The Rabgayling Settlement is a small community of just a few thousand residents, most of whom are farmers. While walking to and from the farms, people greet each other with a salute-like wave and broad smiles. In a small town like this, everyone knows everyone else and the community operates based on the trust built between individuals.
So when the Himalayan Institute first arrived in 2008, the initial reception was warm but cautious—we were newcomers and had not yet proven ourselves worthy of their trust. Most organizations that have served the Tibetans have done so through donation, so the people at Rabgayling were unaccustomed to having a humanitarian organization living and working in their settlement.
Today, after two years of working with the people of Rabgayling, the Energy Farming program is a fully integrated part of the community. The community has a strong sense of ownership of this project and, when help is needed, dozens of people come to lend a hand.
10,000 New Seedlings
Farmers were initially skeptical about the benefits of Energy Farming, but after seeing the techniques and concepts in action there has been a huge shift in attitude. Now there is an overwhelming demand for pongamia seedlings, as farmers clamor to plant them on their own land. To meet this demand, the Energy Farming nursery at Rabgayling has planted 10,000 new seedlings, which will be distributed to farmers once they reach maturity. 3,000 of these seedlings are ready for grafting, the final stage before they can be planted.
A Green Wall of 1,000 Trees
For several years the settlement has struggled to prevent wild elephants from invading its farms, where they trample and eat valuable crops. To keep the elephants out of the settlement, a 7-mile long concrete trench was built along the border shared with the national forest where the elephants live. To further support this effort, the Himalayan Institute has planted a row of 1,000 pongamia trees along the trench to create a green wall. The leaves and seeds of the pongamia are inedible, which should help to discourage the elephants from entering the settlement.
By investing in long-term local relationships and putting down roots of its own in the communities where it works, the Himalayan Institute not only gains the trust and support of the community, but also the knowledge and refinement to improve upon the existing humanitarian projects around the world.