The Himalayan Institute’s Energy Farming program at the Tibetan Settlements began at the Rabgayling Settlement in the Mysore district of Karnataka, South India. Fifty acres were selected at the settlement to be used for the first Energy Farming demonstration plot where Tibetan farmers can come to see how pongamia is grown—every step from planting the seed to maintaining the full grown tree. This introduction to the energy market will supply Tibetan refugees with an important cash crop, which in turn will create more jobs and self-sufficiency in the community.
Demonstration Plot and Nursery
Five-thousand pongamia trees have been planted at the Himalayan Institute Energy Farming demonstration site at the Tibetan Rabgayling Settlement. The demonstration land was previously uncultivated due to the poor quality of its soil. Pongamia’s ability to thrive on marginal wasteland and regenerate that land is one of the primary reasons that it is such an effective tree. Another 10,000 seedlings of pongamia are growing at the nursery. Both the nursery and the demonstration site are used as educational facilities to teach local farmers about Energy Farming techniques such as intercropping, grafting, composting, and micro-rainwater harvesting. Farmers can see firsthand how pongamia is grown and processed into biofuel. Once farmers become interested and learn how to cultivate pongamia own their own, the Himalayan Institute Energy Farming program with supply them with grafted seedlings, ready for planting.
A Green Wall of Pongamia
The Rabgayling Settlement borders the large and beautiful Rajiv Gandhi National Forest. Elephants live in the forest, and during harvest season they come out to steal the farmers’ crops. In an effort to deter the elephants, a concrete trench 7 miles wide and 11 feet deep was dug bordering the forest. A Tibetan farmer voiced his concerns about the elephants, “They come stampeding into the Tibetan settlement; destroying our crops and creating a threat to our settlement.” The Himalayan Institute has lent its support to this effort by planting a 5-mile-long living fence of pongamia trees alongside the trench. Pongamia leaves are inedible, which should help to discourage the elephants. Together, the trench and the line of pongamia should keep the settlement safe from further stampedes.