"Land service" – agriculture for everyone
In Kirpal Sagar, "land service" is understood as the task of conserving natural resources and developing circulation systems that lead to sustainable agriculture. Good solutions should above all benefit farmers in the surrounding area. Kirpal Sagar sees itself as responsible for contributing to the development of the surrounding villages and the region, fighting poverty and ensuring a healthy environment.
For example, a model piece of arable land is currently being developed for mixed cultivation, where fruit trees are cultivated together with vegetables and flowers. The mixed crop promotes mutual growth, optimises the microclimate and yields at different times, making the farmers' income more independent of seasons and markets. Vegetables, fruits and flowers can be harvested or marketed for self-sufficiency. The different crops and diverse crop rotations prevent soil leaching, and herbs and special flowers are used against pests and diseases. The fertility of the soil is maintained and strengthened through the cultivation of legumes that enrich the soil with nitrogen, green manure and the addition of cattle manure, Neem press cake and the incorporation of further organic material. The area is surrounded by timber trees such as teak and mahogany or sandalwood trees, the precious wood of which can be sold after 8 (teak) to 15 (mahogany) years. In the beginning, the trees grow very slender and tall, so that they do not disturb the growth of the other plants with overlystrong shadows. Nevertheless, they offer protection against wind and extreme weather conditions.
Although the agricultural work in the region is still mainly carried out by hand, the possibilities of an effective processing through the use of agricultural machinery, which is also becoming more and more common in the Punjab, should be used. When planting the model area, care was taken to adapt the planting distances and soil distribution to partly mechanical cultivation during individual work steps. For example, a tractor can drive between the rows of trees and be used for mechanical weed control.
Small farmers can hardly make a living from the yields of their average 1-2 hectares of land. In the decades since the so-called Green Revolution in the 1960s, agriculture, which relied on chemical fertilisation and the use of pesticides, has long reached its limits. Soils have lost their fertility and are polluted with chemicals. The groundwater level has dropped dramatically. Farmers have not benefited economically from rising productivity and are also suffering from serious illnesses due to daily contact with chemicals and their accumulation in the water and soil for decades. Positive individual examples in the vicinity of Kirpal Sagar show, however, that with sustainable cultivation it is possible to change the direction of agriculture and that a good income can also be achieved on such small areas. With this project, Kirpal Sagar demonstrates practically how this can succeed and shares the experiences with the local people and interested people from more distant areas.
The farmers are invited to have a look at the area and to exchange information about the advantages and possibilities of this form of farming. The aim is to enable them to adopt successful practices. A careful and individual customization is necessary in order to exclude the risk of crop failures or conversion setbacks, which these farmers would not be able to cope with economically.
A family will occupy the farm and ensure that interested farmers and residents can view and receive information at any time about the stages of development, and the cultivation of the mixed crop area. In addition, field inspections and guided tours are to be offered, and technical exchanges and consultations are to be organised. The project will be accompanied by experts.
The planned irrigation system based on the innovative drip irrigation, which saves a great deal of water and at the same time guarantees a better supply of water for the plants, should result in significantly higher yields. The water pump is exemplarily operated with electricity from a photovoltaic solar system. This eliminates the need for diesel, the price of which is only slightly less than in Europe and therefore is extremely high in relation to the local income level. Exhaust gases and noise are also avoided, and one is independent of the purchase of the fuel.
The development of the mixed cultivation area and the entire project is regularly documented and progress can be observed on a webcam every day. We will continue to report.
Pictures: A group of Europeans, visiting Kirpal Sagar in February 2019, get a personal impression of the preparations and first plantings on the model area.