Farmers turn to Walnut as cash cropAround 150 farmers in Galkot wards 1, 4 and 10 planted around 10,000 saplings of walnut last month in around 32 hectares of land.
Farmer Dil Bahadur Khatri in Galkot Municipality-4, Baglung suffers huge losses every harvest season because of the monkey menace.
No matter which crop Khatri planted, they were invariably destroyed by the invading monkeys.
The helpless farmer this time has decided to replace his traditional crops with an improved variety of walnut, on his farmland.
“I hope the monkeys will not be able to destroy the walnuts,” said Khatri pointing towards the recently planted saplings that have started growing new buds.
Along with Khatri, around 150 farmers in Galkot wards 1, 4 and 10 planted around 10,000 saplings of walnut last month in around 32 hectares of land, which mostly were left barren because of frequent invasions of monkeys and low productivity.
Galkot Municipality in collaboration with the federal government under the Innovation Collaboration Programme of the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration, had imported saplings of a higher-yielding variety of walnut, from Turkey.
The cost of 10,000 saplings stood at Rs22 million, of which Rs14 million was provided by the provincial government, Rs6 million by the municipality and the remaining Rs2 million was borne by the farmers.
Around 4,000 saplings were distributed to the farmers in Galkot-1, 3,000 to the farmers in Chamuwa in Galkot-4 and the remaining 3,000 to farmers in Galkot-10.
“Walnut grows at an altitude of 1,500 metres to 2,500 metres,” said Hari Datta Subedi, chief of the agriculture division of the municipality.
Though the district already has an ample presence of a hard-shelled variety of walnut, locally known as Hadey Okhar, the imported variety has a higher market demand, said Bhakta Kaucha, ward chair of Galkot-10.
“Therefore, it's likely to increase the locals’ income,” said Kaucha. “We hope a successful walnut farming will prevent exodus of the local youths from farming.”
The Walnut trees start bearing fruits at the age of two years. By the age of five, a single plant yields up to 25 kg of walnut.
“We are doing our best to protect the saplings as the walnuts give higher returns and are safer against the monkey attacks,” said Tilak Ghatri, a farmer from Galkot-10.
Bharat Sharma Gaire, the mayor of Galkot Municipality, said he was hopeful of the project being a success.
“The Municipality aims to continue the programme in the coming season too as farmers from the neighbouring villages have started demanding the saplings,” said Gaire.