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Ritu-Ngapnon Varuni, Sirmaur

Farmhouse with pristine Deodar forest backdrop
Farmhouse with pristine Deodar forest in background.

Nazara Natural Farm is located in the scenic Himalayan village of Bhuira in eastern district Sirmaur, Himachal Pradesh. The 11 bigha farm is an idyllic place that has been Ms. Ritu's home since the last 17 years. The village road runs along on one side of the farm, and a pristine untouched forest of deodar and oak, measuring around 1 bigha, acts as the farm's backdrop.

Mr. Ritu says her aim is to be food self-sufficient for my family and grows many indigenous Himalayan crops like koda (millet), jau (barley), red rice, tomato, yellow and white maize, 9 varieties of rajma (kidney beans), soybean, garlic, potatoes, mustard and chaulai (amaranth).

Ms. Ritu had planted 400 deodar trees when her family first came here 17 years ago, and now they have a naturally growing nursery of deodar and a cultivated nursery of reetha trees.

She only sells the surplus produce and that too, mostly fruit, which includes peach (75 trees), plum (12 trees), apricot (7 trees), nakh pear (3 trees), walnut (6 trees), apple (150 trees) and kiwi (4 creepers). Organic Strawberry plants of the Winter Down variety have been cultivated each year for the past 15 years on varying plots. Recently she has also planted 25 kagazi Kashmiri  badam (almond) and 4 pomegranate trees as well!  There are uncultivated wild peach, plum apricot, mulberry & fig trees which are spread across the farm and well nurtured but left unharvested as such. Ms. Ritu also grows local vegetables like pahadi sweet karela (Caigua), pumpkin, beans, peas, capsicum, peanuts, brinjal for home use.

"The use and preservation of indigenous Himalayan seeds is of prime importance in Nazara and I primarily use my own seeds for the last 10 to 15 years now. At Nazara we only use our own sour lassi spray, kitchen compost, cow and goat manure and a spray mix of cow urine, neem oil and reetha.  We use no toxic chemical cleansers and detergents in our home. The farm has been organic ever since we bought the land 17 years ago and started farming here. My ancestral land in Solan district, where I was brought up, was always natural, so we never believed in any other way to live or farm."

"For me there has never ever been any other way to farm. The natural and organic is the only way for me. The idea to live a simple, natural and self-sustaining way of life is not utopian. We pound our own rice, take out our own mustard oil and grind our own koda, makki, jau and chaulai flour at Nazara. I feel  very blessed that my dream to live sustainably is coming true. Many communities in the world still live that way. Once upon a time everyone lived that way. But that it is and was always the right and natural way, that I do feel. We have taken a wrong turn. In fact many wrong turns. We have destroyed our only home –the Earth and that which gives us life-the forest. We choose to think that we are superior beings with great knowledge, while the reality is that we cannot even imagine the complicated workings of Nature. We actually know very little. We just think we know. For many people in urban areas the disconnect with Nature is huge and the fact that we are only a small part of Nature is forgotten."

"In our own small way we could live in peace, growing our own food without destroying the land. Nurturing the soil, planting trees and putting back in some way, what we have taken so mercilessly, so greedily from the Earth. The Native American people believed that land did not belong to anybody. They understood their place on earth and respected what gave them life. Perhaps one day we might all follow their path"

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