Many of the first generation Tibetan exiles came from an agrarian life in Tibet. It was second nature for them to take up agriculture in their new homes, but they had to adapt their old methods – suitable to the high, arid climate of Tibet – to new environs in low, hot tropical parts of India. With aid from international agencies like the Swiss Technical Corporation, we introduced conventional agriculture and helped farmers grow modern varieties of maize and rice. We worked with the co-operative societies in each settlement to purchase tractors and improved varieties of seed and hybrid dairy animals. We helped plant orchards where viable, so the farmers can grow economically valuable agricultural crops. We even helped establish grain-processing centers to increase the value of our agricultural exports. We will continue all these work.
Today, we face a new problem. Much of the land, which once produced well, is now infertile, over-stressed, devoid of organic matter, and requires ever-increasing inputs just to maintain stable output. We see conventional agricultural methods worsen the effects of drought and may not be sustainable for our small, family-run farms. Our new agriculture development programs aim to introduce the best organic and natural farming concepts with an emphasis on soil and water conservation and developing the natural fertility of the land. This dovetails well with our on-going efforts to improve efficiency, provide irrigation, and increase the value of agriculture products through basic processing. At the same time, this approach returns us to our traditional culture, combining the way we sustainably managed our lands for generations back in Tibet with modern understanding and knowledge.Agriculture is risky. Farmers must always navigate the unpredictable challenges of nature: drought, flood, heat waves, and pests. Diversifying crops, using drought management strategies, and irrigation projects help mitigate the risks. When particularly difficult conditions strike, we often help the local co-operative societies and farmers with emergency funds and low-interest, long-term loans.
Some of the activities that we do to nurture productive farms include:• Supporting the co-operatives that organize much of the agricultural purchasing, production, and marketing.• Enlightening about and encouraging the practice of organic and natural farming• Purchasing agricultural machinery• Planting trees for fruit and nature• Conservation and development of soil and water resources• Construct processing and storage facilities to increase the crop sale value• Animal husbandry• Greenhouse construction (mainly in Ladakh)