Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My Tale of Life (Part-II)

In continuation to My Tale of Life (Part-I)

She now realized why her mother always insisted her on going somewhere far from home. She could vividly remember her saying, “Actually, I feel so much relieved and happy to have you around with me, but you will find peace elsewhere than here”. Though reluctant at first, she relented eventually. Her heart murmured, “Better be slavery at others' door than being in a hell like this”. But what about her mother who has to be in the hell her entire life? She deeply empathizes and sympathizes with her and she reassured herself that she is going to change everything sooner.

For the first time in ages, Namgangmo felt a little bit of the heaviness drifting from her head and her tired eyes brightened. It was a new lease of life to her with her relatives. She would babysit, clean the house, wash clothes; and in the due course of time, she learnt how to cook meals. She could give some rest to her ears. She was careful not to let them to find any lapse in her doings.

In addition, they would bear her educational expenses. On the contrary, her grandmother would pile stakes of money in a box and lock it up. She would collect the money given to her by her sons and the tourist guests they often bring home; from the sale of her locally brewed wine, ‘Ara’; and of course from the sale of butter and cheese; and she would subsequently add it to the already existing pile to make it a bigger one or to make another one.

Forget about spending a single penny on the girl who sacrificed her holidays herding cattle, she would be deprived of the very right to eat the butter and cheese. It was even more pathetic to see that her mother had to purchase butter and cheese from others while her grandmother sold the same. It was astounding as to how a mother could be so cruel to her daughter and granddaughter but it was a fact.

Her mother gave birth to the second girl when Namgangmo was two years old and she was the one to run to the kitchen to fetch the cutter to have the umbilical cord cut. It was shameless of the father who worked as a manager at a nearby farm, who had her sister traded for worth of a pack of rice and a tin of oil and disappeared. Only her mother was left to face the cruelty and the reality of life.

Since then, the number of slaves at the mercy of grandmother’s door increased from one to two. Slaves get paid in cash for their service but they got paid with cartloads of brutality and humiliation.

Her grandmother hated the two sisters being together. “These two bastards would sit together always; can’t you be without each other?” They would exchange a glance of dismay, hated being called so. “Always sticking together, talking unnecessary things, eating like a pig but what is the output?” Their eyes would be welled with tears and they would avert their heads from the monster in front, blinking.

“You…coal-hearted girls, from where do you think all that you push down your mouth come from? Have you ever seen them falling from the sky? Did you know that your fathers didn’t feed you even a single bowl of rice? You are eating from my hand, staying at my house, what did you have from your useless fathers?”

A slightest act of rebel would put her grandmother in the deepest mood of anguish. Once she lost her control and said abruptly, “You bitch drove my father away”.

“What did this bastard utter from her mouth? Are you trying to spit on the face that fed you? I can’t tolerate such things at all. Get out of my house right now! Go and live with your father”, saying this, she dragged her out of the house. She could have fled to somewhere far but it was already dark. On this account, she took shelter in the cattle shed. As she laid there on the dry pine leaves scratching one of the calves on her neck, she murmured her pain, “I am nothing different from you. You are even luckier as my grandmother loves you more than me”.

A third man came along her mother’s life and yet added another member to the pool of tragedy. No sooner was he driven back. Her poor mother didn’t have any say in all those acts. People took advantage of her innocence, kindness and submissiveness. It was only when the last child and the only boy brought back their father several years later that her mother found some relieve and solace to her mind.
But the chaos in the house didn’t come to a cease. Her grandmother’s daily humiliation and orders from dawn till dusk had led to nothing more than an argument and soon they became the worst enemy. Indeed, she was an implacable enemy. Her grandmother’s implacability rather astounded and unnerved her. She would rarely be at home but even for a short while when she did stay, she was sick of the emotional turbulence in the family. She would wonder how her mother is bearing all those.

One thing that makes her emotional and upset as well was the frequency of the forms that she had to fill up in schools, which always had father’s name and occupation. She had seen none with mother’s till now. That made her to approach her teacher one day and enquire, “Sir, can I write mother’s name in place of fathers?” When the response was not what she expected, she raised her voice, “Sir, but that’s insane to write one when I don’t have and don’t belong to him”. “Whatever, write his name”, and the teacher would zip her mouth.

But all those miserable scenes had not discouraged Namgangmo. Instead, she drew courage and strength from it. She felt the need to study hard, the need to be someone great enough to change the situation and the need to take her mother out of the whirlpool of turmoil. She realized the potentiality to do so only if she excelled in her studies. That was the only motivation behind her hard work.

Accordingly, she came to the proper notice of the teachers when she was selected to go to Japan on a month long cultural exchange program. It was when she was in the fifth standard that she was selected through an interview. The following winter vacation, she got a call from the VAST, the Voluntary Artist Studio Thimphu, to attend a week long art workshop and to collect the prize for the painting that she has sent earlier.

Apart from her studies, she took an active part in extra-curricular activities. Not only does it ease her painful memories but every activity taught her something new. She was always ready to learn though not always liked being told. Singing and dancing was one of her passion but she limits this to only her national and traditional ones.

 Besides, she played games and sports. Though not good at it, she acknowledged it as it soothed her physically as well as mentally. Often, she would be on the stage, delivering an extempore speech, Elocution, inter-regional quiz or inter-dzongkhag debate competition, etc. She never regretted for being a part of everything. Consequently, she was given due recognition and she was awarded the Best Female Student twice which added further motivation to her act of will.

The little pocket money that she brought from home would she wrap in a piece of cloth. Along with the money earned from some sort of competition or dancing for a movie, she shall reach it back to her mother or buy her something. Nothing makes her happy than to see her mother in a blissful mood.
She would console her mother, “Ama, don’t be depressed because I am there for you. Once I complete my studies, I will take the sole responsibility of ensuring you all a happy life. I mean it and am I not meant for that?” the only response would be a humble smile accompanied by a simple nod. Despite her mother’s pretext, she knew how much her heart wept for freedom and happiness.

In fact, her encounter with the man of her life enlightened her path of darkness. He was a man of dignity, a man with understanding, a man with so much merit and value accumulated in him. She has so much to learn from him, including the values of life which she has failed to receive from her parents. The two could never be the same, but she found worth it. It was coincidental that every character of hers resembled his, from being silent to reserve. He was a gift from god to her.

So often would she lament, “How pathetic of me that I didn’t get my father’s love, not even got to utter ‘Apa’ like you do”? Her friend would tease her, “No matter, now that you got more than a father, you can call him as apa”. And yeah, he is a father to her, a friend, a teacher, a companion of her lifetime and after all the very source of happiness and tranquility in her life.

And now, she is dwelling in the other part of the world, millions of miles away from her home. Though out of sight, her mother wasn’t out of her mind. Neither has she lost the focus in her life.  His Majesty the fifth king has emphasized during the Royal Audience, “Good is not good enough, you should excel” and a briefing at the Department of Adult and Higher Education outlined, “Your first priority should be your health and then your studies. If you neglect the former, you can’t excel in the latter”.
 Every time, she reminds herself of these words, a flash of new energy would splash through her mind and thrill her heart to motion. With God as the sole guardian and trustee of her soul, she is determined to move forward in pursuit of happiness for her mother and her family.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Evaluation of Bio-fertilizers on Cauliflower Productivity

1. Background.

The center resorted to undertake this research trial as such initiatives are felt mandatory if we are to achieve our nation's steadfast mission of going organic by the year 2020. It is also geared towards finding means of replacing our current trend of agricultural system, wherein we are using excessive chemical fertilizers in nourishing our plants while we are least bothered about the health of our soils. While many dwelling in the farming  community have minimal or no knowledge on the beneficial soil microbes, it is also to be emphasized that farmers need to be educated on this aspect of maintaining soil health and the crucial role such microbes can play in agriculture. The need to stress on the maintenance of soil health which is a gateway to sustainable farming is also to be prioritized.

Seedlings in the nursery

2. Objectives:

Ø  To address the increasing problems associated with the use of synthetic agro-chemicals in agriculture through the use of bio-fertilizers.
Ø  To find means of practicing sustainable agriculture by providing an ecological environment where all the microbial community could live in harmony wherein they can balance each other in their quest for food and space.

3. Materials & Methodology

The RCBD experimental design was used to carry out the trial. A total of 7 treatments including control and 3 replications were designed. The trial encompassed a total area of 105 sq. m. with 21 plots of 5 sq. m. each. The seedlings were spaced at 30*45 cm, amounting to a total plant strength of 693.

Transplanting Stage
The 7 treatments namely; FYM, vermi-compost, vermi-wash, liquid manure form biodigester tank, compost tea, heap compost and control were used. 
Treatments 1-3: FYM; Vermi-compost;Vermi-wash.

Treatments 4-7: Liquid manure; Compost tea; Heap compost & Control
The solid bio-fertilizers were applied around the root zone  while the liquid formulations were poured around the root zone of the crop on fortnightly interval except for FYM which was stopped after its second application. In total, there were 6 applications in the entire crop period.
Treatment application

4.  Result & Discussion

For yield analysis against different treatments, 10 plants per plot were randomly selected and the curd weight recorded. The average curd weight are as depicted in table 1. 

Table 1: : Average curd weight(g) of 10 randomly selected plants/plot 
Sl. No.
Treatment plots
Average curd weight(g)

From the data, the average curd weight of the plots with same treatment were derived, & the yield per acre and the comparative yield advantage of the other treatments over the control plot were also worked out accordingly as illustrated in table 2.

Table 2: Comparison of yield  between treatments
Sl. No.
Avg. yield/curd(g)
Yield/acre of individual treatments(MT)

Comparative yield advantage of other treatments over control plots

Liquid manure
Compost tea
Heap compost

Cauliflower curds from first replication

Curds from second replication

Curds from third replication

4. Conclusion

Though the data didn't show much statistical significance between the treatments, it does have some difference in the physical weight of the curds. Accordingly, the comparative yield advantage of the different treatments over control can be seen.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Get to Know Your Plant/Crop Better

§     You have sown your seeds in the freezing chillness of the December month. Remember, your extraneous covering of blankets & clothes are still intact over the poly-tunnel. And you might be wondering when and how should you go on about removing the protective covers.
§     Well, the seeds would reside under this shed ranging from 10-22 days depending on weather conditions, after which it will gradually peep through the soil.
§      It will be fine to keep everything as it is (covered) until emergence of the cotyledonary (first) leaves.
Seedlings under poly-tunnels
§     However, the blankets, rugs or any covers other than the polyethylene sheet shall be removed during the daytime to allow light into the soil. You should peep occasionally to check the status of seedling emergence.
§     The extraneous covering is only a measure to protect the seedlings against the harsh weather & hence, it should be put back in place during the nights.
§     The beds shall be given occasional watering, providing water just enough to maintain the soil moist.
§     After emergence, the poly-tunnel cladding will have to be removed slightly at the ends for the entry of air.

v You should remember the four basic requirement for plant growth & development;
a.    Sunlight: In general, almost all crops perform well if they receive uninterrupted radiation from the sun. For this reason, the outer cover of clothes or blankets will have to be removed during the day time. Otherwise, it would lead to the sickly yellowish development of your crops. I bet I made it clear in my earlier post that the extra sheathings are simply provided to resist the entry of frost during nights.
Right-Outer protective cover removed for light interception; Left-Plastic folded from side for aeration
b.    Nutrients/minerals: If you have made a conscious effort to select a plot left fallow in the previous year, your seedlings will do fine even if you don't provide other organic supplements. In case that hasn't been possible, try adding a little amount of completely rotten organic manure. The previous crop might have depleted your soil of the necessary nutrients. The nutrient requirement will also differ to a great deal with the varying soil types & conditions. Usually, heavy manure application will lead to overgrowth and thereby, makes the seedlings susceptible to disease & pest attack.
c.    Water: The daily weather conditions and the soil type will have direct correlation to the frequency of irrigation requirement. Copious watering would be detrimental to the nursery crops. Diseases like collar rot and damping off are very common in heavily watered and manured nurseries. So follow the basic rule of  irrigating your nursery just to maintain the soil moist.
d.    Air (Oxygen): Air is a vital to plants as it to humans or any other living beings. Hence, provisions should be made for the plants to have access to air the moment they start peeping from the soil. On account of this fact, the polythene sheet should be opened from the sides for the entry of air. Why only from the sides and not the entire plastic? The open space from the sides is enough for allowing air inside. The idea behind keeping the plastic still intact is to retain heat for the faster growth of seedlings. The harmonious combination of these major entities would determine the health & performance.

Openings for aeration

One-month old seedlings (dated 16-1-17)

Hardening: Let me touch a bit on this aspect of seedling management.
Hardening of Seedlings 
§     When your seedlings assume quite a good growth and you are expecting it to be transplanted within 10-15 days, it is good to expose the seedlings to the cold air outside.
Robust stand of Seedlings (dated 10/02/17)
§     The seedlings shall be left to get acclimatized to the outside/ normal air condition so that they don't suffer from transplanting  shocks. 
§     This process will equip the seedlings to face the outside environment with boldness.
Seedlings left for acclimatization to cold air outside
§     Seedlings transplanted directly from poly-houses or poly-tunnels to the outdoor fields experience shock due to abrupt change in the air temperature.
§     The seedlings cannot resist the change in their environment & some might not survive even.
§     In addition, the growth of such seedlings become retarded while the hardened one will assume fast & healthy growth immediately after transplanting. 
1 month 25 days old seedlings

All said & done, you should make it mandatory to cover the seedlings at night. If not, you will be losing all your outcome of hard work in a single night. The frosty bite is not going to spare your lush leaves. Unless you are absolutely sure that there won't be frost, never take a chance to keep your seedlings exposed at night.
Having catered to the aforementioned requirements of the plants, you are heading for a healthy bunch of seedlings for your crop in the ensuing season. Well, the reason why I emphasize so much on healthy nursery management practices is not something anyone is unaware of. My motive here is to reiterate everyone on the importance of good nursery management practices for the health of your seedling is going to determine the produce you are going to harvest.
While some farmers of Thimphu practice nursery raising under poly-tunnel, farmers of Paro & Haa remained afar from the idea. With the recent intervention by RDC-OA, where farmers & extension agents of  Thimphu & Paro were being trained on the said topic , I am of the view that there will be early production of vegetables from the coming seasons.
Though this method of nursery raising is highly lucrative for farmers as they fetch premium price for their early crops, it also has certain setbacks. Unless you have someone to monitor the poly-tunnels on daily basis, you won't be reaping the same benefit. Hence, the major limitation of the technique is the labor-intense nature of the work involved.
One of the young attendee of farmers training came up with the suggestion to use double layer of polythene sheet to protect the seedlings from frost injury. His idea was that the air retention in between the plastic layers might not permit the frost to penetrate. The idea seems appealing, especially in view of not having to tend to the nursery on a daily basis. However, this is something that needs to go through experimental test to confirm its effectiveness.

Seedlings ready for Transplanting

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sanam Drubdrey-Agriculture Progress Report 2016

In accordance to the request letter (TAPT/Gen/15/3) forwarded by the President of the Tensung Amsu Phendey Tshogpa (TAPT), a team from Research & Development Center for Organic Agriculture (RDC-OA) set off from Yuispang to Royal Bhutan Army Camp, Damthang on 2nd March, 2016.  The RDC team embarked on the journey with the main mandate of providing technical backstopping in line with the center's mandate of providing the same in the  Western region of the country.

The TAPT is an association of the wives of the army personnel, existent at every army base. With the sole motive of engaging women in high income generating activities like the cultivation of high altitude vegetables, and medicinal & aromatic plants, the group geared onto the initial phase of the mini-pilot Project with technical assistance provided by RDC-OA (previously RNR-RDC).

The project in its initial phase intended to extend its wing of beneficiary to around 270 families; majority consisting of women and over a thousand children and dependents. It was also initiated to address social issues like domestic violence, absence of enabling home environment for children, and financial-constraint-driven social divide for both adult and children, and the dilution of family values that are caused by financial pressures on income earners in conjunction with the main motive.

The serene place is situated at an elevation of 3035 m.a.s.l. Yaks grazing over the patchy dry pastures in the vicinity were of common sight. The peaks enclosing the valley remained clad in blankets of snow even in March. The place embraced us with a welcoming note of chillness and serenity.

A  theoretical presentation on the basics of vegetable cultivation was done, which was attended by around 130 women & a few of their male counterparts. It encompassed of nursery raising (under poly-tunnels which would enable early nursery raising under extreme cold conditions and  the ensuing crop hitting the market much earlier as well as under normal conditions); the critical operations required by specific vegetable crops; apt management practices of tomato cultivation emphasizing on pruning and staking requirements supported by pictorial presentation as well as videos.

A presentation was also made on the simple post harvest management of vegetables. This included the simple technique of drying and preserving the surplus produce, if any, to be consumed during the lean season. They were made to understand a simple technique required prior to drying called Blanching. This simply involves immersing the sliced vegetables in hot boiling water added with a pinch of salt for a minute or two. This technique is known to have desirable influence in bringing an abrupt seizure to the enzymatic activity which would otherwise deteriorate the quality of produce as well as help in colour retention.  The subsequent discussion and question answer session was made even more livelier and practical with the presence of representative from the Dzongkhag Agriculture Sector.

With financial support from the Department of Agriculture , Ministry of Agriculture & Forest, the Dzongkhag also rendered their service in installing four green houses at the camp. With quite a huge expense having been incurred on the procurement of such protective structures, our next attempt was on the practical demonstration with major impetus on the proper usage of Greenhouses. We also advocated them on the additional advantage that they will reap provided such structures were put to optimum use.

To augment their level of understanding & then enhance the practical applicability, the team demonstrated and guided the nursery sowing of many varieties of vegetables. The four groups (Dekhas) which they have had been divided into were given training individually in view of higher level of comprehension and greater participation. The groups owned a green house each and for a greater degree of performance, they were made to compete among themselves in production and subsequent sale of the produce.

Except for tomatoes, which didn't yield fruits of optimum size, all other vegetables performed extremely well. However, the centre will be looking into some of the drawbacks in the coming year. Their hard work was also counteracted by trespassing of cattle and wild boars which reaped quite a considerable portion of their vegetables planted outside, though in wooden fence enclosures. So we suggested them to request for the installation of electric fencing through the district agriculture office.
The colony housing more than 1000 inhabitants now have more and easy access to fresh and varieties of healthy and organic vegetables produced by themselves. Despite their first attempt in large scale vegetable cultivation as well as damage inflicted by animals, the groups in unison were able to produce and supply vegetables worth Nu. 40,100/-  to their mess. The details of each group's income are as enlisted in the table below;

Sl. No.
Total Income (Nu.)
Group 1 (Headquarter Company)
Group 2 (Company 1)
Group 3 (Company 2)
Group 4 (Company 3)
Grand Total

However meager the income generated and trivial the tale of success may seem, there is still a string of encouragement to hold upon. The entangled note of challenges and setbacks to be slackened off with the gradual flow of time. The figure would have assumed linear ascend had it not been for the damage inflicted by cattle trespassing and wild boar attack and the slightly elevated price margin in par to market price.

This is gratifying since it is in a way engaging the Tensung Womens' Group in a healthy practice. This also means the dwellers there can get quick and easy access to varieties of vegetables as well as enhance the per-capita consumption of vegetables which is far below the global recommended intake of 250-300g vegetable/person per day.

The camp having been situated far from the town as well as having quite a huge number of inhabitants, it is likely that  the dwellers thereof might lag far behind in the intake of nutrition-loaded vegetables. Therefore, our aim in achieving self-sufficiency in vegetable production at such isolated and clustered settlements was found to be on the positive side in the very first attempt. Though not a tale of grand success, it is the first step leaped for thousands more to ascend with the gradual flow of time.
The activity wasn't in the list of our planned activities, which would have imposed a crippling effect on its implementation for the activity wasn't budgeted. Nevertheless, with a little bit of adjustment and the limited available resources, and the provision of vegetable seeds from the district in addition to ours, we were in a position to impact the group in a positive way.

We wish that similar approach and interventions could be replicated in other such places, especially Army, Police camps or colonies, and monastic schools. One such place could be the Police Camp in Thimphu. There is a need to lend a helping hand in vegetable cultivation. There are many small patches of kitchen gardens, which were not optimally managed. In addition, the place seems to be crowded with many infants and children in their critical growing stage for whom diet with proper nutrition is crucial. However, the cultivable area is very limited and an effort in identifying and allotting a separate area is deemed to be necessary if cultivation should ascend to the higher level.

If something like Thrimsung (Police)/Gaagdhey Aumsu Phendhey Tshogpa could be formed to take on board the same idea and practice, this would provide a huge leap in their nutritional requirement. In addition, the armed forces get free supply of all other items, except vegetables. So the lower income group might not be in a position to afford all varieties of nutritious vegetables. Thinking big and working on vegetable export is one thing but it is equally crucial for us to work on making healthy, antioxidant crammed vegetables available in sufficient quantity to each and every one with major impetus on the vulnerable section of the society.