By: Samanata Thapa
The 8 tourism enterprises in the ICIMOD Tourovation Hub have truly given me the opportunity to learn more about my country and appreciate its natural beauty, culture, community, and the innovative practices initiated by entrepreneurs to uplift their local communities. It is my conversations with the entrepreneurs that redirect me to the potential of sustainable tourism and agriculture in Nepal, raising hopes for innovation and economic growth even amidst the pandemic. One such inspiring conversation was with Shree Krishna Dhital, owner and director of Sanskriti Farms and Research Center located in Phoolbari, Namobuddha Municipality in Kavre.
Just 1.5 hours away from Kathmandu valley, situated in the Mahabharat mid-hills of Nepal, Sanskriti Farms and Research Center is a demonstration organic farm with farm stay facilities and community-based activities. The farm focuses on knowledge dissemination and demonstration through research and intervention projects. Similarly, the farm focuses on Food, Energy, and Water (FEW) NEXUS to fill the gap between community and academia through local and international partnerships to impart knowledge on a community level.
Shree Krishna Dhital, a mechanical engineer by profession was introduced to the world of community-based development projects through his affiliation with the Rotary Clubs of Canada and the USA. The affiliation was able to garner many meaningful relationships and projects for Dhital, starting from his own village in Kavre. Although the valley floor of the municipality is rich in water resources, the mountains are water deficient, leading toward water scarcity for irrigation, farming, and drinking purposes. Dhital soon realized that the water scarcity was forcing families to migrate and leave their villages. Hence, Dhital through his expanding global network initiated a ‘Rainwater Harvesting Plastic Pond Project’. Initially, villagers were skeptical about rainwater harvesting and only three households, including Dhital’s house, were the only ones to install a rainwater harvesting system as a demonstration to convince others. Over a period of one year, each of the three households was able to collect 50 thousand liters of rainwater that could be used for irrigation and household purposes. This demonstration led the rest of the villagers to adopt a rainwater harvesting system, reducing the water dependency on a single source. Moreover, the harvesting system was even more popular after the earthquake in 2015 as the movement of rocks dried up many natural water springs in the area, increasing the water scarcity in the municipality. Many households were also able to use the harvested rainwater to rebuild their homes. Hence, the power of demonstration to shift the mindset and behavior was practically tested by Dhital and the team.
Inspired by a series of successful community-based projects, Dhital was contacted by the University of Washington to host study abroad students in Nepal. Visionary and social impact-driven Dhital saw this as an opportunity to bring a pool of knowledge and resources to uplift his community. Within a span of two months since the 2015 earthquake, Dhital set up a homestay to host 15 exchange students in a land owned by his family for traditional farming. Yet again setting an example for the neighborhood to create opportunities within the community. In the process, Dhital was able to research, exchange and gather resources to plant herbs, and fruits, and nuts trees that currently serve as the mother plants for his organic nursery. Unlike the easily available fruits and nuts trees that are unethically marketed with the sole purpose of being sold, the farm only provides tested and grafted fruits and nuts trees to the market. The farm is a testing center where the feasibility and productivity of the fruits and nuts in altitudes between 1000-2000 meters are scientifically tested before making them available to the customers.
Dhital noticed that academia has a lot of great information that never reaches the farmers to practically implement and achieve potential outcomes. Hence, the farm serves as a mediator to bridge the gap and disseminates valuable information through intervention and demonstration. The demonstrations on the farm have been successful to encourage farmers to adopt organic farming, technologies, and innovation. Similarly, the farm is successfully imparting benefits of adopting Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Solutions to other farmers by installing biogas, rainwater harvesting for irrigation, and solar-powered electricity in the farm. Through the ICIMOD Tourovation Hub, the farm has successfully upgraded its solar panel capacity to 1KW, resolving almost 95% of its energy consumption requirements as an outcome of the seven months incubation period in the program. The farm plans to go completely off-grid in the days to come. Alongside, Sanskriti Farms and Research Center is currently partnering with Kathmandu University and Dhulikhel Hospital for joint research which is focused on testing the quality of harvested rainwater.
Installation of the Solar Panels during the 2021 lockdown in Sanskriti Farms and Research Center
The farm has played a key role to promote rural tourism and entrepreneurship in the local community. As a demo farm, they have not only been able to encourage farmers and researchers but also motivate the youths in the community to start their own entrepreneurial journey. The neighborhood of the farm is largely a Sunar community. Traditionally, the Sunar community members are goldsmiths but with time their occupation has diversified, diminishing the craft-ship. But the cultural tours by the visitor on the farm have encouraged a few young people from the Sunar community to revive the lost art and proudly embrace the craft ship. Similarly, the Tamang community members have started brewing their traditional rice beer for viewing and selling purposes.
“Tourovation Hub has really been a bonus for tourism and agro enterprises like us. We were able to secure a huge seed fund to take forward our plans for the solar panel system installation even during the pandemic. This was a huge investment for us and a huge deal for us as we had a lot of issues related to electricity. 95% of our problem is solved because of this and we are 95% off-grid. As an engineering guy, I was aware of the technical aspects however I had no idea about the financial management aspect of the business. I have learned a lot about financial management in the program, which has helped us manage the farm better and work towards overall sustainability.”Shree Krishna Dhital, Founder and CEO of Sanskriti Farms and Research Center
Sanskriti Farms and Research Center is building a sustainable and resilient community by leading by example. By closing the gap between farmers and academia, customers and value and community and empowerment, the farm has a holistic and innovative approach to tackling food, water, and energy challenges to ensure food security. If you’re looking forward to learning and immersing yourself in a holistic community experience, Sanskriti Farms and Research Center is a perfect place to begin and connect with nature, community, and responsible practices. Similarly, you can also follow the farm on social media like Facebook as Phoolbari Homestay or Shree Krishna Dhital on Linkedin for educational and engaging content and opportunities on farming, beekeeping using flow hive, winemaking, and cooking.
For Booking and Information
Phone: +977 9851113380
E-mail: [email protected]