Connecting Teaching and Entrepreneurship through Mushroom Farming
June 8, 2018
When Padam and Ashish moved to Bhotenamlang in Sindhupalchowk post-earthquake, what they saw in Bhotenamlang changed their life. They saw that despite losing everything, children were hopeful, coming to school every day and working hard.
"Children who come from generations of poverty still dream, have hopes, and want to achieve."
“Most people believe that low-socioeconomic level equals low outcomes,” explains Padam. “This is far from the truth and those who believe otherwise stifle what a child can accomplish. Children who come from generations of poverty still dream, have hopes, and want to achieve.”
“In the near future they will be the ones keeping the world running, they will be one building our future,” says Ashish. “With time and proper mentorship and guidance, these kids will flourish and will bring about the impact that we all dream of them.”
“Our children need to learn to bounce back from failures, need to know that they can use resources around them to generate income to support themselves and their families.”
According to Padam Raj Awasthi, a majority of their students are below grade level, they lack exposure, and have other factors working against them, however, Fellows decided that these obstacles should not hinder their students’ growth, so they chose to find ways to nurture their growth and help them blossom.
They wanted to start a project where students’ passion and interest were recognized, and their deficits and weaknesses addressed. The two weren’t just thinking about what happens within the walls of a classroom but also preparing them for both college and career.
“Given current situation even if they pass the SLC, with poverty and other factors working against them, we realized that their option to pursue higher education would be limited,” says Padam.
“Our children need to learn to bounce back from failures, need to know that they can use resources around them to generate income to support themselves and their families,” Padam elaborates.
Thus, Mushroom Farming Project was borne.
For the trial run of the project, the two Fellows taught students critical aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset
– the tools and attitudes needed to overcome adversity and address future personal, economic, community and global challenges. They focused their teaching to promote learning from failures and challenges.
“When we started the project, we interviewed the students and then divided them into nine groups and gave them a bag of seed and some plastic bags,” says Padam. “Out of nine groups, only one of them failed.”
After the trial run, Padam and Ashish along with the help of school staff and community members decided to go ahead with the full-scale project. They started teaching students how to make a business plan, apply for loans, create an engaging presentation to salesmanship and asking for the deal and collaborating with experts.
The students drafted their plan for Mushroom Farming venture and the Fellows helped them fine-tune their pitch. The pitch included a summary of their business plan -- their product, target market, their leadership role, and why they would succeed. After going through their presentation multiple times and fine-tuning it to near perfect, the students presented their business plan to the principal to seek a loan for their mushroom farming venture.
“After listening to their business plan, we decided to give them a loan of Rs.10,000, says the Principal, Gopi Parajuli. “On the condition, they return the money to the school.”
After securing the loan, the Fellows asked the students to submit their resume and cover letter and only selected candidates were called for interviews. During the interview, the Fellows tested the students on their critical-thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and their collaborative skills.
Finally, they selected 24 students from Grade 8 and 9 and introduced them to Tek Bahadur Pandit whom the students call ‘Ba’ and a trainer from Japan. ‘Ba’ had been involved in mushroom farming for a couple of years and the two Fellows along with 24 students entered into an agreement with Tek Bahadur to manage the farm and the student would work under him. He would also share knowledge with the students on how to look after the mushrooms during the growing period and in return, he would receive 10% of the profit.
“Teach For Nepal Fellows are providing students with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to encourage entrepreneurial success in a variety of setting,” says a parent. “Entrepreneurship education will equip our children with skills that will enable them to create and develop enterprises in the various areas of the community.”
Not only has the Mushroom Farming project has been a learning experience, it has also been financially successful. It has already generated Rs. 24,000 in profit in a year. The project has been replicated in various other Teach For Nepal school as well.
Ashish has Bachelors in Engineering from Nepal Engineering College and Padam has Bachelors in Development Studies from Pokhara University. He is also a recipient of “Nepal Bidhya Bhusan GA” Award. He topped Faculty of Humanities and Social Engineering in Pokhara University. They both joined Teach For Nepal in 2016 and taught at Bhotenamlang Secondary School, Sindhupalchowk.