Nepal Is Indeed An Agricultural Country!

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Nepal Is Indeed An Agricultural Country!

BY Madan Lamsal

During this year’s Tihar and Chhath festivals, as usual, flowers from India out sold our poorer flowers from our Nepali fields. Feeling treated like outcasts of the floral world our farmers got a front-row seat to witness their own flowers being ghosted! And the merchants were also left trying to figure out what to do with the buckets of unused Nepali blooms. People out here are saying Nepal isn't an agricultural country anymore. But let me drop a pearl of wisdom — Nepal is an agricultural country, and it's not just because of the surplus of neglected flowers! It is the essence of Nepal! If it were industrial, it'd be like, 'Sorry, you've reached the wrong country. Please hang up and dial again for Industrial India!' Some folks are bummed that Nepal wears the agricultural badge proudly. So bummed, in fact, that they're packing their bags and heading to 'foreign' countries, you know, the ones that didn't get the memo about Nepal's green-thumb identity crisis. Go figure!

It was not in our power to stop our ancestors from farming. Otherwise, we would not have to be so embarrassed today. When a thick majority of people in the country are engaged in agriculture, what else could others possibly do? The country is an agricultural one. The country is agricultural but it seems its agriculture minister doesn’t have anything to do with agriculture! The prime minister or the minister of agriculture of this country are not agrarians but ‘chair-persons’ or persons made for chairs! Apart from that, they are horticultural i.e. flower-oriented or garden-oriented. Because they like chairs and programs very much. And they also like the bouquets and garlands offered by the activists and program organizers. Yes, in terms of imports, Nepal is mainly agricultural.

In this country, many people, ranging from the prime minister to the peons in his office, and also the general public, wonder why Nepal did not become Europe, America, or Japan. They question why the name of Nepal is Nepal and not Italy or Germany. Or why Nepal is not what it could have become! This wondering leads many Nepalis to aspire to go abroad and live there if they can. Consequently, they think and talk more about America or Australia than Nepal and possess more information about those countries. When they realize that Nepal is not like those countries, they start to feel sad and worried. In their minds, anything other than the country called Nepal symbolizes progress. Progress, for them, means becoming a country different from what we are. It doesn't matter if it goes up or down, but the name Nepal is simply unacceptable! Unfortunately, Nepal is an agricultural country. It is interesting; if it had been business-oriented, industrial-oriented, or petrol-gas-oriented, we might have been living a life like Singaporeans or Arabs.

People anxiously think that if the rivers flowed with petrol or diesel instead of water, being landlocked might not matter. The mountains, once pristine, now stand exposed like today's politicians! There seems to be no need to listen to the continuous chatter of rivers, forests, animals, and birds. If we could produce movies akin to Hollywood and Bollywood, perhaps joy could exist even without monasteries, temples, or shrines. In the twenty-first century, the sadness lingers as we gaze upon our country, Nepal, with its abundant mountains and hills, wondering why it couldn't transform into a Switzerland despite all its natural beauty!

People in this country find themselves worrying a lot, surpassing even the importance of agriculture. Worrying seems to be a tradition—ancient sages and kings were seasoned worriers, and now our leaders are joining the club.

People in this country find themselves worrying a lot, surpassing even the importance of agriculture. Worrying seems to be a tradition—ancient sages and kings were seasoned worriers, and now our leaders are joining the club. Manjushree, too, had concerns when he witnessed the Kathmandu Valley submerged in water; he took decisive action, cutting through the hills to open a water outlet. This cycle of worries is perpetual. When floods, droughts, earthquakes, or any calamity strikes, our ministers dive into worry mode. The anxiety trickles down, affecting secretaries, employees, and even the dogs in their homes and doves on the trees join in with a worried coo. The unique advantage of being an agricultural country is the abundance of time for worry! Thus, the Prime Minister, ministers, MPs, and government employees find themselves in a perpetual state of concern, pondering why water flows in numerous rivers and streams across the country, yet irrigation struggles to reach the land.

As you travel, fields unfold outside the bus window, marked by excavators but lacking the reach of irrigation. For high-ranking individuals—government officials, leaders, ministers, and prime ministers—trusting a bus is unnecessary. They traverse the country in cars or, more commonly, from the vantage point of helicopters or airplanes. The view from above reveals endless mountains, rocks, stones, and ravines. However, the perspective from on high misses the sight of blooming flowers, thriving paddy fields, or growing wheat. People—women, children, the elderly, flood victims, earthquake victims—are scarcely visible from this altitude. Hence, when I hear promises of saving the country from Harvard-educated economists or those who failed abroad, or from speakers touring villages, I'm left uncertain about my feelings. It feels as though claiming to have seen a village for them is akin to villagers claiming to have encountered a ghost!

Up to this day, the true essence of the country, particularly its villages, remains unseen. Who among us can claim to have truly seen it? Farmers, engrossed in their fields, may catch glimpses of their neighbor's land, nearby rivers, in-laws or their maternal uncle's homes. Students likely navigate only between home and school, while leaders confine their views to the constituencies that secured their votes. Industrialists focus on their factories and the well-paved roads that welcome trucks carrying their goods. Traders traverse roads, connecting villages to transport multinational companies' products.

The residents of Kathmandu venture to places like Pokhara and Chitwan, labeled as akin to exploring the country. Dharan's inhabitants journey to the far west, Bhairahawa locals visit Biratnagar, and even government employees traverse from east to west. Occasionally, leaders and ministers join the travel brigade, residing in government guesthouses or so-called resorts, meeting workers, and then returning. Despite these excursions, they fail to truly see the country. The students forming lines to go abroad remain unseen, as do the hundreds of thousands of unemployed youths eagerly awaiting visas for employment in Qatar. The fields and the toiling farmers within them are equally overlooked. Interaction with these unseen segments of society becomes even more challenging. Yet, even if no one witnesses it, and even if it goes unnoticed, nearly 62 percent of the country's population is engaged in agriculture. They persist in cultivating grains to sustain the country. In such a scenario, what else can we label Nepal if not an agricultural country? 

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