The women and men of Sagauli Birta, a small Nepali village near the Indian border, rise with the sun to work fields of rice, wheat, sugarcane, and other crops that form the foundation of the local economy.

After harvest, their only option was to travel several hours, lugging heavy sacks of grain, to mills that grind wheat and rice. This cost them time and energy that might otherwise be put toward more life-enriching activities. It also cut into their profits.

Lorik Prasad Yadav had a better idea: he put the mill on wheels to bring it to his fellow villagers so they wouldn’t need to traverse long distances to grind grain. Lorik made it easier, cheaper, and quicker for thousands of people in and around Sugauli Birta to process their crops and feed their community.

Traditional brick-and-mortar mills quickly took notice. They saw Lorik as a threat.

The mill owners complained to the Nepali Office of Cottage and Small Industries, or OCSI. While the OCSI chief did not want to shut down Lorik’s business, he also had no legal authority to register the mobile mill. Lorik had to suspend his innovative service.

But that’s not the end of Lorik’s story.

Mill on wheels

The locals of Sugauli Birta rely on agriculture for their livelihood and for their own sustenance. Before Lorik’s innovative solution, mothers and fathers had no choice but to spend precious time traveling outside the village.

Lorik pours unprocessed rice into a thresher atop his mobile mill. ( Photo / Bernat Parera)

The big mills weren’t cheap, either. To grind 10 kilograms of grain cost 25 Nepalese rupees, or about $0.21 USD. And while 21 cents may not seem like a lot, it is when you consider that the Nepali GDP per capita in 2018 was $1,033 USD. Every cent counts in Nepal.

With the help of a bank loan, Lorik bought a tractor and mounted a platform with three threshers. He drove his mobile mill from house to house, customer to customer. Lorik kept his prices low and even left the chaff behind so farmers could reuse it as organic fertilizer or livestock feed.

With the support of his fellow villagers, Lorik was able to reach an agreement with the brick-and-mortar mills. He offered to continue service for the farmers who were too far away to reach the mills easily, but agreed not to do business with farmers close to the mills.

“[Lorik] has created an extreme amount of value for the locals within the society who otherwise had to access their stationary mills and spend lots of time, spend lots of money,” said Akash Shrestha, research coordinator for the Samriddhi Foundation, a Kathmandu-based non-profit organization.

Breaking down barriers to innovation

Despite the agreement, Lorik was still unable to register as a formal business because of Nepal’s antiquated laws. There was no provision to recognize and permit a mobile mill—a new innovation that Lorik introduced to the region.

The Samriddhi Foundation works to reform outdated laws such as the one blocking Lorik from being recognized as an official business. The world is changing and innovating at an increasing pace, and the foundation believes Nepal and its laws ought to change with it.

One of Lorik’s sons sits atop the mobile mill. ( Photo / Bernat Parera)

Samriddhi works to modernize Nepal’s laws so it’s easier for resourceful problem-solvers to develop local solutions to local challenges. Samriddhi’s efforts amplify the voices of entrepreneurs across Nepal. “Thirty million Nepalis like Lorik are being deprived of economic freedom,” Shrestha said.

Lorik is a perfect example of the solutions Nepali policymakers should enable. He turned his entrepreneurial spirit towards solving a local problem and bettering the lives of thousands of his neighbors. Nepal’s laws should keep up with solutions such as Lorik’s, rather than hinder innovations that could help people.

Innovators across Nepal are building solutions to everyday problems. They deserve a voice that will support them.

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