AGROECOLOGY

Enhancing food security through bioclimatic greenhouse vegetable farming and goji berry value chain development in Samagaun.

Vegetable Farming in Passive Solar Greenhouse

The problem of food insecurity hit Samagaun hard in 2020. Situated at 3550 m of altitude, the village’s harsh climate traditionally enables villagers to grow only 2 crops, barley and potatoes, once a year only, over a duration of 4 to 5 months. The devastatingly disruptive effects of climate change on the harvests coupled to road blockages due to successive lockdowns made food availability and access particularly scarce in the village in 2020-2021, even threatening the lives of elder villagers.

To remedy this situation, Rinpoche decided to help the poorest villagers in the community (widowed women without any income and women without land nor cattle) build 15 passive solar, cold climate greenhouses made of 45cm stone walls and double layered polycarbonate roofs. The greenhouses were designed to provide vegetables 10 months a year and meant to be multifunctional: they were built, when possible, sharing their back wall with a house, so as to provide heating in addition to food during the cold winter months.

The greenhouses were finished in August, and the results are outstanding: zucchinis, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, as well as cabbage, cauliflower, different types of lettuce, saag (Nepali spinach), spinach now grow at more than 3550 m of altitude, improving the entire community’s nutrition, and enabling greenhouse owners to gain income by selling their fresh vegetables to others.

Organic Goji-Berry Value Chain Development

Rinpoche has the entrepreneurial vision of developing a goji berry venture, which a particular type (the “Himalayan” type) grows plenty in Samagaun, and of which he used to relish the sweet and tangy taste eating them straight of the bush when he played in the mountains of Samagaun as a child. Gojis are traditionally consumed in the village as herbal tea and used in Tibetan medicine for their action on lowering blood pressure and improving vision.

Since Spring, Rinpoche started to make that vision a reality by working on an organic goji berry value chain development project to sell Samagaun gojis as herbal tea, exclusively grown, picked and sundried by the village’s women and aiming to providing them an income.

15 plants of gojis were planted in May in the greenhouse beneficiaries’ kitchen gardens, and a cooperative of goji growers and harvester will be formed at harvesting time (September). The gojis, after having been picked and dried in solar driers by the women of the cooperative will be taken down to Kathmandu to be packaged and sold on farmers markets, in preparation for their commercialization in Europe and the USA next year.