Sustainably:Visiting Two Vegan Organic Farms in Asia  
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Halo, eco-wise viewers, and welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. This week we feature two vegan organic farms run by our Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association members, one in Rajasthan, India and the other in Formosa (Taiwan)'s Hualien County.

The Rodale Institute in the United States defines organic farming as follows: “Organic is a method of farming and gardening that relies on natural systems and products, and is free of virtually all synthetic and toxic chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides.

Let us first head to Rajasthan which is located in northwestern India. Three-fifths of the state is occupied by the Thar Desert and 40% of the state's population lives in this arid region. Extending into Pakistan, the Thar Desert is 200,000 square kilometers in size and is the seventh largest desert in the world.

Temperatures in the desert can climb very high, reaching 50 degrees Celsius or more in May and June. The desert sand can reach a scorching 70 degrees Celsius during the hottest days of the year. Water is very scarce in the Thar Desert, with yearly rainfall being less than 250 millimeters and 90% of the precipitation occurring during the monsoon season which is between July and September.

Gajendra Singh is an Association member and the co-founder of the Ching Hai School, a Rajasthan-based institution established in 2006 in honor of Supreme Master Ching Hai. Its mission is to provide an excellent education to the local children as well as spread the noble message of vegetarianism to the students and their families.

Mr. Singh also has a vegan organic farm near the school which grows cotton, millet, cumin and crops in the dry desert environment.

Singh(m): Now I'm going to show you an Indian organic farm. This farm is totally organic. Here we don't put any chemicals in these crops. Mostly in other parts of India, people put a lot of chemical spray on the cotton, but here in Rajasthan, in this field, particularly this village, we don't have to put any chemicals on the cotton. And we get good crops.

HOST: What is the primary water source for the farm?

Singh(m): The water here is also very good because we have a 400-feet [120 meters] deep well. We get water from there. We drink the same water. We've no need to clean it, because it's automatically very clean. And it's sanctified. The water is the best. There's no germs.

HOST: Vegan organic farming benefits the environment enormously. By avoiding the use of chemical pesticides, it raises crop yields, enhances soil fertility, conserves water and ensures biodiversity in agriculture. A study by researchers at the University of Michigan, USA found that with organic farming methods, farmers in developing countries can triple crop production.

Singh(m): It's economically very good if you don't put the chemicals. Organic cultivation is the best if you don't want to spend a lot of money. If you are in a desert, if you don't want to destroy the environment, grow this way. You get good value, good money without chemicals, without destroying the environment.

Singh(m): Here we are in a cotton field. We took more than 90% of the cotton already. This is the rest of the cotton. Because in the end of February, we had to cut the cotton, all the cotton. When we take all the cotton away, the rest is nothing. Either you can burn it in the fire, or we use it as a very good fertilizer.

When we take all the cotton away, by tractor or by camel, we put all the clay on the top of this. After four, five months, these things become a very nice fertilizer. Then we grow nice millet in July.

HOST: Crop rotation, growing a planned order of specific crops in the same field, prevents the depletion of soil nutrients and improves soil fertility.

Singh(m): But after we cut the millet in August, or September, then we again grow cotton, because the millet field becomes a very good fertilizer for the cotton field. So we don't have to put the (chemical) spray on it. We don't use a machine; we don't have a machine (for planting). We always plant all by hand. This is the seed. You see it?

Singh(m): This seed is inside. I will show you how you put it. We just make a hole and put it like that. And we do it every two feet, on the whole (plot of) land like that.

HOST: We now shift to Hualien County in Formosa (Taiwan) to meet our Association member and the director of the Zhi-xue vegan organic farm, Mr. Chen Chun-Hung. Occupying 40-hectares, his vegan organic farm is the second largest by area on the island and is recognized as a model organic farm by the government.

Some of the crops grown on the land include sweet corn, papaya, tomato, passion fruit, lemon, ginger, sweet potato, cabbage, lettuce, spring onion, chili pepper, lady finger (okra), and celery.

Chen: Basically in organic farming, we don't use insecticides, weed-killers or chemical fertilizer. Aside from these three, we respect and follow the law of nature and apply it to our farming system to create eco-balance.

HOST: Mr. Chen is a practicing veterinarian and also has a degree in Chinese herbal studies from China Medical University. In 2002 he founded The Herbs Association of Hualien County and is the supervisor of the Hualien County Chinese herb production unit.

He only began cultivating crops in 2000. For those wishing to enter the field of vegan organic agriculture, Formosa (Taiwan) has a wealth of training resources.

Chen: We visit professional organizations such as Agricultural Research and Extension Stations or agricultural institutes to learn from them. In Formosa (Taiwan), there are many Agricultural Research and Extension Stations that offer training courses. You can get to know many experts and teachers in this field and can gain a lot of knowledge from them.

HOST: From Mr. Chen's perspective, what are some of the ways that vegan organic farming benefits the Earth?

Chen: So when we are growing organic food, we are also nourishing the land. Land maintenance is a very important concept. When the land is nourished, all the plants will thrive and the ecosystem will be in balance. For example, on our farm, you can see lots of pheasants, bamboo partridges, rabbits, and even snakes, rats, earthworms, and many other beings.

Organic farming can help reduce global warming. It's because the chemical fertilizer, weed killer and other chemical factories consume a lot of energy. Also, when the chemicals flow into lakes, rivers, and oceans, they cause the death of coral reefs They also cause algal blooms in the waters. So I appeal to everyone to support organic farming and buy organic products.

HOST: Mr. Chen will now introduce us to some of the fine crops cultivated on his land.

Chen: We have planted some vegetables in large quantities. We have passion fruit, pumpkins, papaya, guava, and some special herbs, such as Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng) and Eleutherococcus trifoliatus (Scandent shrub) grown locally in Hualien. We also grow sweet corn. This is the sweet corn we cultivated.

If we harvest sweet corn at the stage when the kernels exude a milky substance, they have a thinner skin and they contain a lot of water. So after picking it, you can eat it raw. It tastes as sweet as a fruit and it is very juicy. It's delicious and it's a high energy food. I strongly recommend it to everyone.

Supreme Master TV: So apart from fruits and vegetables, do you have other special agricultural products?

Chen: Besides growing fresh fruits and vegetables, we also make them into processed food, by adding enzymes or vinegar. We also make dry fruits. We dehydrate the fruits and vegetables under low heat, and turn them into powder and then add it into breakfast packs. In addition, we also grow some medicinal herbs, which are very beneficial for health.

HOST: We thank Gajendra Singh and Chen Chun-Hung for sharing some of their precious knowledge about the wonderful field of vegan organic farming. Vegan organic agriculture is the best solution to world hunger and climate change. May all farmers soon adopt this style of cultivation to help lead our planet to a better and brighter future!

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