Preparing the Land

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The Himalayan Institute Energy Farming team at the Tibetan Rabgayling Settlement has set to work preparing the land for planting young pongamia seedlings. Currently, the seedlings are doing very well at their nursery where they were planted only a few months ago.

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A tractor from the Rabgayling Settlement Farmers Cooperative has been used to clear the thorny brushes and creepers that cover the plantation site. Himalayan Institute volunteer Virat Xavier said, “I’m very happy to see the tractor! We are on track and ready to start the plantation phase.”

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After clearing most of the land, the Energy Farming team has now begun to take measurements, place markers and dig pits where the pongamia will be planted. To help generate local employment, a team of a dozen local workers were hired for several weeks to dig all of the pits by hand.

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The pits are dug in a 4 meter by 5 meter grid throughout the plantation land. After being dug, about a pound of neem cake is added as an organic pesticide as well as 5 pounds of organic compost. After the pit is partially refilled, the seedling is placed in the pit and the remaining soil is then put in. The extra soil that is left is used to form a ring around the base of the tree. This ring is used for micro rainwater harvesting. When rainwater falls, it naturally collects in the basin and can be slowly absorbed into the soil instead of running off. The moisture is further protected by a layer of mulch from local crop waste, such as from a rice paddy or hay, which is placed in a thick layer around the base of the tree.

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The local community is excited about the project. Seeds from the pongamia trees can be turned into biodiesel, which will provide the settlement with a new cash crop, more jobs, and increased self-sufficiency.

Elderly monks from the local monastery rest at the entrance to the pongamia plantation.

Elderly monks from the local monastery rest at the entrance to the pongamia plantation.

For more information about the Himalayan Institute Energy Farming project at the Tibetan Rabgayling Settlement, see “Energy Farming Plants New Seeds”.

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