Surprising Occupation as a “Barefoot Agro-Vet”: Sustainable Agriculture and Forest Sectors
I had the opportunity to meet with the project manager of BICAS, which stands for “Building Inclusive and Sustainable Growth capacity of CSO in Agriculture and Forest Sectors” when I was in Jumla, Nepal. They brought me around Jumla and neighbouring areas to meet with a handful of incredible people [Read part 1 here! and part 2 here!]
This is a story about an interesting occupation as a “Barefoot Agro-vet”. For those urban-dwellers, this term might come at a surprise to you (as it did to me).
You might be thinking, is someone running around without shoes and providing… veterinarian services?
Well similar, but not quite.
Setting Up Shop
First, the story has to begin with “Agro-Vet”, which are shops that support farmers who raise livestock or agricultural production. With the support of BICAS Project, Agro-Vet Shops were established. Financially support helped this man to receive training, as well as the resources to build a shop that provides veterinary and agriculture-related products.
What is happening is that farmers are moving beyond subsistence farming (providing for themselves) to commercial farming. It’s key that as this transition happen Agro-Vet Shops can provide affordable and easy to access materials (such as seeds) and equipment.
We spoke to Agro-Vet shopkeeper named Krishna Nath Yogi and he shares with us about his business. Through the BICAS Project, he received training support to learn about agriculture and livestock.
When Krishna first opened up his shop he tells us how he struggled on his own, “I almost closed my shop, I was about to leave this business. I was losing energy and business was not good. BICAS project helped me to mobilize and create better relationships with the farmers.”
Fun fact, the town of Jumla has been declared organic, so all the products that are stocked on these shelves are organic in line with the declaration.
Part 2 of the story is that while Agro-Vets are still made with the intention of being accessible, often in the main part of town, it’s still challenging for many farmers to reach. Barefoot Agro-Vets are the ones who are able to be mobile and provide the necessary services to the people.
Agro-Vets shopkeepers work with the Barefoot Agro-Vets to support different people. I saw for myself how villagers were living very far away from the “centre”.
Narabir Sunar shares with us, “I was not able to open an agro-vet by myself. There are many steps and challenges… what I can do it provide technical services. I can also sell some medicine if I have purchased enough.”
We learned that government organisations are also mobilizing barefoot agro-vets to distribute vaccinations to prevent diseases.
He continues, “I am very happy with my life right now. Before I had to graze the jungles for some plants to sell, but now I’m making more income and I can be with my family… I have savings after paying my household expenses”
We asked him if he happy with the income and is he able to support his family. Nodding his head he tells us proudly, “Did you know I make even more than the junior staff of the government?”