promote the concept of urban farming through training and installation of model farms.
In the end the social entrepreneur Dahal shares, “I believe that in today’s world, entrepreneurship is not just about earning money and running a business, it’s about how one can grow with an idea and help others grow as well, just like growing your food and helping others grow theirs with collective effort. If the aim is solely profit, you miss something essential, and you will never be able to be a successful entrepreneur.”