Sustainable Development in Northern India
It’s Winter in Naddi!
The winter season is truly upon Naddi. October, November, and December brought cold winds and light frosts, but January has brought snow! We woke up one recent morning to find all of the fields and mountains covered in a thick white blanket.
It remains to be seen how this snow will affect the gardens of the intern house and the community. Prior to the snow, the intern garden was still facing some issues. While the radishes and mustard seeds were growing well, the leeks and coriander were not. Also, I arrived back after Christmas break to find that our house owner had dumped a large pile of gravel over a quarter of our humble plot, essentially killing the hopeful garlic and turnips. He also asked that we give him our food scraps for his cow instead of “putting it in the ground” (composting). And while perhaps keeping the community’s animals fed is of greater importance, this is also an example of a larger issue we face with the organic farming project in Naddi. People here have been farming traditionally for years. How do we work with them to combine their traditional knowledge with our modern knowledge in order to create the most sustainable system?
Currently the community does have a system of composting. There are central piles of cow dung which are communally collected and then distributed onto the fields. The problems with this system are that the dung isn’t allowed to properly decompose, so it can actually be unhealthy for the soil (carrying potential parasites, for example). In addition, rains and winds take a toll on the unprotected piles, so that large amounts are lost. We are working with the Shenney community (a smallish familiar community within the larger Naddi community) to build a community compost center, using vermicompost (compost made of cow manure, straw, and organic food scraps; worms are added to the pile and left to compost for about 3 months). The hope is to create a system that is more efficient and more effective. In partnership with this project we are looking into building a biogas center, which was very well-received by the community at the most recent Young Women’s Association meeting ( a meeting with women ages 16 to 35). This would mean that all of the cow dung that is produced (and there’s a lot of it!) could be sued not only for compost but also to power the small propane stoves that most households have (although fire is still the prominent method of cooking). There is a government program in which they will subsidize the construction of the biogas unit, so right now we are figuring out an agreement. Hopefully construction will start next month (February/March).
In other news, what I will refer to as the “kitchen garden” project is under way. I have been saving plastic bottles and other materials, and am planting various seeds (coriander, parsley, mustard seed, fenugreek, etc.) in them. Once they germinate, I will distribute them amongst those interested in the Shenney community. The idea is to encourage community members to use any space available to grow food.
For instance, although many members might not have appropriate land, they still have a large flat roof that can be utilized.
It’s hard to predict how this project will go, but with our great Naddi helpers, like little Priya to the left, you can’t help but have faith.