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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- To initiate and undertake environmental projects like protecting and preserving soil and water, and reducing air pollution.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
AGRICULTURE’S ISRAEL TRAINING DETAILS:
OISCA Japan Agriculture Training Program
OISCA Japan Trainees:
The Agriculture Division provides two types of Agriculture loan:
- 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.
- 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.