Raven's nest farm,Kerkombai
The Monsoons have been erratic. Our Farming team is hard pressed to proffer solutions to farmers dependant on the rains. However, the number of farmers who have expressed a desire to join Biogain our farmers co-operative has gone up. Earth Trust facilitates the functioning of Biogain. Biogain accepts those interested farmers as members who regularly follow ET protocols for Organic/natural farming. They meet regularly. ET facilitates these meetings. The farmers decide the price of a particular vegetable or fruit or other produce after collecting data from various agencies like the open market, Uzhavar Sandhais ( State sponsored farmers’ markets) and other similar agencies. The price is then frozen for a minimum of 3 months. These decisions are taken solely by the farmers. A premium is fixed for their produce being organic, again fixed by the farmers. ET Organics (ETO) buys their produce and markets it. Payment is made on a weekly basis and the money goes directly into the farmer’s bank account. Thus the farmer not only gets a fair price but is assured of regular payment.ETO profits are ploughed back into Earth Trust. It is an effort by Earth Trust to become self-sustaining in the long run.
Providence College for women Coonoor, celebrated its Golden Jubilee (July 28th) by distributing 50 seedlings per tray per farmer and to anyone else interested. The programme was inaugurated on the platform of Coonoor railway station. The plants were being taken to Ooty by the Nilgiri Mountain Railway train. At every stop in between, farmers, house wives, students thronged the stations to receive vegetable seedlings/fruit trees saplings. It was a gala event. The Nilgiri Mountain railway has been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. It is the only rack and pinion driven train in the world. It travels at a dignified speed of 10 kilometres per hour!! Nimmi - our Project Director was requested by the College to address the gathering of school and college students at Coonoor railway station. She gave a rousing speech saying that what the Nilgiris need is 100 more NGOs like Earth Trust!! Our farmers were there at every stop-5 of them, to receive plants.
August saw an increase in enrollment in Biogain. Some our farmers are quite a distance away. Raven’s nest farm at Kerkombai – is 38 kilometres away- a distance of 76 kms up and down from the office. But our Farming team is almost evangelical in its determination to detoxify the soil. So distances do not matter-every cent of land made chemical free is a step towards a Healthy Environment.
We ushered in September with unexpected Bandhs- a shutting down of all activity. This was because of the dispute between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over the sharing of waters of the river Cauvery. More and more rain-water harvesting systems are being factored in our appeals for helping the small-holding farmer. Our marketing routines went haywire as busses and lorries were prevented from crossing over from one state to another. Dealing with produce unexpectedly not sent, had the ETO team on its toes. Value addition is the answer for such crises in the future. It is proposal writing time—trying to get information from our busy teams is like juggling with both hands as they are very busy with their respective programmes. The bigger Trusts and Funding organizations call for submissions, to be ready for disbursal from the next financial year- April 2017.The farming team is in a flurry co-ordinating with farmers regarding crop planning. We do this working backwards from the buyers’ requirements. We cannot miss this window of the planting cycle. The harvest will be ready before the cold sets in. We go up to -1 to -2 degrees in peak winter sometimes during end December to mid January. Many big buyers are headed our way because of the trust the ET stamp engenders. We signed our first MoU with one of them from Kerala. We are in no rush to do this with others, as, we as a team, need to have a philosophical discussion on the pros and cons of being beguiled by commercial compulsions. It needs to be tempered by wisdom and our big picture vision.
Our Income Generation Programmes and Health programmes run for women are chugging along in tandem. They are being conducted at Kallakorai and Ottimara Hosahatty. These neighbouring villages are about 17 kilometres from the office.Our team members have to change two buses at times to reach there. But as always, the enthusiastic greetings from the participants make it worthwhile. Every time a programme is inaugurated or a valedictory function is held, we the Trustees or guests always groan at the thought of all the food that the village women serve. Their idea of hospitality translates into stuffing us all up to the gills. Nimmi our Project Director has started making a small dent in the menu. She was a practicing nutritionist with 30 years experience before she joined Earth Trust. Instead of sickly sweet milky tea, we are served herbal concoctions. We hope to be able to persuade them to serve millets instead of rice. It is such a pity that rice has become such a staple part of their diet. They traditionally ate a lot of Ragi- finger millet. Rafeeq our general factotum cum driver cum Health team member went for an advance course in Varma Kalai—an ancient South Indian healing system called ”art of vital points”. It evolved from martial arts training. The Gurus are Asaans –like the Japanese Sensei.
The Eco club programmes are carrying on as usual. We have had to deal with schools being closed due to the Bandhs.
Jogi- a foundation stone of The Earth Trust and part of the Biodynamic farming team has an aneurism in his brain. He has been part of Earth Trust since inception. We send this report with sadness in our collective hearts, but also with a prayer on a wing.
Ramvel Gardens Farm
Yoga under gaze of an elder, machines to be used