The first organic farming workshop is over and I reflect on its possible impact as I walk down to the next venue. Bal Kumar, the trainee who had so supportively joined in the training, had invited me to visit his farm and I’ve planned to break my journey there. His house and surrounding tomato tunnels are in a very isolated position. After an hour’s walk I eventually stumble upon them and meet Bal Kumar in his potting shed.
|Bal Kumar gets enthused by the workshops|
|An hours walk from the hilltop village, Samibhanjyang, are Bal Kumar's tunnels|
|The potting shed|
|The next crop of cucumbers is just emerging|
Our mutual language skills are very limited but shared interests in organic production soon overcome this small hurdle and together we tour the farm that he took over from his father 10 years ago. I am immediately inspired by a man who is totally undaunted by the isolation of his site and has developed a successful business selling organic produce into local markets. Produce which he delivers on his motor bike or occasionally with the help of a local van owner. His systems are founded in good science and he rotates tomatoes with cucumbers and peppers. Like many good farmers he has kept a balance in his business and he demonstrates this by showing me his 45 breeding goats, and a number of buffalo and cows. These animals are allowed to spend some of the time each day grazing in the nearby forest. They return to their well-designed housing where they are offered more green forage, gathered by either his wife, daughter or one of his 2 workers.
|Goats are housed on slats to allow good ventilation, clean standing and easy collection of manure.|
|More green food is offered.|
What I have really come to see is his compost/manure heap that he spoke so proudly of at our training---and it doesn’t disappoint! All these animals generate quite a bit of muck which is tipped into a pit and mixed with any other waste organic matter. The aeration from mixing, and the ideal moisture levels that he achieves, result in a useable compost within three months. Not only is this humus worked into the seedbed but is also an effective mulch which retains the water from his dribble pipe system. No chemical plant feeds in sight.
|Turned and stacked.|
|Tomato tunnels showing little signs of blight.|
|What blight there is, Bal Kumar cuts away and to my surprise composts. His system must be good in order to sterilise the|
|The dibble pipe watering system with the remains of the mulch.|
We move on to look at some of the 500 young lemon trees he had just planted and finally to his two ponds that not only store irrigation water but also rear carp! As I congratulate him on his farming model I notice one of the home-made beehives dotted around his house. With his wife we chat and I realise that he could be the bee keeping trainer I’ve unsuccessfully been searching for. I leave him pondering my suggestion and continue to Rambajar, the site of my next training.
|A young lemon tree|
|Carp rearing ponds|
|Banana trees demonstrate the sub tropical climate|
Bal Kumar’s farm undoubtedly had natural advantages. An endless supply of clean fresh water, and close proximity to an excellent source of animal fodder – the forest. Through his animals he was harvesting fertility from this natural environment and with the aid of a great composting system, growing a high value crop. His tomato plants were lasting 10 months so disease control was good and he had developed a market for all he could produce. Not satisfied with this he was spreading his risks by diversifying into lemon growing.
|A successful, hard working team.|
The two training sessions, and this visit have created a germ of an idea in my mind. Humus rich soils are the foundation of sustainable food production and climate change resilience. Rainfall will become less predictable and possibly more scarce as the climate changes. The soils I’d seen in the higher altitude villages were being depleted of organic matter by continual maize millet cropping and will offer little as a growing medium as rainfall reduces. Promoting healthy soils to enhance climate change resilience, combined with the use of hand tools that reduce the damage to woman’s health together with the benefits of quicker work rates, could be the core of a new programme aimed at these high risk hilltop communities. To my surprise Khuvaido the Livelihoods programme manager thinks the same and together we are writing a proposal that might attract international funding.