Writer, entrepreneur and community activist Debbie Bowman tells the story of Fertile Ground: what led to its creation, challenges encountered along the way - and how it's helped support a shift to more sustainable farming practices in northeast India. http://www.infocusmagazine.ca/change-is-brewing/
Over the past 18 years, Peggy has trained hundreds of people in Assam and other states in northeast India in the basics of organic farming. She’s been instrumental in setting up two resource centres and demonstration gardens, and recently helped establish a 14-bed farmers’ hostel to make it easier for people living long distances from the centre to receive training.When Carswell and her travel partner Kel Kelly first arrived in Assam in 1998, it was a time of civil unrest and insurgency. While things are now politically more stable, northeast India continues to struggle with underdevelopment, poverty and tension.
Initially, Carswell worked primarily with small-scale tea growers interested in shifting to organic cultivation. In 2003, to support the increasing number of tea-growers and farmers reaching out for help, Peggy and a small group of volunteers here in the Valley set up Fertile Ground: East/West Sustainability Network.
Over the years, despite encountering many challenges, her efforts have touched the lives of many people. As well as continuing to teach farmers the basics of organic farming, she’s also working with Kel Kelly to promote the principles of fair trade and helping small-scale tea growers find buyers here in Canada.
Interestingly, Assam is one of only two places on earth (the other being southwest China) where the tea plant is native. Since the British occupation of Assam, the tea from this state has enjoyed a special status among teas connoisseurs, yet native Assamese farmers make up only a very small segment of the industry and face difficulties entering the tea market.
Fertile Ground’s work has been supported by local and district level Rotary Clubs, World Community Development Education Society, Edible Island Whole Foods, the Assam Foundation of North America and through contributions from individual donors.
Peggy will be formally presented with her award and a US $1,000 prize at Fertile Ground’s AGM on Sunday, November 27th. The event will be held at Creekside Commons, 2202 Lambert Drive, Courtenay from 2 to 4 pm. All are welcome.
Click on this link to make a donation or contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out about volunteer opportunities here and in Assam,
The funding will provide opportunities for people from different socio-economic, geographical and cultural backgrounds to share their knowledge, skills and the challenges they face as they shift to more sustainable farming systems. Participants will work together to collect, assess and identify gaps in resource materials and to create, showcase and view short videos about proven sustainable farming practices.
They’ll also be encouraged to identify grassroots leaders and skilled trainers in Assam, as well as other resource people who can bring necessary skills and leadership to the group.
Sincere thanks go out to Rotarians in District 5020 (Vancouver Island and Northwest Washington State) for their support!
As the organic movement grows in northeast India, a number of small-scale tea growers and farmers have been trying out some of India's traditional Vedic practices - and finding them very useful in improving the soil and reducing damage done by insect pests and disease!
There are lots of short, educational videos describing these practices online, but very few in Assamese language and none in most of the regional languages of Assam and other northeast states.
One of the projects Fertile Ground's volunteers will be working on this year will be to help local people share the information they've gathered by creating their own videos, and then uploading that information to the internet.
If you're in the Comox Valley and have a digital camera in good working condition that you'd like to donate to this project, you can leave it with our friends at The Broken Spoke, 420 Fitzgerald Ave., in downtown Courtenay!
The word "NETWORK" features predominantly in the name of our organization for a very good reason. We believe networking is one of the most valuable and most exciting ways to bring about positive change in the world. Fertile Ground: East/West Sustainability Network is honoured to have been able to play a part in bringing together people interested in organic farming from various parts of Assam and other northeast states.
Over the past decade, we've made links with kindred spirits from England, Germany, Canada, USA, Australia, Italy, Switzerland and many parts of India. And with the participation of an increasing number of people and some great new organizations based in Assam, the network is really starting to take off!
Over the past few months, meetings and discussions have taken place in Digboi, Assam, with Maina Dutta and Pabitra Bora (staff from the new organic centre at Kakojan College) and Iqbal Hussain, Babu Tanti and Pompy and Suman Ghosh (from Adarsh Seuj Prakalpa, the organic demonstration garden and training centre that Fertile Ground helped develop way back in 2005!)
While in the Digboi area, he'll be meeting with the project staff, with Biswajit Bordoloi from Axum Agri and hopefully with some of the farmers he's working with in Margherita subdivison. Later in the week, while he's visiting Kakojan College's new organic centre, we're anticipating Ishteyaque will have an opportunity to meet with faculty members, students and Principal Dr. Ruprekha Bordoloi - and with some of the staff members at NEADS (North East Affected Area Development Society), the NGO that is involved in administering the project.
MAKING CONNECTIONS LIKE THESE HELPS MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE!
Sending sincere thanks to everyone for their hard work and open hearts!
We've had lots of comments and inquiries about the new training centre at Kakojan - click here to read about the goals of the project, our partners and what we hope to accomplish!
.....news from the East
Happiness is building a strong team of young entrepreneurs!
Recently, Maina and Pabitra connected with Jaba Borgohain, a young entrepreneur based in Dibrugarh. Jaba has a strong interest in grassroots innovations. She looks after producer relations and communications for Flavour Nomads, a new network that provides information about commodity products, from crop to table, producer to consumer.
Over the last few weeks, Maina, Pabitra and Jaba have been meeting with groups of students to discuss a wide range of opportunities for future employment, including some exciting opportunities linked to growing, producing and marketing organically-grown food and tea.
Thanks must go to the project partners - Kakojan College, NEADS NGO, and Fertile Ground - for bringing us all together, and to the funders of this initiative. They include
.....and from the west
Greetings from the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island!
We are Tatiana and Romain, two volunteers from Montreal, province of Quebec, in Canada. We arrived on Vancouver Island a few days ago to help Peggy with her organic garden here in Merville.
We went to the university and we live in a big city but we are really excited to work in the garden!
Gently watering beet seedlings Ron and Tatiana transplanted into a container of finished compost. We're doing this because this year's unusually hot and dry weather, and the lack of water available for irrigation are making it difficult to get a good germination rate. Hoping for a crop of beets by September....
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