5 years ago, Jaideo Rathore developed a dream to convert his small, traditional farm to a model organic farm. The popularity of organic produce is growing rapidly in India.
Converting local farms to organic could alleviate severe social disadvantage in local communities.
Micro-economic opportunities for villages and local schools are a spin-off of Jaideo’s vision.
Ikaki Bagh is a chance for visitors to India to experience a side of Indian life quite different to the major tourist highlights.
Read on as Jaideo provides an update on progress at Ikaki Bagh.
Update on Ikaki Bagh
I started working on Ikaki Bagh way before things started showing up on the farm. The first phase of Ikaki Bagh was to show the dream to people and fortunately I had many listeners.
I would take people to Ikaki Bagh and cook up stories of the vision. Somewhere in mind the stories started taking definite form and the vision started coming alive on the farm.
In one of the meetings with a guest, I discussed the plan with David Boden who has become a solid supporter for the inspiration for Ikaki Bagh. Gradually more and more local and international supporters are coming on board my project giving me inspiration and practical advice.
My initial Skype meetings and email interactions with David used to revolve around an UPDATE.
The word Update became scary for me as I am an ad hoc task master and pretty much on the job all the time but when someone asks me for an Update I used to go clueless. What work has been achieved? When you are so consumed in your thoughts and vision all the time, you feel nothing has been done.
I always used to fear that there is no development and hence no update, but when David visited us 2nd time and saw the change in area he encouraged me to look at accomplishments. Suddenly my perspective changed and I saw old pictures only to realize everything is so much improved.
To cut short, I will narrate the update on Ikaki Bagh and the things that are being done, of what we have and where it’s heading too.
Working with local communities
Ikaki Bagh is set on outskirts of Jaipur and is near villages that are ‘backward’ and people are still striving hard to make ends meet.
As I started working in this area 8 years ago it’s been an uphill task to break the ice with people from surrounding villages. In India it’s not a black and white situation it’s a lot of grey area. One has to read emotions feelings and culture very well before getting to work with communities. I started interacting with them in local dialect and changed my attire to make them feel that I am part of them.
When I told them that on my expense I am bringing changes at my farm for making it an organic farm, they were skeptical and amused. They thought that this guy doesn’t know what he is talking about, it took me 3 years to convince and prove that agriculture done without pesticides and chemicals can also be done.
I find people are still apprehensive as one whole generation grew up learning and practicing agriculture with the help of urea and chemicals. They cannot imagine production without these aids. It will take time and but slowly I am finding more and more people are becoming convinced.
Improvements on the farm
To be part of the people I thought let me turn my farm into a model organic farm where my experiments can be showcased to people. They can get free ideas and motivation to emulate good sustainable practices by seeing progress first-hand for themselves.
Starting from planting trees in a barren piece of land with no trees was the most daunting task. Landscaping and planting of trees has been an ongoing process since last 8 years. We have not been able to detach ourselves from not planting trees every year.
With the limited financial resources I had I took up infrastructure development in a staggered way where we constructed something every year. In the last 5 years we have been able to achieve a building that has 2 guest rooms with attached baths, 1 office and visitors male and female bathrooms.
We have built a big shed for animals, a large water pool where water is treated and then used for irrigation through drip network and a composting unit for producing high quality manure. As we recently got a colt from the beautiful Marwari Meyer at farm we have decided to increase the size of the shed area for animals.
We have created staff quarters, kitchen and dining for all the guests who come to look at our project.
The Local Primary School
Ikaki Bagh is focused on playing a supportive and holistic role in the community.
In the last twelve months, I have been fortunate to steadily build a relationship with the local school. The school is very happy to receive visits by international guests to Ikaki Bagh as it provides the children with exposure to people from different cultures and countries.
In turn, we have been able to start delivering improvements to the school including:
- Donations of clothing, especially sweaters for the children to keep warm in Winter
- A new drinking fountain providing essential fresh water
- A complete repaint of the school by a volunteer group from the USA-based Color My World
- Funding from Government to build a new classroom so that local 13 and 14 year-olds can attend the school, rather than having to walk to their current school over three miles away
When I look back I see a lot has been done but when I look at the vision I feel that it’s just the beginning. We are right now working on a biogas model, which can be easily used by the villagers at their homes and is economical too, we plan to make the whole village move to this clean fuel.
Our other task is to make the farm sustainable and this needs better coordination between different sections of farming. A seamless integration of grain crops, vegetables, dairy, kitchen and water is to be achieved for making it a truly sustainable farm.
Feedback and Visitor Engagement
Since 2016, we have hosted approximately visitors from countries such as the USA, Italy, Spain and Australia.
Some of the tour fees paid by guests goes directly to the local Jhinjha Village and the nearby primary school.
Update on infrastructure and services is endless as every guest visit calls for some improvement in facility.
For example, we are now offering fresh towels that are soaked in neem tree leaves. Neem leaves are known for their antibacterial properties. Visitors are offered cold towels soaked in neem leaves which makes for a super fresh welcome.
The rooms are now also adorned with pictures of the many beautiful birds that are locally found.
With people taking us more seriously, we are now being more official in our conversation with them.
Recently during our Independence Day function, I was invited as the chief guest for school function and the whole village was in attendance.
I insisted on everyone coming to a single platform and doing everything collectively. It was one of the first all village meetings and we stressed the benefits of a farmers group move from crop-based agriculture to tree-based agriculture.
This approach will make much more efficient use of water, yield much higher returns and slowly contribution to the restoration of the environment.
As I feel updates are endless more soon.
And please, it will be my personal pleasure to welcome you to Ikaki Bagh and share our work and dreams.