Agriculture was the mainstay of Tibetan livelihood till the middle of the 20th century. Every village or family produced all its needs and led a life of self-sufficiency, embodying what Mahatma Gandhi termed as Gram Swarajya. More than 20 varieties of food-grains were grown.
Agriculture flourished in Tibet due to the abundance of natural resources. The Buddha's teaching has greatly influenced the Tibetan people's way of life. As a result, nature is least disturbed and exploited out of human greed. This is the reason why scholar Rakra Thubchoy wrote: "Right from the beginning of time, the Snow Landers have never known famine."
The Gaden Phodrang government of Tibet had issued the "Decree for the Protection of Mountains and Rivers". Offerings were made to the lakes and rivers and ritual performed to appease the Guardian Deities of Land and Water in order to maintain soil fertility. A rich tradition of animal husbandry ensured plentiful dung for use as manure. Many villages had efficient irrigation networks. Tantric and occult rituals were performed to call down timely rain, protect harvests from hail storms and wild animals.
Then, in 1959, Tibet suffered the worst tragedy in its history, forcing His Holiness the Dalai Lama and nearly 100,000 Tibetans into exile. His Holinessthe Dalai Lama suggested the Tibetans to live in cohesive units to avoid losing their culture and identity. With the generous assistance from the Government of India, 35 settlements for Tibetans were established. The main agriculture settlements are located in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh.
At that time the green revolution became fashionable throughout India. Unaware of the long term consequences of chemical farming, the Tibetans too adopted this method resulting in soil degradation, health problems and decreasing crop yields. These have compelled the settlers to migrate in search of steady income, placing severe strains on family stability and children's development. Worse still, most of the educated youths set off to pursue more lucrative jobs. These developments are fraught with danger for the very survival of the settlements. The crucial point being when we return to Tibet, the settlers will have no skills or experiences to contribute for the development of agriculture.
Organic farming policy
In the early 2002, the Exile Tibetan Government adopted a new policy on agriculture by introducing organic and natural farming, as a way to improve the living and economic conditions of the settlers and make sustainable use of resources. This new policy is drawing inspirations from the Gandhi philosophy of traditional farming and Masonobu Fukuaka's theory of natural farming.
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama proposes to make future Tibet a zone of ahimsa and sanctuary of environment protection. In view of this, we need to adopt right now in our settlements non-violent and environment-friendly farming practices. Our goal is to make future Tibet a storehouse of organic grains to the rest of the world.
- We will try to develop a sophisticated farming tradition so that one acre of land produces enough to sustain a family. We will make attempts to increase the settlement population, and create conditions for them not only to achieve self-sufficiency, but also to contribute to the environment protection.
- We are convinced that this kind of rich farming tradition holds the promise of sustainable livelihood for the entire population of the Tibetan settlements. To encourage the educated youth to live in settlements, we intend to create remunerative opportunities for agriculture, animal husbandry, small-scale industries, and technical service enterprises.
- In order to rejuvenate the environment and soil nutrients, we will make efforts to introduce several organic practices and put an end to the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides; we will upgrade the embankments and build irrigation reservoirs.
- We will restore the ritual of "Burying Treasure Urns in Offering to Guardian Deities of Land and Water". Similarly, we will make efforts to restore the tradition of performing rituals to make rain, avert storms, and protect harvests from wild beasts. This will benefit not only the Tibetans, but also the local Indians.
Organic Farming Development:
In 2004 the Central Tibetan Relief Committee and the Italian NGO COSPE initiated a 4-year project for Sustainable Agriculture Development co-funded by the Italian Cooperation. Under this project, training and demonstration on organic farming are implemented in 12 major settlements located in 9 Indian states. In 2005 the CTA adopted Dhondenling Tibetan settlement in south India as a model organic settlement and started several projects with assistance from other donors (NCA-Norway, Tibet House Trust -UK, Tibetan Information Office-Australia, The Charitable Foundation-Australia, Tibet Fund-USA, IM-Sweden, Trento-Italy, DGDC-Belgium, Mexico). At present there are more than 1000 registered farmers with around 3000 acres of organic land. The number of farmers is increasing steadily year by year. In each settlement one or two agriculture extensionists organize trainings and assist the farmers to adopt several organic techniques, which include both traditional and modern practices.
- Soil fertility is maintained by appropriate crop rotation, green manures, cover crops, application of compost, vermicompost, biofertilizers, and traditional preparations like jeevamruth and panchagav.
- Pests and diseases are controlled through the application of home-made leaf extracts, integrated by purchased biopesticides whenever necessary.
- Biodynamic methods have been introduced and are increasingly popular among farmers.
Our brand Tibetan Organic is being promoted by the Federation of Tibetan Co-operatives in India Ltd., the expression of a movement comprising 15 settlement co-operatives and 23,425 members engaged in agriculture and handicraft.
The Federation was formed and registered in April 2005 under the Multi State Cooperative Societies Act; Registration No. MSCS/CR/223/2005.
Given the diversified conditions of the settlements we are able to produce a comprehensive range of quality organic products, which include:
- Several varieties of Rice (brown, polished, beaten)
- Millets, Sorghum, Buckwheat, Wheat, Maize (grain and flour)
- Cowpea (Lobia), Green Gram (Mung Dal), Black Gram (Kala Chana), Red Gram (Tor Dal), Horse Gram (Kulthi), Soybean, Groundnut, Kidney Beans (Rajma)
- Oil from Groundnut, Sunflower and Mustard
- Potatoes, Ginger, Turmeric, Vegetables, Fruits, Black Pepper
Tibetan farmers bring you healthy and nutritious foods devoid of toxic chemical residues. All our products are grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, weedicides and are certified under NPOP (Indian Standards) and ECC 2092/91 (European Standards) by IMO Control Bangalore (settlements in Karnataka and Central India) and by SGS India (settlements in Arunachal Pradesh).
Contact Information:Federation of Tibetan Co-operatives in India Ltd.
23, Masjid Road,
New Delhi - 110014
Ph.:+ 91-11-24376920, 24372646
Tibetan Cooperative section
Scientific and technological revolution in the late 18th century gave rise to the development of industries in many western countries. At the same time, a system of capitalist economy was born to escalate the exploitation of common people, particularly the industrial workers. As the capitalist abuse reached its peak, a counter culture of communist politico-economic system became widespread. Seeking to challenge the capitalist establishment by means of class struggle and violence, the communists only succeeded in unleashing a new wave of exploitation. The majority of the world population now found themselves polarized into two mutually exclusive camps. Peace and stability receded as a distant memory. It was only a matter of time before the world would fight the First and Second World Wars. These two wars were but the inevitable consequence of the advancement of science and technology.
When the Second World War ended, the major powers realigned themselves yet again into two opposing blocs, and set in motion a new phase of confrontation. The Cold War dragged on remorselessly for decades, with awesome consequences. Even today humanity bears the scars of that insidious strife.
Apparently, the power blocs and the Cold War are past history now. But violence is not. The world today is faced with yet another predicament, that of terrorist violence. The root of this problem can be found in the general system of economic exploitation, particularly in the expansion of globalization and consumerism.
All through this global historical development, Tibet pursued a system of industrial, agricultural and nomadic practices, which were not only non-violent, but also self-sustaining and self-reliant. It was a system that put very little strain on the environment and natural resources. Tibetan villages then epitomized Mahatma Gandhi's vision of cooperation and mutual help. By and large, the old Tibet was a happy and contented society.
With the occupation of Tibet by China, every aspect of the Tibetan culture and tradition has suffered destruction. China today uses Tibet as a guinea pig for experimenting with the new economic trends of consumerism and globalization, subjecting the Tibetan people to exploitation.
However, if China is engaged in wiping out the Tibetan tradition of non-violence, cooperation and mutual help, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has established a number of Tibetan settlements in exile to provide livelihood and to preserve our religion and culture. His ultimate vision is to develop a way of life that dovetails our tradition with the positive aspects of modernity, one that will serve as the exile Tibetans' gift to the people in Tibet, a gift that will fan the dying ember of tradition in Tibet.
The root cause of Tibet's tragedy can be found in the international struggle between the capitalist and communists. In this context, it must be stated that the success of our goal of self-rule will depend on the kind of economic system that we follow. For many years now, people with wisdom and foresight have realized the poverty of both capitalism and communism in meeting human aspirations. Therefore, they developed a model of Middle Path economic system, drawing on the philosophy of cooperation. To Mahatma Gandhi cooperation is the foundation of non-violent economic system.
Gandhi's vision and His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teaching inspired the development of cooperative societies in almost every Tibetan settlement. Needless to say that the societies were built within the framework of the laws of host countries. To drive home the seriousness of our cooperative initiatives, the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile has included a specific Article on this issue.
True, the Government of India and state governments allows cooperative societies the benefit of tax exemption and low-interest loans. However, our aim is not to cash in on such legal and economic advantages. Rather, our goal is to evolve an economic system that is free from competition and violence.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The following are the aims and objectives of the cooperative societies in Tibetan settlements in exile:
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama has proposed to make future Tibet a zone of ahimsa and sanctuary of environment protection. It follows that the economic system of future Tibet should be based on non-violent and environment-friendly principles. This is a Middle Path system, one that avoids the extremes of communism and capitalism and successfully challenges the scourge of consumerism and globalization in favour of self-reliant and sustainable livelihood. This involves development of a system of cooperation and mutual help. To pave the way for this, we must reform and streamline the working of cooperative societies so that our experience serves as inputs to the reconstruction of Tibet when we are united with our brothers and sisters there
- For this, we need to organize workshops and other educational programs on the goals and philosophy of cooperatives. We need to build conviction among the people that all the activities of cooperative societies should be aimed at serving the interests of shareholders. This, in turn, should lead to greater participation by shareholders in the management and other activities of cooperative societies.
- As Article 93 of the Charter stipulates, products and revenues of cooperative societies must be used to benefit the shareholders. The societies' revenue-generation activities must abide by the laws of host countries. Corrupt and immoral practices should be avoided at all costs.
- A system will be formulated to ensure that the cooperative societies clear all the outstanding dues within a definite period of time; clear their accounts annually, avoid bad debts, and provide convincing explanations, during the given financial year, to the questions of auditors.
- Efforts will be made to reform the bylaws of the cooperative societies within a definite period of time. The reform will be aimed at enabling the shareholders to elect the cooperative president, secretary, and other officer bearers, and discontinue the practice of making such appointments by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.
- Knowledge of cooperative bylaws and the host countries' laws on cooperative societies will be made a condition for appointing office bearers. We will look into the possibility of formulating a new body of service rules and regulations, including recruitment rules, to cover all the cooperative societies. As well as ensuring a standard body of rules and regulations, it will also help to safeguard the interest of cooperative employees.
- Efforts will be made to establish a Federation of Cooperative Societies to provide a forum for experience sharing, and more particularly, to help the societies in remote areas to market their products. Apart from marketing, the federation will facilitate the procurements of goods from outside for sale in the settlements.