Agriculture

One of our first projects was to help the local population to move towards new agricultural options by putting aside the more traditional ways.

The inhabitants of the Hushé Valley live basically from subsistence farming. Virtually all families own small plots of land and work on them to earn their livelihood. They mainly produce cereals, basically buckwheat, some fodder such as alfalfa, and in some cases during the summer they grow vegetables. They also have fruit trees, mainly apricots and a few apple trees.

Some families have a small livestock and poultry farm, although this is not enough to ensure their necessary nutritional intake. Therefore, in times of the year like the summer, some men find different jobs sporadically, especially as mountain porters, in construction and services, to have some source of income.

The problems observed in traditional agricultural production are the low productivity of their lands; smallholdings and parcelling; and the channelling of irrigation water. Ignorance of the simplest agricultural techniques and lack of necessary instruments and greenhouses. Women are the main workers in the field and practically all the work is manual. Women are also responsible for housework and childcare.

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The agricultural project that Baltistan Fundazioa carried out in the area since 2004 was oriented to improve the living conditions in the villages of the Húshe Valley through the sustainable and varied agricultural productive development, the training in new agricultural techniques and the technical assistance.

A team of volunteers from Baltistan Fundazioa was in charge of transmitting basic techniques, new seeds and setting up two pilot greenhouses that served as a model for the whole valley. Today it is common for each family to have its own small greenhouse.

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The project aimed to increase food diversity in families and improve family income through richer and more varied agricultural production. It was based on giving an impulse and stimulus to community work and self-initiative by improving technical, educational and cultural aspects that are vital for the evolution and improvement of production and food sovereignty.

The agricultural project that was carried out included the following sections:

  • Mechanization: Introduction of lightweight machines for field work: small mowers for cereals and fodder, motorized cultivators (with different attachments) and grain cleaners.
    Horticultural production: Introduction of cultivation systems for improving horticulture: Experimentation and development of crops under glass and in the open air through rotations with a wide variety of horticultural crops.
    Fruit production: Systems to improve fruit crop production through experimental plantations of several fruit species with efficient pruning and training systems to increase yield.
    Marketing of fruit and vegetable production: Cleaning and drying facilities for apricot flesh and pressing machines for oil production.

The result was uneven. Thus, the idea of mechanizing the work was a failure for several reasons. The tiny size of the plots made it difficult to use the machinery efficiently, the costs of inputs such as diesel and oil, and why not say the enormously patriarchal structure of society that considers the work of women in the field as non-costly.

In contrast, the horticultural diversification line was successful in facilitating the introduction of new types of vegetables and legumes. Rustic family greenhouses proliferate today in the valley and the diversification of production has allowed a healthier and more balanced diet and in some cases surpluses are sent to the markets of Khapulu.

Also successful was the proposal to clean, sun-dry and market the apricot, a fruit that is very widespread in the valley, having multiplied by ten the income of the families that have dedicated themselves to its exploitation according to the new "techniques". According to a report by the Felix Foundation Baltistan from 2015 The price of the unwashed and undry apricot was 10 Rp/kg. Washing and drying became more than 100 Rp/kg.


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Some families have also started to diversify fruit production by planting and harvesting cherry and apple trees.

Baltistan Fundazioa's support to agricultural production was languishing as the above achievements were consolidated, the same population started to lead their own project with the help of the Government's Agriculture department in Ghanche district, and especially because other urgent needs were identified.