Energy Farming: Tibetan Settlements

The Energy Farming program in the Tibetan Settlements focuses on demonstration, training, and outreach in an effort to educate farmers about sustainable tree plantation and the cultivation of biofuel.


While living in the highlands of the Tibetan Plateau, most rural Tibetans were traditionally nomadic herding people. After the Chinese invasion in 1959, many Tibetans fled to India where they had to give up their traditional nomadic lifestyle and begin farming. They adopted the popular agriculture techniques of the time—monocropping corn and using chemical fertilizers. Over time, these methods have depleted the soil making it more and more difficult for Tibetan farmers to sustain themselves. In 2003, the Tibetan government-in-exile began to promote organic agriculture in hopes of reversing the soil degradation. However, many farmers are still searching for organic crops that are both profitable and revitalizing for the soil.

Education and Job Creation

To help address this challenge faced by the Tibetan people, the Himalayan Institute has partnered with the Tibetan government-in-exile to introduce Energy Farming. Our approach is to create model demonstration plots and nurseries to facilitate education and outreach. By seeing organic techniques in action, farmers are much more willing to try these methods on their own lands. Energy Farming promotes a vision of organic crop diversification and environmental regeneration. With improved soil quality and a greater range of crops, farmers will be able to feed their families, grow their own medicine, and diversify their cash crops for more financial stability.

These efforts begin by introducing the Pongamia tree. Pongamia is an amazing plant, able to revitalize depleted soil and produce biofuel; a valuable cash crop. Demonstration plots and nurseries have been planted with thousands of pongamia seedlings in order to showcase the concept from seed to tree. The Himalayan Institute provides seedlings on a large scale to Tibetan refugee farmers and community groups to plant on their own land. As these trees begin to grow and bear fruit, they will put life back into the soil and create jobs for the Tibetan farmers.