Energy Farming: India
One of the Institute’s first Energy Farming rural empowerment projects began in south India in 2003, promoting cultivation of Pongamia pinnata, a tree whose seeds produce biofuel. In collaboration with Rahul Medical Society and Roshini Biotech, the project sought to alleviate the epidemic of farmer suicide across the region which had experienced severe drought for many years.
Falling within the context of Energy Farming, the project sought to offer sustainable rural economic development through the cultivation of pongamia as an environmentally sustainable biofuel crop. Well-suited to the arid conditions of under utilized and wastelands, the pongamia tree doesn’t require arable land to grow and, therefore, doesn’t compete with food crop production. The Energy Farming model is tailored to the specific needs of small and marginal farmers; it is flexible in implementation, while able to provide a stable economic output with reliable market linkage and consistently high demand for the end product—energy.
Rural farmers are trained in the cultivation of energy crops and given financial, material, and logistical support. The end products are bio-diesel, bio-fertilizer, and bio-gas which can be used for transportation, to run generators for electricity production, and as cooking fuel.
The 10,000 acre pilot project was completed in 2006 with tens of thousands of families benefiting. In an effort to create more jobs in rural communities, the project was also adopted by the Andhra Predesh state government, which promoted cultivation of millions of pongamia trees across the state. Today the project continues to grow under the auspices of the project’s original local partners while the Institute directs its efforts to bring Energy Farming to other parts of the world. This powerful first Energy Farming project laid the groundwork for the Himalayan Institute’s humanitarian expansion into Cameroon, Mexico, and the Tibetan Settlements.