Agriculture Division

TSO Tenzingang taking initiative in mass tree plantation

Background History:

Going by the written accounts of Tibet’s way of life and on main occupation that existed since time immemorial, it bears testimony to the fact that the mainstay of Tibetan livelihood were and are agriculture and Nomad. The entire cultivable land covering about 228,000 hectors produced some prominent crops like barley, wheat, oil seeds, pulses, rice and vegetables in large enough quantities to meet the need of all the people. Use of chemical fertilizer and pesticide in Tibet was unheard of in those days.

Since the Chinese occupation of Tibet widespread environmental destruction has taken place due to logging of virgin forests, uncontrolled mining, water pollution and nuclear waste dumping, which has resulted in the degradation of grasslands, extinction of wildlife, desertification, floods, soil erosion and landslides. Also, the transfer of huge numbers of Chinese settlers into Tibet and the resettlement of the nomads through urbanisation demonstrates the colonial nature of Chinese rule. Under such a system, Tibetans have been marginalized in the economic, educational, political and social spheres and Tibet’s rich culture and traditions are rapidly disappearing.

Tibetans in Exile:

Following political upheaval and invasion of Tibet by the Communist China in 1959, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and nearly 100,000 Tibetans were forced into exile. To promote His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s supreme vision of having Tibetan refugee settlements in cohesive units for preservation of their culture and identity, the most hospitable Indian Government, generous NGOs and individuals made 35 settlements for Tibetan possible. Most of the residents at these settlements are agriculture-based.

In the early years of Tibetan settlements, the Green Revolution was just introduced in India. Unaware of the long term consequences of using chemical fertilizers, Tibetans too adopted this emerging method for five decades. No doubt, it produced very high yield in the initial stages. As a matter of fact green revolution and excess use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides led to depletion of soil nutrient year after year, resulting in diminishing crops yield and increase in cost of inputs. Also, most of the families have a small piece of agricultural land, where mono cropping is practiced and is being rain fed, owing to which the yield is very low and not sufficient to sustain the families on farming alone. These have compelled the settlers to migrate or look for other avenues that promised steady income which became the cause of severe strains on family stability and children’s development. Worse still, most of the educated youths set off in search of more lucrative jobs. These developments are fraught with danger for the very survival of the settlements.

Agriculture section:

Nearly 60% of Tibetans in exile live in Agricultural settlements in India, Nepal and Bhutan. Before 1996 there was no separate division/section which looks after the agriculture and allied activities in the settlements. And there was decline in agriculture outputs, which lead to the decline in income of the farmers. Slowly, they were losing interest in farming.

So, the Central Tibetan Administration felt necessary to have Agriculture Division/Section within the Department of Home. In 1996, the Central Tibetan Administration formally instituted Agriculture Division within the Department of Home with one senior staff (Joint Secretary). In 1998, one more staff was appointed to assist. In 2001, the Department appointed 12 Agriculture Extension Officers (AEO) in 12 major Agriculture Settlements in India.

The new agriculture policy was introduced by the 12th Kashag in the year 2002. The policy was to convert conventional agriculture to organic agriculture. The main reason behind this policy is to practice sustainable, environmentally safe agriculture, thereby making the farmers self-reliant and to achieve food security.

Since the establishment of Agriculture Division, the Division has been looking after the affairs of Agriculture and allied activities in Settlements. The Division has spared no effort in executing various agricultural and allied projects through the support from both Government and non-governmental organization and individuals.

Introduction of Agriculture Policy:

In its address to the second and third sessions of the 13th Assembly of Tibetan members of parliament, the 12th Kashag (Cabinet) expressed deep concerns over the predicament and presented proposals for countermeasures to deal with it. With unanimous decision in favour of conducting fundamental review of the present farming practices in the settlements and then introducing organic and natural farming to them, the members of Parliament drew inspiration from the most ideal system of farming. The main goal is to achieve self-sufficiency and to ensure protection of environment from pollution. To enhance this vision, The 12th Kashag gave top priority to the organic & natural farming policy in the interest of long term benefit.

Aims and Objectives:

The following are the aims and objectives of our program for the development of agriculture and animal husbandry:

  1. To make future Tibet a storehouse of organic grains so as to meet the challenges of time when such foodstuff becomes rare in the world. Therefore, it is necessary to begin experimenting to become knowledgeable about different practices of natural and non-violent agricultural systems, proper soil and water conservation measures, and protection of the environment in the settlements.
  2. To uphold the rich traditional knowledge of farming and turn the present agriculture land holding into a source of sustainable income generation for the settlement. We need to encourage educated Tibetan youths to live in the settlement by creating opportunities for agriculture, animal husbandry, small-scale industries and technical service enterprises.
  3. To emphasis the rejuvenation of the environment and soil nutrients by introducing crop rotation; stop using agro-chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides; and the making of bunds and water reservoirs.
  4. To restore the age old tradition related to agricultural practices like burying treasure urns in offering to the guardian deities of land and water; performing ritual to avert storms, protecting the harvest from wild animals, and performing rain prayer. This will benefit the refugee population and also the neighboring Indian farmers.
  5. To initiate and undertake environmental projects like protecting and preserving soil and water, and reducing air pollution.
  6. To offer assistance and support to the international movement against consumerism and globalization. More specifically, persistently opposing the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hybrid and genetically engineered seeds, etc., as they are responsible for the continued exploitation of land and farmers.
  7. In order to build a psychological foundation for this, the need to conduct grassroots level awareness campaigns on the demerits of modern farming methods and merits of traditional method was felt eminent, with emphasis on the need to preserve soil fertility and ecological balance.
Organic Farming Movement in Tibetan Community in Exile:

After adoption of Agriculture Policy on organic farming by the Tibetan Government in Exile in the year 2002, Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala has selected Dhondenling Tibetan settlement, Kollegal, Karnataka State to create Model Organic Settlement in the year 2005 with the farmers unanimously deciding to go for organic. Simultaneously, many pilot projects on organic farming, and soil and water conservation were initiated by COSPE (Italy), Irish Government, Belgian Government, Norwegian Church Aid, The Charitable Foundation (Australia), The Tibet Fund (USA), AET (France), Verien Tibet (Switzerland) and other NGOs.

A great deal of time and money has been spent for training of Agriculture Extension Officer, Farmers and cooperatives personnel’s on organic farming. Till date there has been more than 415 individual farmers with around 1815 acres registered as organic farmers including model organic village’s farmers, with use of various new technologies for propagation of the crops, pest and disease control measures and production of organic composts.

In organic farming concept, the availability of quality and quantity organic inputs is a big challenge. In this regard, field demonstration on the farmer’s field is the most effective way of demonstrating the correct use and effect of organic inputs. In the very beginning of year 2005, one acre of plot will be selected from marginal and small farmers and full packages of practices of the particular crop will be demonstrated organically by using appropriate organic inputs, during the best period of crop growth. Many farmers will be gathered and explained about the organic technologies. In order to facilitate, encourage and promote organic farming in the Tibetan settlements, the convening of numerous training, workshops and compilation of educational materials to support organic farming programs deserves applause. In the settlements, the development of demonstration projects, production of organic compost, the poly-cropping of plants and the market cultivation for organic product sales are all important indicator of progress achieved to date.

Agricultural Crop Type

Tibetan Organic:

With brand name “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. Since 2006 the entire organic growing farmers in the settlement were registered for the certification of their farm and crop by the renowned certification agency IMO Control Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore under NPOP (Indian Standards, ECC 2092/91 (European Standards) for settlements in Karnataka & Central India, by SGS India, Guwahati for settlements in Arunachal Pradesh. We are growers and exporters of a comprehensive range of organic products produce by the Tibetan organic farmers throughout India, the organic produce of these farmers are available in the market under the umbrella of “TIBETAN ORGANIC” and is being Marketed by Federation of Tibetan Co-operatives in India Ltd.

However, the Co-operatives should be involved in the greater form in the organic farming and are given more encouragement to involve in it. They should be the anchor for the procurement and distribution of the farm inputs, including seed, manure, and preparation of bio-pesticides. Farmers and cooperatives should jointly strategized together prior to cultivation, upon what crops to grow, what level of minimum support price can the cooperative societies guarantee, where will it sell the produce, etc. In a sense, the co-operatives should be made to function as they did prior to the organic project.

Certification for marketing organic produce:

Although the Department of Home adopted the organic policy with a vision to be able to make the farmers self-reliant and to produce all their needs, this is not practical approach because the quality of soil and climate of the particular area support only the growth of a few selected types of crops. There may be many factors attributable to the insufficient output. However, we can certainly achieve progress in the output once the scarcity of water problem is tackled by way of irrigation and harvesting rainwater.

Another urgent problem that needs to be addressed and about which the farmers repeatedly requested for solution is marketing infrastructure. With easy access for marketing the surplus produce from the yield, the farmers can be greatly benefited. Therefore, to gain due recognition for their produce in the market, we applied for registration with IMO Control Pvt Ltd, Bangalore which deputed its people to organic fields to find out the total areas under organic. Since 2006, the farmers’ outputs have been found to be up to the level of standard certified organic products. Currently, over 2000 acres and 450 farmers are registered under the organic certification.

Market for organic produce:

After being registered under the organic certification, an exclusive retail outlet for organic produce from Tibetan settlements was established in Bangalore where the organic consumers was potentially expected to be high and the organic merchandise can fetch premium price. Unfortunately, this initiative was not very successful and the shop had to be closed due to unfavorable site and exorbitant rent on house.

However, unrelenting on this venture, the outlet was moved to Doeguling Tibetan Settlement, Mundgod where it is run successfully under direct supervision of settlement officer and agriculture extension officers, day to day management was undertake by locally appointed organic committee. Besides Mundgod Tibetan Settlement, Mainpat Tibetan farmers have been pro-active with the processing and marketing of their organic produce and are very popular too, they are getting very good remunerative for their products.

The local farmers are greatly relieved to find easy market access for their surplus outputs. This facility helps to give new momentum to their organic project. From day one, we have explored every avenue to reinforce our effort to promote awareness on organic activities.

Publication of manuals on organic farming practices:

Along with trainings at intermittent interval, a comprehensive manual on organic was published and updated information on it were disseminated through various publication from time to time to keep the farmers abreast of the technical know-how on organic. Following are some of the important publications published by Agriculture Division are:

  • 10 Steps towards Organic.
  • Crop Rotation in Organic.
  • A Hand Book of Organic Farming.
  • Manual on management of pests and diseases under Organic Farming.
  • Bio-dynamic Techniques.
The Agriculture Division Addresses Development Needs / Issues through implementation of following main interventions and strategies for overall Agriculture Development:
a) Workshop & Training:
b) Agriculture Extension Officers (AEO) - it's Role & Responsibilities
c) Soil & Water conservation
d) Storage system for Seeds and Grains
e) Soil test
f) Plantation of Horticulture and Agro Forestry tree
g) Farm Mechanization
h) Animal Husbandry & Dairy Development
i) Machines and appliances for Food Processing
j) Agriculture Training Programs for Young Tibetans in Israel
k) OISCA Japan Agriculture Training Program
l) Crop Failure Relief Fund
m) Self Help Group
n) Agriculture Loan
a) Workshop & Training:
For the welfare and to look after the interest of full-time farmers, the Agriculture Division felt the need to ensure efficiency in all the farming related works, it was strongly felt to have at least one agriculture extension officer in each settlement. To this end, 19 enthusiastic youths from the farming settlements were selected and were sent to V.C Farm, Mandya in Karnataka State which is managed by University of Agriculture Science, Bangalore for four-month long training on theoretical and practical session on farming related topics includes ‘Animal rearing’ and ‘soil and water conservation’ in 1998. The training proved quite successful and the trainees have been serving as agriculture extension officer at their respective settlements.
Besides training to the Agriculture Extension Officers, the farmers also receive trainings and attend workshops on agriculture practices and allied activities.
MoU with University of Agriculture Science Bangalore:
To promote further the farming activities at the settlements, teams of scientist in different field from UAS Bangalore were invited to visit our settlements in the south in June 1999 to know all the problems faced by the farmers. And to guide them as to how to overcome the problems, the resource people gave demonstration and trial on farming. The farmers have reaped the benefits from output of their service.
b) Agriculture Extension Officers (AEO) - it's Role & Responsibilities
We have 12 major agricultural settlements in India & all the agriculture related project activities in these settlements are looked after by AEOs under the supervision of their respective Settlement officer. Therefore, AEO plays an important role with the farmers in implementation of any agricultural projects in the settlement.
Each settlement have their own agriculture demonstration farm, where they experiment, study & research with different crops & Medicinal/Aromatic plants that can be grown in their respective settlement, they also make/manufacture farm yard manure & different compost in their farm & community compost units.
With the successful result of these experiments, AEO will then inform, educate & train the farmers in cultivation of these experimented crops in their demonstration farm for further replication in their fields. Necessary refresher training courses are provided to the AEOs from time to time to upgrade their knowledge & further disseminate these knowledge/information to the farmers.
c) Soil & Water conservation
In the year 2002, a test was carried out to find out the water table in the settlements. Unfortunately, the report stated that water table was found to be far too low both for drinking and agricultural purpose. So, a drive to conserve water was initiated in all the settlements by making ditches at many places around fields to collect rain water. Thus, the water percolates down the soil and increases the water table.
As for checking erosion, bunds are raised on the edge of field. This strategy proves to be a boon for the settlers.
d) Storage system for Seeds and Grains
High quality grain for seed is considered as one of the most important requirements for farmers. Over the time, the farmers gradually stopped using their indigenous natural seeds and began using hybrid seeds instead; for they were given to understand by some business people in the interest of the latter’s gain that the hybrid seeds can bring higher yields. Thus, the original and indigenous seed were made to disappear and the farmers have been made to depend completely on seeds from market. A proportion of farmers’ income is invested on procuring seeds and chemical fertilizers from the market, leaving the farmers in despair and dependent all the more.
Hence, to get over this problem, the farmers have been encouraged to use indigenous and local seeds and rendered all possible support and facilities for retaining seed grains for the next crop. The farmers have benefitted tremendously from using indigenous seeds preserved from their own crops.
e) Soil test
The biggest challenge that confronted the farmers is to restore the soil fertility because the farmers suffered not only loss of their soil fertility but had also experienced steady decline in the yield from their crops. To begin with this transition to organic from chemical farming, specimens of soils were collected and test was carried out. Based on the report of the test, compost manure was used on large scale in areas of highly depleted soil fertility to restore the fertility. Such plans are pursued in Tibetan Settlements after every three years.
f) Plantation of Horticulture and Agro Forestry tree
Biodiversity cropping pattern is one of the important concept under organic farming, which will help to preserve environment and also fetch extra income for the farmer by selling their fruit tree crop. Based on soil and climate condition of the respective settlement, we have focus horticulture crop like mango, sapota, guava and lemon etc., in those farmers field where they can protect and irrigate watering during dry period and agro forestry tree are planted on the hedges of the surrounding area and waste land to preserve soil and water.
g) Farm Mechanization
As the farmers are totally dependent on monsoon which is unpredictable, the farmers must be well-equipped to begin ploughing soon after the rainy season sets in. To help them get the land ready for cultivation quickly, tractors with all the necessary implements such as disc plough, tiller, harrow, cultivator, weed cutter, seed driller, power tiller and country plough implement have been purchased for the farmers through the fund from DOH and especially tractor and its implement are purchased and given to local Tibetan cooperative society for further management and service to farmer. These facilities have not only saved them great deal of time but have also minimized the workload.
At the same time, in order to empower the farmers and enhance farm productivity and efficiency, it is important to facilitate/introduce good farm machineries/technologies to the farmers directly to cut cost of production, labour expenses & improve overall effectiveness in agricultural practices in the long run.
Farm mechanisation will help in sustaining of our settlements by assimilating the interest of youth in agriculture; it is necessary & important to look at the present day reality of our ageing farming community to mechanize our agricultural system so that the younger generation will take interest & responsibility towards farming as a profession in future.
We have provided farm machines to some progressive farmers who have large scale cultivation and take keen interest in farming, dedicating their time wholeheartedly in pursuit of good harvest.
h) Animal Husbandry & Dairy Development
It goes without saying that farming and cattle rearing always go hand in hand. Compost is backbone of the organic farming without applying sufficient compost it is hardly to get output return. In order to have sustainable farmer we are encouraging them to rear minimum one native breed of cattle per acre which can use cow dung and urine to make compost and besides for the local community here livestock plays a major role in their agricultural economy, culture and traditions. However, those of the settlements where there is no state-run milk cooperative service to purchase milk, we have provided them bulk milk cooler machine, deep freezer, milk analyzer, butter Chunnel, cream separator, milk can, lactometer and 3 wheeler for milk collection and transportation so that the farmers get boost to their morale and this occupation thrives.
i) Machines and appliances for Food Processing
Since a large portion of the produce from the farmers’ field are used for self-consumption; they undergo a lot of difficulties and trouble going to the mill at the nearest town. To ease the problems and to protect the interest of the farmers, different food processors such as rice mill, flour mill, oil extract mill, paddy harvester, paddy thresher, corn sheller, millet de-stoner, de-hosting & polishing machine, dal pilling and splitting machine for various purposes have been installed within the villages with the financial support from department of Home.. The machines have proved to be a great boon to the residents of the settlements.
j) Agriculture Training Programs for Young Tibetans in Israel
The arrangement that the CTA made to send 40 to 60 young enthusiastic Tibetan boys and girls from agricultural background, to Israel for practical training on agricultural practice. Besides training, the boys and girls also earn a little money from working there, which helps to support their respective family financially. The knowledge and experience obtained throughout the program is passed on to the farmers back in second home.
From 1998-2014, 659 Tibetan students have immensely benefited from the learning by doing program individually on the agricultural technical know-how, lifestyle and overall the improvement of socio-economic condition of the Tibetan community.
In 2014 due to one of the criteria/requirement from Israel Government for the trainees, since, we could not meet the requirement the program was cancelled in the year 2014. As per Arava International Center for Agriculture Training (AICAT), Israel Director, informed that “new regulations from the governmental offices in Israel that allowed us to recruit only students from agricultural universities. The student profile is not qualified and for this reason we have to stop the common project”.
Israel Trainees

Agriculture section’s Israel Training details

k) OISCA Japan Agriculture Training Program

OISCA Japan Agriculture Training Program

On request from DOH, CTA to the concerned organization in Japan, two seats are reserved every year for two eligible young Tibetans from India to study on Industry, Agriculture, diary and Japanese language. Since the inception of this study program in 1992, two young Tibetans have been going to Japan every year to avail this study program. Through this program, many young Tibetans have got opportunity to study and they have made considerable contribution to the Tibetan community.

OISCA Japan Trainees:

OISCA Japan Trainees

l) Crop Failure Relief Fund
It would not be an exaggeration to say that people all over the world is experiencing the rapid climatic change due to global warming. Farmers are bearing the brunt of this change. Since Tibetan farmers are completely dependent on monsoon which is, nowadays quite unpredictable, they are susceptible to frequent crop failure either on account of drought or excess rainfall. To look after the welfare of our people adversely affected by crop failure, DOH a relief fund allocated for the settlement like Mundgod in year 2001, 2002, 2010, Hunsur 2002, Ladakh 2006, 2008, 2010, Miao in year 2007, 2009, Tezu 2009, Tenzingang Bomdila 2007, 2008 and Kollegal 2006, 2007 and 2008.
m) Self Help Group
Over the years we have strongly felt the need to empower our farmers by instilling in them the spirit of responsibility thereby creating self-help groups, which will enable them with the opportunities and the scope towards shouldering collective responsibility. The creation of self-help group is a part of organic farming phase out program.
This very important initiative with the formation of self-help groups within our farming community is mainly to achieve self-reliance and sustainability of organic farming. Till date, we have depended solely on input subsidies for our organic farming activities from the initial to the present stage of the project. But now question arises, how long this financial support will last? We may lose this support one day. So, we must find a way out of this inevitable situation.
Self-Help Group may be registered or unregistered. It typically comprises of a group of farmers having homogenous social and economic backgrounds; all voluntarily coming together to save regular small sum of money, mutually agreeing to contribute to a common fund and to meet their emergency needs on the basis of mutual help. They pool their resources to become financially stable, taking loan from the collected fund and members becoming small entrepreneurs or self-employed. The member uses collective wisdom and peer pressure to ensure proper end-use of the credit and timely repayment. This system eliminates the need for collateral and is closely related to that of solidarity lending, widely used by micro finance institutions. To make the book-keeping simple & easily handled by its member, a flat interest rate is used for loan calculation.
Through these self-help groups, eventually the organic farming activities and setting up of micro enterprises will be directly implemented with the collective responsibility, thereby empowering the group members with decision making, leading to self-reliance and ensuring sustainability.
Various awareness training programs have been provided on creation of self-help group in the settlements; group of farmers comprising of 10-20 family will set up self-help groups with selection of Core committee members consist of a Chairperson, and a Secretary, trained in book keeping and other procedures towards attainment of a complete sustainable organic agricultural community.
n) Agriculture Loan
The Agriculture Loan guideline was approved by the 14th Kashag on 3rd March, 2014 with an aim to empower the farmers and encourage them towards practicing sustainable farming thereby utilizing the land leased by the gracious Government of India for agriculture. It also encourages the farmers to practice cooperative farming, farm mechanization, irrigation, ago-forestry and horticulture, dairy farming and commercial crop cultivation.
Since, most farmers in the settlements have a single monsoon crop that gives them an income only in the months of September-October. This income is also uncertain because currently the yield from these crops is highly dependent on rainfall, which can be very erratic. One way to reduce this uncertainty in yields is to invest timely, in good quality farm inputs such as seeds, farm implements, manure etc. But for that the farmer needs financial, especially working capital, support all year round. Hence, access to credit, at affordable rates, assumes a lot of significance in the farmers’ lives.

The Agriculture Division provides two types of Agriculture loan:

  1. With minimal interest at 3%: The loan amount supports the farmers with purchase of Farm machineries, irrigation equipment, ago-forestry and horticulture plantation, dairy farming and commercial crop cultivation. The loan repayment period varies from one to three years depending on the loanee’s repayment ability.
  2. Without interest loan is ten months and when farmer needs financial, especially working capital, support all year round, this loan serves the purpose. Most of the settlements have access to credit for agricultural purposes but it is mostly limited to credit for farm inputs from cooperative society. Credit facility for other agriculture related operations such as dairy farming, irrigation devices, fencing etc. to adopt new farming models and to start new farm-based allied activities.
Details of different types of Agriculture Loan:
Agriculture Loan

Details of different agriculture loans and beneficiaries: