Narayan Bhatterai is the local leader for Conscious Impact's agriculture program and was recently named the chairman of the new Basic Organic Coffee Cooperative in Takure. Out of affection, we call him Narayan "Mama", which means "uncle" in Nepali.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: Namaste, my name is Vishnu Bhatterai, but people know me as Narayan Bhatterai. My house is in Nawalpur, Takure Ward number 4. In some ways, my life has been painful. Because nobody can say, “My life is full of happiness.” Everybody has their own pain. Everybody has their own suffering. My life has been different than others in certain ways. I didn’t receive the warmth of love from my mother and father. I never got the chance to realize what that kind of love was like. When I look back on my childhood, there was a lot of suffering. It doesn’t matter how many times you’re injured, because when you are able to heal, you are stronger. In my life now, I have a place to be satisfied. There is a reason we pick from the edge of the river when choosing a loro (stone pestle). It is those stones that pass through the most struggle and hardship, making them strong. They are the best for the work that needs to be done.
"It doesn’t matter how many times you’re injured, because when you are able to heal, you are stronger."
My father died when I was 1 and a half years old. I never knew the face of my father. When I was 7 years old, my mother remarried to another man, and then left him. After that, my life was not so easy. By the age of 14 -15, I went to live with my maternal uncle. I grew up there, and I was able to complete some of my studies. After that I went back to my house in Takure, and got married. Right now I have 5 members of my family. My two daughters are a blessing from God. They are so much better than me. I forget all my pain when looking at my family. I am satisfied. The earthquake brought a lot of pain and sadness. Yet after this sadness, to some extent there is always happiness, because we were able to find a new family in Conscious Impact. I met them, and had the chance to sit with them, talk with one another and recognize each other. All of this is such good luck. This is a good opportunity, because every challenge has possibilities and every possibility has challenges. This is my experience.
"There is a reason we pick from the edge of the river when choosing a loro (stone pestle). It is those stones that pass through the most struggle and hardship, making them strong. "
I have a simple family and don’t have so many fields for farming. I have one cow and two baby cows. The cow gives me milk. I have 5-6 goats. Simply our life is going on. Maybe I’m not able to fulfill all my children’s wishes, desires, and happiness. But I am trying. I am trying to give more than 50%. If I am able to at least give 51%, I can be satisfied. And when it comes back to 49%, that is my bad luck.
A single individual makes up one part of the whole, while the community makes up the bigger part. If society improves and develops, then your village, your tole (small community), your VDC, will also grow to be better. Just because your neighbor is rich, doesn’t mean that you are poor. This is a way of thinking that still exists, and hasn’t disappeared. I hope that it doesn’t. I am satisfied with this way of thinking.
The benefits we receive as individuals are not large. We are not taking any things with us, yet we try to earn so much to have sufficient things. We come into this world with empty hands, live in nature, step on this earth, breathe the air, drink the water, get warmth from fire. And when we die, we leave empty handed. We reach again the water, and are burned by the flame, mixing our soul back into the fire. We take only the satisfaction that we drew from our own lives and the thoughts that others had of us, when we die.
"We come into this world with empty hands...And when we die, we leave empty handed...We take only the satisfaction that we drew from our own lives and the thoughts that others had of us, when we die."
Q: What role does agriculture play in your life, and why is agriculture important to you?
A: When I was in class 8 or 9, I learned that Nepal is an agricultural country. About 87-90% of people rely on farming to live. Slowly, there was a decrease in production because people were becoming less interested in agriculture. This is sad for me, and for everyone. Everyone has begun flying to other countries for work. People are constantly fighting one another for government jobs, or for any kind of work. The number of people that focus their time on agriculture is decreasing day by day. This really hurts me, because we are sacrificing so much to try and work abroad, giving so much blood and sweat working for someone else in a different country.
Increasing population, the population density, unregulated farming methods, the use of chemicals and unnatural fertilizers -- all of these things are leading to less income generation and more expenses. Because of all these things, people are moving away from agriculture, and just trying to find easier work. Because of all these reasons, agriculture is the most important thing. It is life. Along with this, agriculture protects the whole world. Agriculture takes care of all human beings and animals. Because of all these things, I am more interested in agriculture, and more attracted to agriculture.
Q: Why are you interested in growing organically?
A: When we adapt to organic farming, I believe that the soil that is now dying will slowly regenerate. If the soil is good, we’ll be good as well. If soil is healthy, you will also be healthy. Thinking about all these things, we have to make the soil healthy and more fertile. If we make the soil unhealthy, then we will also be unhealthy. Maybe we’ll be able to make money just for the present moment, but we cannot avoid questions about what we will do in the future?
Now it seems we are too late. We have made the 5 elements of our world impure and muddled. We are human beings who have a big responsibility, but we are becoming selfish and only focusing on our individual needs.
Air, water, earth, and soil -- all these things are our life. Yet we think we can challenge these things, and move forward with the wrong concept of trying to control them.
"Challenging nature is a foolish thing. We use the word 'development, development' but it is only bringing destruction. If we forget to keep a balance between development and destruction, or our future generations will resent us."
Challenging nature is a foolish thing. We use the word “development, development” but it is only bringing destruction. If we forget to keep a balance between development and destruction, or our future generations will resent us. Meditating on all those things, the only way to make soil healthy is through organic farming.
Q: How did Takure move away from organic farming and start using chemicals?
A: In 2036 B.S. there was a huge famine. I had only heard about this because at the time I was only 2-3 years old. After that, chemical fertilizers became popular to use, and people were so happy to see the very quick increase in abundance.
In the last 30 years, we have given birth to unheard diseases and unhealthily polluted air and water. Because of deforestation, and the use of unnatural fertilizers and chemicals, the soil is not able to bear the load, because everything has balance. Now it’s time to think deeper. Even if we aren’t thinking about it right now, imagine what will happen if we continue using chemicals and fertilizers at this pace. Deforestation leads to landslides and flooding, and yet we are continuing these practices. And the use of chemicals will leave future generations with nutrient-less, poor quality food.
"Deforestation leads to landslides and flooding, and yet we are continuing these practices. And the use of chemicals will leave future generations with nutrient-less, poor quality food."
Only the owners of those companies who make chemical fertilizers are earning money. Farmers are investing money, and making money, but losing more. Even if we do hard work into the future, by the end of it we will not have a good environment for farming anymore. Still we have time, and if we coordinate with each other, getting helping hands, it won’t be too late, even though there’s little time left. We can stop all this destruction and save the soil.
We can give life, and to give life is to give a future for our children and to save our world. Along with this, it’s important to keep ourselves healthy, not only yourself, but all creatures, and the whole planet.
With continued support, interest, and help -- one day Takure will be a place that is again fully organic. I am hopeful that one day it will be like this.
Q: What does partnering with us to bring organic coffee to the community mean to you?
A: I was in my own lifestyle and my own way of thinking. After the big earthquake, you chose to come here after seeing our pain and suffering. We were given the chance to receive this help.
"Even before the earthquake, day to day life was difficult. After the earthquake, it was like we were left naked. It was a pitiful situation. "
Even before the earthquake, day to day life was difficult. After the earthquake, it was like we were left naked. It was a pitiful situation. There were no businesses around or government services or jobs in this area. For the five of us in my family, it was very hard. Without work, it is so hard for me to take care of my family. When you [Conscious Impact] came along many villagers received job opportunities. Not only jobs, but got the chance to serve our own community. Brick making is a service to the community. We now have a coffee nursery. And this is not just for one individual, but for the community. If the community will rise up, I can also rise up. I am the smallest part of the community.
Not only me, my society, my community -- we need to stand up together. We all need to understand what the truth is. This is my expectation. Even though we may not be able to help with every sector, with the help from Conscious Impact we’ve started a nursery, we began growing 10,000 coffee trees, and next year we will plant another 10,000 coffee trees. Slowly in 3-4 years, we will have 40-50,000 coffee plants.
This will be a great source of organic farming. Along with this, people’s standard of living will be improved. Growing this organic coffee will mean not having to work as hard every year because we will not have to plant every year. We just have to plant once, give care, and provide water. If you wait for 2-3 years, then you will regularly be able to make income for 40-50 years. On one side, it is beneficial for human beings as a source of income, and on the other side it is beneficial to the soil because it is grown organically. It is healthy for us as human beings.
"Growing this organic coffee will mean not having to work as hard every year because we will not have to plant every year."
You [Conscious Impact] have given so much inspiration, so much help, and you’ve made us so much more enthusiastic. For this, we want to say thank you. I hope this community will take this in a positive way. Truly, we don’t have to just focus on temporary happiness, and we have to think about the future. I want to thank Dheeraj Mishra for bringing Conscious Impact to Takure. I want to thank my community as well.