Energy Farming Techniques
The Himalayan Institute’s Energy Farming program utilizes organic and biovedic land cultivation techniques. By avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the Energy Farming program is able to grow healthy crops while improving the fertility of the soil. Some of these techniques that are currently in use at the Tibetan Rabgayling Settlement include intercropping, vermicomposting, and micro-rainwater harvesting.
Often, tree-based cash crops take several years before they are producing market-ready harvests. During this time, farmers still need a source of food and income. Intercropping is an excellent solution to this problem. At the Tibetan Rabgayling Settlement, pongamia trees have been planted in rows which are 5 meters apart. This gives the farmers plenty of room in between rows to plant food crops and faster yielding cash crops. Pongamia trees typically take 4 to 5 years before they produce seeds that are suitable for bio-fuel extraction.
Vermicomposting is an organic composting technique in which various species of worms are fed organic waste. The result is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer which can be added directly to the soil to improve plant health, crop yields, and root growth. In addition, vermicompost reinvigorates the soil by adding microorganisms and improving the soil’s physical structure and water holding capacity.
When the pongamia trees were first planted, the extra dirt that was dug out to make room for the tree and compost was used to form a ring around each tree. This ring helps to contain rainwater and prevents the run-off that would occur if the ground was flat. Pongamia thrives with lots of water, but it also has a deep tap root which enables it to survive the harshest of dry seasons. Like vermicomposting, this technique also helps to improve the soil’s water holding capacity.