Bijaya Tamang, 25, a son of a small farmer of Chhatre Deurali Village Development Committee of Dhading District, had never imagined that he could change the agriculture practices, or his housing, making it a commercially viable and money making venture.
Listening to complaints and frustrations from families about the drawback of subsistence farming, like all other youngsters, Tamang was also planning to go to Gulf or Malaysia to make money.
The destiny of Tamang changed as he was selected for the Small Farmers Agriculture Training Program (SFAT) to get training in Israel by Sana Kisan Bikas Bank Ltd and Embassy of Israel.
“The ten months training course in Israel changed my entire life. With half a million rupees saving brought from Israel, I started a modern agriculture farm using the technology which I learned in Israel. Two years ago, I invested Rs.2500, 000.00 and got a return of Rs. 500,000.00. I have invested Rs. 500.000.00 and hope to get a return of a million rupees. What I have learnt is that agriculture is a profitable venture given the proper investment and technology,” said Tamang at a program.
As Nepal and Israel have completed 56 years of establishment of their diplomatic relations, new avenues have opened at the people to people level under Small Farmers Agriculture Training Program (SFAT).
Tamang is not alone to see the livelihood transforming thanks to agriculture. Many other returnees have also joined hands to transform Nepal’s agriculture sector through their own seed money and a loan from Sana Kisan Bikas Bank.
Under SFAT, along with Tamang, the first batch of 205 students returned after 11 months' stay in Israel in 2013-014. In 2014-015, 515 from 21 districts were sent and 415 have already returned and remaining 100 students from earthquake affected districts have been retained in Israel to continue their stay in Israel for a year. In 2015/016 4, 430 trainees were sent to Israel.
So far 1150 trainees have got the opportunities to for exposure to modern agriculture as well as new technology. The trainees are paid for the practical works they do in the farm. Thus the trainees learn and also earn from this program. Positive outcomes have already started to come out.
The relations have now reached at the people-to-people level. Initiated through efforts of former Israeli Ambassador to Nepal Hanan Goder, the SFAT has not only showed the way to commercialize Nepal’s subsistence based agriculture sector but also strengthened the people to people relations. With over 500 returnees now, son and daughters of small farmers of Nepal are carrying the message of Israel’s technology and farming community in far flung villages of mountainous regions of Nepal.
Although it is initiated during the tenure of Hanan Goder, the current ambassador of Israel to Nepal Yaron Mayer has pushed SFAT program to new heights requesting Israel Government to increase the quota for Nepalese students.
At a time when many young Nepalese workers going to Gulf countries and Malaysia are returning with empty hands, Nepalese trainee students returning from Israel are coming with cash, skills and technological knowhow.
“This is a good symbol of bilateral relations existing between Israel and Nepal. I am happy to know the results and effects of the program among Nepalese farmers. Israel government continues to support the programs,” said Israeli ambassador to Nepal Yaron Mayer. “It is exciting for me to be here to see felicitation of my colleague ambassador Hanan Goder whose special contributions support farmers and people of Nepal.”
Chief Executive Officer of Sana Kisan Bikas Bank Jalan Kumar Sharma said the program has already made tremendous impacts about Israel’s technology among the families of small farmers. “Nepalese small farmers and bank are very grateful to Ambassador Hanan Godar, current ambassador of Israel to Nepal Yaron Mayer and government of Israel for providing such a great opportunity to learn new and modern agriculture technology in Israel,” said Sharma. “Nepal and Israel are now seeing their relations reach a new height at the people to people level.”
Addressing the program, former Israeli ambassador to Nepal Hanan Goder said agriculture needs to be made a profession and commercialized. "I am excited to visit Nepal and see the achievement made through the program. With a population of over 8 million, Israel is a small country compared to Nepal, which has 28 million population and bigger size. What we share is civilization. Although Israel does not have enough water and farm land, we are the net exporter of agriculture products. Despite enough water and land, Nepal is net importer of agriculture products. Here the experiences of Israeli agriculture can help Nepalese farmers to produce more. Merely 4 percent of farmers in Israel are producing food for all of its population and 70 percent of Nepalese farmers are unable to produce even enough food for Nepal,” said Hanan. “Simply, Nepalese farmers do not invest adequate money in agriculture and they don’t use technology. One has to understand now that the agriculture is a profession. If you invest one rupee, you can get five in return. This is what Israeli farmers can tell you of their experience."
The letter of felicitation presented to former ambassador of Israel to Nepal Hanan Goder in recognition of his unwavering concern and support for the advancement of Nepal’s agricultural sector and overall economic development by Sana Kisan Bikas Bank Ltd (Small Farmer Development Bank) read: “We recognize in particular the personal visits you had made to various small farmer Agricultural Cooperatives in Nepal, based on which you had brilliantly identified the need for the commercialization and technical upgrading of Nepal’s agriculture practices and encouraged and helped us with all the needs for the commercialization and technical upgrading of Nepal’s agricultural practices and encouraged and helped us with necessary assistance to implement a special initiative for the training of small farmers to that end. We particularly note that it was under your very thoughtful initiative that Sana Kisan Bikas Bank was able to enter into a partnership with the Embassy of Israel in Nepal that provided a very valuable opportunity for hundreds of 20 to 30 year old youths from small farmer households in Nepal to pursue a 10 month long course of study in various agricultural training centers and colleges in Israel that has equipped them with valuable skills and experiences in the fields of agriculture.”
As Nepal and Israel celebrated 55 years of establishment of bilateral relations, the SFAT program has taken the existing people to people relations to a new height. There is a reason to rejoice for a man behind this successful model of agriculture program: former ambassador to Nepal Hanan Goder.