The principal bread-winner in Rajasthan’s villages is mostly a peasant, with animal husbandry and farming as his mainstay of profit. In the vicinity of Shri Jasnath Asan’s fort, there are various farms to stroll leisurely, rediscovering one’s connection with nature. Though the indigenous farmers toil day in and day out to plant and harvest crops, he is not in control of the selling price of his produce. These prices are controlled and manipulated by middlemen and politicians seated in the mandis – the centers of crop distribution.
While the rest of the world is moving deliberately toward organic farming methods, India’s government is importing tons of fertilizers and pesticides, apparently to boost farm production. This is a dangerous practice with detrimental long-term consequences to soil and plant fertility.
Below we outline the salient features of eco-friendly farming that we can contribute to and control:
Worms: On average, earthworms have a 10-30 day life span. Can you believe that during this short span, these inconspicuous creatures can convert three tons of earth into natural fertilizer? Large production machinery that ploughs the soil annihilate these plain, plodding and useful
Trees: A large farm without trees is a foolhardy act. Apart from shade and oxygen, they give shelter to birds, increase the fertility of soil, prevent soil erosion, bestow long-term rewards in form of fruits, bark, flowers etc. Their leaves serve as excellent ingredients for natural fertilizer. Trees such as Sheesham, Mango, Kathala, Cheeku, Papaya, Banana, Sagaum and Khejari increase the fertility of soil. Trees such as Ghritakumari, Gooseberry, Neem, Ashwagandha, Patharchatta, Giloya grow easily and rapidly on wide variety of terrains.
Fertilizers: Cow’s urine and cow’s dung have unique chemical properties that turn them into excellent inputs for natural, organic fertilizer. It is believed that soil’s nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, potash quantities increase with usage of cow’s urine and cow’s dung. Even man’s urine and excreta is helpful towards soil fertility.
Birds: Birds have a voracious appetite for crop-damaging worms. Birds don’t like to nibble on crops; they prefer worms instead.
Postharvest residue: This is useful material for mulching – a covering spread on the ground around plants to prevent excessive evaporation of erosion, enriching the soil and inhibiting weed growth.
Cultivation cycle: One crop harvest serves as a supplement to another crop harvest. Like cinema with its cast of actors, there is a principal crop such as wheat, a passive crop such as mustard, a support crop such as gram, a guest crop like radish, and a protective crop like fenugreek. If the land is rested for three months a year, the dividends are of superior quality.
Rainwater harvesting: Nearly seventy kilometers from the fort, a vast tract of land, ‘Rampura Estate’ is spread across thirty-five acres, and managed by Shridev Jasnath Trust. At the Rampura Estate a water storage tank measuring 50m x50mx5m has been built to feed the trees and crops. The trust has undertaken a massive afforestation program by planting indigenous, fruiting, and medicinal trees.
Water conservation methods are also being used at the ashram including collection tanks, and the refurbishing of the abandoned collection pond. Prior to the early 1990’s, Panchla Siddha’s population relied on the ashram’s pond to feed their cattle and provide necessary water for homes and trees. But when the government built a road and buildings through the village, they partially obstructed the channel which brought the water from the catch basin to the pond. In response, the government provided tube wells to the villagers. However, drilled areas later discovered to be ‘dark zones’, these wells will exhaust their water supply within a few years. Unfortunately, the Rajasthan high court has passed a bill prohibiting the digging of any further wells for agriculture. Therefore it is imperative that this pond project be realized before the tube wells run dry.
Alternative Energy Sources: Currently, solar panels installed at the fort supply sufficient energy to meet hot water needs. At Rampura Estate, a pump powered by solar energy, draws out water from tank, and supplies to crops and plants. We are seeking prospective partners who can install larger systems to meet our energy needs.
Protection of Endangered Species: SJA is preparing to plant tall grasses preferred by the endangered Black Buck, in hopes of increasing their numbers. Vast tracks of their grasslands have been over developed, migrating many species to smaller and smaller territory.
Eco-friendly farming is the foundation of ecological transformation in the region, and the vital link between village regeneration and yoga ecology – a primary focus in Shri Jasnath Asan’s continuing mission. Feeling a connection with nature is at the core of our mission.