Travel in Nepal: Farming the Old Fashioned Way

Stepping Back in Time

During my recent trekking trip to northern Nepal we found ourselves well off the beaten track in a world largely untouched by electricity and completely free from mechanized agriculture. Fields are cultivated, sown and harvested using only human or animal power. It’s early 19th century farming alive and well in 2012.




Goats, sheep, oxen, buffalo, yaks, mules and horses are all plentiful. Animals are rarely slaughtered for meat since they are far more valuable as sources for dairy products and to help in the fields.







Rice Paddy





Rice is an extremely important crop even in the steep and hilly valleys. Over successive generations the land has been terraced to allow for maximum planting.










We were walking through the country during a harvest period. Rice and other crops are cut down by hand with whole families pitching in. Very little is wasted as the rice stalks will be dried and used for fodder for farm animals over the winter.







Corn Crib




Corn dries in a crib alongside the trail. It is elevated to keep pests away. The corn could be used as feed but is also valuable as it can be ground into meal.






Making Meal



Here a young lady is grinding corn into meal. She uses two flat rocks, one on top of another, with the top one having a hole in the center and a wooden handle for turning. Dried corn kernels from the pan are dropped into the hole and the spinning of the handle crushes the kernels between the stones. Meal spills out the sides onto the woven mat.






Thresh, Winnow, Fodder



In the background six buffalo are tightly yoked together and are being driven around a pole. Their collective weight threshes the rice. A pile of un-winnowed rice is visible in the center as two men hold winnowing mats. They toss the rice into the air, the chaff floats away and at their feet is harvested rice. On the right, a team takes the threshings and hands them down to a man who is building a stack which will serve as winter animal fodder.





Ready for Winter



An immaculate field ready for the coming season with rice stalks stacked. (Note fields in far background.)







Ganga Fields



Marijuana grows in the wild; this field stretched for miles. No one seemed to be tending it though the buffalo were especially content.








  • Mick Mayers says:

    Thanks for sharing this! It is one of my dreams to go on a trek in Nepal, so I will continue to follow what you did to get some perspective.

  • Victoria Huckenpahler says:

    Eric — Thanks for sharing. As you know, that area of the world greatly interests me. This all looks particularly appealing since my son just gifted me at Christmas with a book entitled, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The knowledgeable author traces the food we eat through the processing plants and back to the sources. It is frankly an appalling read. I would be very happy to share this volume with you once I’ve finished. Let me know. The author also explores organic crop-raising, and gets around to making a meal with food he has entirely grown (or shot, alas) himself.
    Best in the New Year, Victoria

  • Ian Littman says:

    Eric, Thanks for the agricultural tour and great photos of Nepal. Have a Happy New Year!

  • Carmen says:


    Such a varied blog you lead! I enjoyed this, with the captions taking us through your travels.

    I also find this food production to be interesting, impressive. Recently I came across some letters written by my Virginia ancestors from the early 1800′s. They were farmers (in great part). The many letters detail the importance of their farm animals (an their temperaments!) in their daily lives. So “Early 19th Century farming” did strike a nice chord with me.


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