Truly Nepali: The Organic Village

Destination Issue 50 Jul, 2010
Text by Roshan Gurung

Recently a group of environmentalists SSAY has opened ‘The Organic Village’ often called TOV for short in Baluwatar near the Chinese Embassy, and is essentially a market outlet for several villages in Nepal. TOV encourages villagers to “Go Organic” by purchasing and selling village agricultural products that use no pesticides or chemical fertilizers in their processing. Such products cater to local expatriate and foreign buyers. TOV also encourages villagers to use renewable energy systems in their homes to reduce pollution, mitigate deforestation and reverse pattern of drudgery for women.

Adam Friedensohn, the Director  and  Marketing Advisor of TOV says, “TOV is essentially a child of Himalayan Light Foundation’s Home Employment and Lighting Package (HELP TM) program in which the poorest, furthest remote villages get solar home lighting systems installed in their homes and pay for these sets not with cash but with products they make under HLF and TOV guidance. Purchase of these agricultural and handicraft products assure the villagers turn away from unsustainable deforestation practices and gain incomes in their spare time. TOV was borne from the marketing element of the HELP program.”

With over 300 products from more than 60 villages, TOV also boasts of a unique and peaceful Organic Café in a very convenient location in Baluwatar. “We try to use all village or village program products that are either fully organic or have taken significant steps in stopping the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. If we encourage villagers to supply such items with cash purchases, they will naturally and certainly move in this direction,” says Sapana Shakya, Founding Director of TOV.

It’s a fact that villages all over Nepal had been using organic farming techniques long before foreigners arrived in Nepal. Well-meaning foreign consultants introduced fertilizers such as urea and pesticides such as DDT, which we now know are harmful to the environment as well as people’s health. The drive now is to go organic, which for a Nepali farmer means going back to ancient practices of traditional farming.

TOV is therefore developing a chop called “Enviro-Guard” which allows  various levels of internal organic certification. For example, if an herb is harvested in virgin forest or mountainside lands, it means it is not feasible to have an expensive international survey team come to certify several mountains as “organic”. Yet those areas are purely organic, since chemical fertilizers have never reached there. So, Enviro-Guard seeks to give these products the organic status they truly deserve without the expensive hub-hub. In other cases where villages have used pesticides, Enviro-Guard has lesser certifications such as “going organic” which means the farmers of these products have stopped using chemicals this past year, etc.

The Organic Village is also an actual village in Dui Pokhara in Kavre Palanchowk district. It is in this village that sustainable organic agricultural practices is in current use, and there will soon be a TOV visitor’s lodge for tourists and organic farming study volunteers alike. Here you will also find the Tri-Ratna Thangka painting school and Om Subba, a veteran trained organic farming specialist training the villagers in organic farming practices.

The various products found at The Organic Village are: handicrafts such as hand made Lokta paper products; note books, designer paper sheets, elegant paper boxes and wine bottle bags. They also have traditional crocheted bags from west Nepal. Samir Newa, TOV’s Marketing Manager says, “More and more interesting products are coming in on a regular basis as villages come to know about our valuable market outreach. We are even designing new products with the villagers based on their local skills and available materials. It’s a hard job but it is successful and immensely beneficial to the villagers. The challenge is to keep the remote area communication rolling so we can keep stock of the fast-moving items.”

The good news is that TOV also has an organic produce section which aside from organic vegetables and seasonal fruit specials, has foreigner favorites such as fresh and aged organic goat cheese in virgin olive oil and many types of traditional village achars such as cucumber kalpi, til ko choup, wild berry juice concentrates and many other village specialties. You can also poop out and ease back with a cooling drink at the café, while letting the kids play in the village bamboo hut. And you can take away TOV’s special seedlings of unique and desirable plants for your own garden’s enhancement.

For details: The Organic Village Pvt. Ltd., Phone No. 4414383