Singaporean undergrads build farms for students in Nepal
Through crowdfunding, university students set up three greenhouse farms
In a small town on the outskirts of central Nepal stand three greenhouse farms.
Vegetables and tomatoes, as well as high-value crops like shiitake mushrooms and herbs, are grown there.
The farms were built thanks to $31,000 raised by two Singaporean students.
Mr Xu Jiakun, 24, and Miss Lim Xin Tong, 22, are final year undergraduates at Duke University in the US.
They were spurred into action after travelling to Nagarkot town in 2014 to teach English to lower secondary students as part of a university programme.
But they found that some of the 180 students from Shree Janakalyan Lower Secondary School would skip school to work on family farms, while others were too hungry to focus during lessons.
"Most do not have lunch and the few that do, bring some dry grains," Mr Xu told The New Paper.
Many students live in houses of tin sheets or mud, and few have electricity.
Miss Lim said: "I see so much potential in each of these children, and I want to do whatever I can to help them get closer to realising their ambitions."
Concerned, the pair decided to raise money to fund meals for the students.
They were turned down by the many businesses they approached, and so took to crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.
They also made postcards and donation boxes which they set up at shops near their campus for contributions.
After raising $20,000 and travelling to Nepal several times to set up a meal programme and liaising with school staff members, the greenhouse idea sparked.
Mr Xu said: "The farming idea came to us as it is a common source of income in rural schools around the world and farms can be used for many purposes such as teaching science classes."
The $31,000 raised from both campaigns covered the costs of farming equipment, irrigation, and seeds for the greenhouses.
Crops at the greenhouses will play a dual role. High-value crops, such as the mushrooms and European herbs, are sold to hotels in Nagarkot, while other vegetables and tomatoes are meant for the students.
They worked together with a non-governmental organisation to build the greenhouses next to the school, which span the area of a basketball court, and which became fully functional last month.
The Nepalese students have organised themselves to take turns tending to the crops.
Mr Xu and Miss Lim now hope parents will be encouraged to send their children to the school.
Having returned from their self-funded third visit there, Mr Xu and Miss Lim are trying to make the farm more self-sustainable, hoping it becomes a model for other schools.
"They suffer from poverty, minimal infrastructure and even climate change.
"This is within our capacity as individuals to help them," said Mr Xu.
Those who wish to contribute can do so at bit.ly/project-sapana