Biodynamic farming & Agripreneurs are set to trigger a trend in Nepal
Via Global Voices
A new wave of organic farming using biodynamic composts is becoming popular in Nepal. It is helping to revive the soil and also providing better harvests and yield.
A new approach to revive soil and produce a healthy yield
Biodynamic compost is made from cattle dung and dead livestock horns to enrich fertilizer nutrients.
Across Nepal, the soil has experienced a nutrient decline due to irregular climatic patterns, bad agricultural practices, and the overuse of agrochemicals. Ideally, the organic content in the soil is expected to be at 5 percent; however, in most parts of the country, it has dropped below 2 percent.
Spiral Farm House, located in the small town of Mahuli in the Saptari district in eastern Terai, is looking to reverse this trend and is teaching others how to revive soil fertility and improve yields.
“I started this farm ten years ago for sustainable farming and conservation of soil and microorganisms,” explains Sudarshan Chaudhary of Spiral Farm House. “We make eight different types of biodynamic composts which not only help revive the soil and give us wholesome food that helps maintain good health.”
Chaudhary notes that in Nepal, soil degradation is caused by practices such as intensive cropping, heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and mechanized farming.
Sudarshan Chaudhary of Spiral Farm House in Saptari district proudly displays his harvest of cauliflower.
The compost at Spiral Farm House has been doing wonders for the farm. Chaudhary says that his compost replenishes the soil nutrients organically, leading to better harvests and yield. In addition to the manure and compost from cow dung, cattle horn, bone, silica, straw, twigs, dried leaves, and plants, the farm also produces liquid fertilizers and biopesticides from medicinal plants and locally available materials.
What is biodynamic farming?
Biodynamic farming follows traditional farming practices and relies only on locally sourced raw materials to achieve soil self-sufficiency. The need for supplemental sources of nutrients, such as cow dung, bones, and straw, arises from the subpar soil fertility found in Nepal.
Due to its reliance on organic inputs for soil fertility, biodynamic farming requires a holistic approach that incorporates crop rotation, crop-livestock integration, and natural seasonal farming cycles.
Kabindra Yadav of a biodynamic farm growing organic vegetables and fruits in Kanchanrup municipality in the eastern Tarai. Image by Subodh Kumar Chaudhary via Nepali Times. Used with permission.
In Chaudhary’s farm, cow horn manure is made by burying fresh manure of pasture-fed cows in hollowed-out animal horns for six months. Horn silica, which helps nourish plants, is made from the marrow buried in the horns of cattle. The other six varieties are medicinal plants used to improve the microbial population, which is necessary for soil fertility.
Biodynamic farming increases crop productivity and nutritional quality while also improving soil carbon sequestration, the process of revitalizing the soil. Microbes play a major role in carbon storage in the soil.
Inspiring a young generation of farmers
Encouraged by successful yields produced using biodynamic techniques, Chaudhary has also turned to mentoring and motivating the next generation of farmers in Saptari and surrounding districts.
“I teach youth why biodynamic farming is important and why we should adopt it for sustainability,” says Chaudhary, who learned the basics of biodynamic farming during training in 2012. Since then, he has trained more than 200 other farmers from Sunsari, Morang, Saptari, Siraha, and Chitwan districts.
Suman Kumari Mirdaha, a 24-year-old business management student, has been assisting her parents in growing rice, lentils, and vegetables since she attended Chaudhry’s biodynamic farming training. She considers organic farming to be the solution to the increasing concerns related to the climate crisis.
Sukhi Lal and Lalit Chaudhary, both in their 50s and residing in the Saptari district, received training in biodynamic farming from Spiral Farm. Sukhi Lal cultivates biodynamic vegetables that fetch a higher price than chemically fertilized crops. Lalit’s farm has seen an improvement in soil quality as a result of utilizing biodynamic techniques.
Being more close to Natural solutions
Despite the adverse effects on soil, the drive to increase earnings is leading most farmers in Agnisair Krishna Sawaran Rural Municipality to use higher amounts of chemical fertilizers each year.
A 2019 survey revealed that 39 out of 40 interviewed farmers in the Rural Municipality were using chemical fertilizers to enhance their yield.
But Sukhi Lal Chaudhary says there is no need for chemicals, and he has been getting regular yields as much as what farmers using chemical fertilizers and pesticides are getting. And he isn’t the only one. Mahendra Kumar Shrestha from Holy Green Agro Farm says that to create a healthy, eco-friendly community; he engages local farmers to switch to organic and biodynamic agriculture and explore ways of achieving a sustainable and humane economy.
Krishna Gurung’s Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation, founded in 2008 in Khokana in the Kathmandu Valley, is promoting biodynamic farming practices. Approximately 5,500 farmers are utilizing biodynamic methods, and over 5,000 farms spanning 400,000 acres have received certification in 60 nations worldwide.
Sixty-two-year-old Mahitu Lekhi from Ratwala Village in Saptari District prepares the necessary biodynamic compost, grows organic vegetables on his agricultural land, and sells them in the local market and through Spiral Farm House Organic Farmer’s Shop in Lahan.
Why biodynamic farms?
According to a study by Cambridge University Press, biodynamic farms have superior soil quality compared to conventional farming. Still, they may have lower crop yields and similar or higher net returns per hectare. The study noted that further research is required to understand the benefits of soil preparation in biodynamic farming fully.
In biodynamic farming, the goal is to generate as much of the necessary manure, compost, and nutrients as possible. However, smaller farms may need to obtain food resources for animals from external sources.
Biodynamic farming principles, which were developed by Austrian architect and social reformer Rudolf Steiner, integrate aspects of regenerative agriculture. However, for Chaudhary, it feels like a return to his ancestors’ traditional farming methods before the widespread use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
In biodynamic farming, crop rotation, and intercropping are practiced, similar to the traditional farming methods used by farmers in the southern plains of Nepal. This involves planting flaxseed and lentils in the rice fields before the rice is ready for harvest so that there is already a standing crop of flaxseed and lentils when the rice is harvested. After harvesting the flaxseed and lentils, the fields are then prepared for wheat cultivation.
In 2022, Sudarshan Chaudhary sold biodynamic mangoes for NPR 100 per kilogram, which is about 75 US cents. This price is significantly higher than his conventional mangoes, which only fetched NPR 30–40 per kilogram (23–30 US cents) before his conversion to biodynamic farming.
The biodynamic Revolution
For his biodynamic vegetables, he charges a premium of NPR five more than the average price of regular products in the market.
The need of the moment is to broaden the adoption of biodynamic farming in Nepal and make its products more accessible. And Nepal’s pioneering “agripreneurs” like Chaudhary, Shrestha, and Gurung are at the front of this transformation.
Reporting for this story was supported by Solutions Journalism Network through the 2022 LEDE Fellowship.
Written by Nepali Times
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.
Ministry Earth is a collective Awareness-Raising, Perception-Building Initiative from Humanity Healing International, Cathedral of the Soul Educational outreaches created to introduce the perspective of Ethical Consciousness and Nonhuman Personhood to its Animal & Eco Ministries. Ministry Earth is a Service-Oriented Initiative and its Magazine is a Copyrighted Publication of OMTimes Media, Inc. Broadcasting and Publishing House.