A Nepalese woman’s story: Growing business in seed production for export market

Nepal, May 2016 - A woman-run seed production company networked with ordinary women folks in the remote hills of Nepal is giving well-established seed producers and exporters tough competition. How she does it is a story she offers to share with other women working in the farms of mountain communities elsewhere.

At a global summit of women, Jamuna Kayastha made a presentation of her company’s development from a mere idea to a successful business enterprise. A teacher by profession, Jamuna extended the walls of her classroom to the communities around the typographically gifted hills of her country. With faith in the capacity of women in the communities, she nurtured her vision of a company that processes and exports vegetable, fruit and cash crop seeds.

Nepal’s natural environment, with its wide range of climate and altitude, provides seed production opportunities. Traditionally, a sector dominated by men, seed production is dominantly run by men. But Jamuna defied traditions and ventured into seed production, in cooperation with other women folks in remote hillside communities in Nepal.

The idea dawned on Jamuna when she took note of the perennial oversupply of vegetables, fruits and other cash crops that usually found their way into the market for feeds for local farm animals. Why not grow these plants for seed production for export? And why not? She started a project for teaching local community farmers new techniques in seed production, particularly hybrid varieties, and processing these for export.

Good climate, fertile soil, wide hillside areas untapped for farming, available labor and big market outside of Nepal are ingredients of a sleeping opportunity.  All it takes is one person to get the idea going and make it bloom into big bucks business.

 “Given the vast opportunities for seed production, the number of people living in remote areas and their need to go into livelihood activities, I picked up the challenge to create a seed industry run and managed by women,” Jamuna explained how the vision got started. A language teacher, she knows that all it takes is teaching the women folks the technology for seed production, introducing to them entrepreneurial values and opening their eyes for greater potentials as productive members of society.

“At first, people doubted my venture. In fact, people ridiculed me by saying it was impossible for a woman to go into a very tricky and troublesome business,” she related. “The hurdles were awesome because of their social dimension, but I was not discouraged. If a woman could give birth, why couldn’t a woman give birth to a business?” she explained.

From a handful of women producers, the company now has hundreds of women in 25 seed production sites all around Nepal. Nurturing the transformation from home-based farmers to new seed entrepreneurs, her company is now giving the big businesses tough competition only women can give. “I am a firm believer in women’s power to transform their lives and to take important decisions outside of the traditional role as care-givers and family nurturers. As empowered women, we now can take control of our lives and be equal partners with the men in improving the quality of life of our society,” Jamuna declared.

The great oak tree sleeps in its acorn, the saying goes. The seed of success has awakened the full potentials of big seed business for women of Nepal, thanks to a lady teacher-turned-entrepreneur, Jamuna Kayastha, for showing the way.