In the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, there are many Individual farmers, farmers’ groups as well as NRIs who have taken up organic farming in a big way encouraging good health, safe soil, and groundwater for coming generations. The farmers here make green manures using leaves and grass along with vermicompost and prefer natural pesticides only.
A farmer from Kangra, Ramesh Ganeriwal has farm that is 100 per cent organic. His production is limited but he says that “our mindset changes if we think commercially”. This man has opted for the local Kuhl system of traditional irrigation in the valley where water is drawn by gravity from rivers, which is further shared by other farmers also. Hats- off to him for bringing up such a well built organic farm, especially after leaving behind a good life in the US. It must be noted that Ganeriwal was an engineer in US and lived there for more than 20 years. He told that his ancestors knew farming very well and primitive cultures in India and France did cultivation with moon cycles. Hence at that time the crops as well as the environment were healthy. We all know that urea fertilizers and pesticides used in farming are unsafe and if you are using them, you are posing a threat to the environment. Further Ganeriwal told that when he began doing organic farming, the first thing that came in his mind was, obtaining non-hybrid seeds. Because hybrid seeds that are meant for high production and need chemical fertilizers can be used only one time. They can’t be used for organic farming. So the next thing Ganeriwal did was to search old farmers who had seed banks. He also said that their farm is an experimental one and many times they fail in getting what they actually expected.
Meanwhile, in another village named Rakkar, organic farming is slowly progressing under the leadership of Mohinder Kumar. Since childhood Mohinder lived under the sky understanding the nature and climate and then decided to construct a traditional mud along with an organic farm and a community kitchen for himself. Mohinder’s home stay encourages the local food of that region as well as offers people an insight into organic farming. He believes in eating local, buying local and growing local. At present, the shepherd families in Rakkar village grow maize, litchi, chamomile, ginger, basil, paddy, tea and wheat, part of which is purchased by the Mohinder for his community kitchen.
Near Rakkar is a Slate Godam, a small village well-known for slate mining. Vidya of this village grows local leafy vegetables, bitter gourd, coriander, mustard and rajma in her small farm. This woman uses compost manure and natural pesticides. One day when she bought ridge gourd from the local vegetable market. It was decomposing so she realized that her body would also
be in a similar condition if she and her family ate that chemically-treated ridge gourd. This was the moment when she decided to take up organic kitchen garden. Other farmers in this village also follow organic farming and grow maize, fruits, vegetables, fenugreek etc. They believe in ‘desi khaad’ and not in the pesticides.
Robin Singh, a farmer in Dhanotu village says “Soil get worse with the use of urea and chemicals. You need to restore it”. This farmer grows ridge gourd, beans, drumstick, okra, lime, mangoes and peaches in his farm. Singh also grows herbs such as Italian basil, lemongrass and mint. The farmer has been doing organic farming for past eight years and is planning to raise the landholding under it. He has made vermicompost pits for the farmers that encourage them to use green manure made from leaves instead of ‘rasayan’ or chemicals. Singh also convinces the villagers to raise milch cows as an added source of income and for dung.
Muskaan Jaivik Kheti is Self-Help Group based in Pangna village of Mandi that connects the organic farmers with markets. The main objective of this group is “to create an ecosystem for smallholder organic farmers to produce and sustainably connect to the markets,” says founder of the group Ashish Gupta.