Hi everybody! Here is the Agro Team speaking: Lucinne, Juliette and Aude.
It’s the agro team, or as we are known here, the ‘Gori Didi’, which is Nepali for fair skinned sisters. We are three students from AgroParisTech, France’s leading school for agricultural and life sciences. Lucinne and Aude majored in Environment Management and Engineering and Juliette specialized in Plant and Livestock Production.
The three of us decided to get involved in Open Team’s project, The Scale School, during our year off. We spent one month in Paris to get onboarded on the project and then we took the plane on Sunday, March 31st. Direction: Kathmandu!
We landed in Kathmandu on Monday morning after almost 12 hours of flight and 3 hours of stopover in the huge airport of Doha(Qatar). Sonja and Sudarshan came to the Kathmandu Airport to welcome us with traditional Tibetan scarfs.
We then spent two days in Kathmandu discovering the Nepalese way of city life: the food, the language, the people… the erratic traffic!
We were really dumbfounded by the richness of architecture and culture of this mythical city! There is a very special atmosphere in this city: Buddhists flags and Temples in the streets, streets vendors on every street corner…
We were also really impressed by the state of the city: Kathmandu has been severely hit by the 2015 earthquake. There are still a lot of destroyed buildings and reconstruction work in progress. Another thing that really shocked us is the pollution: there is a huge issue of waste management and traffic pollution in Kathmandu, but also in Nepal as a whole.
On Wednesday, we took a minibus from Kathmandu to the village where the Spiral Farm House is: it was a great and exotic experience. In the minibus, everybody was talking and laughing, very different from a bus trip in France!
After almost 10 hours of riding the bus, we arrived in the community village! We were welcomed by the whole family with flower garlands (called mala) and blessed with the tika, the traditional Hindu blessing where they mark your forehead with a red paste and rice!
We enjoyed the traditional afternoon tea while we were touring the farm, which is a perfect example of biodynamic family farming. The practices in the farm intend to restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony. The farming practices are circular which means that everything is optimized so that no energy sources are wasted.
For instance, the remains of our meals are given to the goats and the chickens.
The cow and goat dung are collected and used for compost and biogas. There is also the “poop river” that exits from the biogas barn to the grass crop area as a fertilizer.
These are a few examples of the farming practices here. It is very interesting and important for us to understand the spatial organization of the farm: there are many constraints that have to be taken into account. For example, the monkeys eat the mangoes, so the mango trees have to be planted far from the forest. There are many other things to take into consideration!
We also experienced the Nepalese kindness: as soon as we arrived at our guest house, the villagers helped us to set up our mosquito nets, cutting bamboo with machetes and placing the nets above our beds. We are very thankful for the welcome that the village people have given us!
Our first evening was dedicated to cultural discoveries: traditional music and dance gatherings, new tastes at dinner time and new eating techniques. No knives and forks here, we eat with our hands, and at first it’s not that simple to do it without making a mess!
We quickly adapted to the family’s rhythm: waking up at 6 o’clock for the morning tea, working in the fields while it’s not too hot, second morning tea (Masala tea) and then breakfast (Nasta) at half past 8 before starting the Open Team work. That is followed by lunch break and short nap under the mango trees where we can enjoy a nice breeze before going back to work, before potentially doing some farm work again before dinner or to help Benita prepare dinner. A busy day, indeed!
We are the attraction of the village, everyone comes to see us, ask questions about our family, about France, they want to know everything! On Friday, we went at the Mahuli local market, where everybody was looking curiously at us. Some of the young people were even taking selfies with us: we felt like rockstars!
Another example of the enthusiasm here: Aude has bought a Saree on the market which is a traditional attire of Nepalese women. All the women in the village were so excited to help her try it on, it was such a fun girl’s time!
In short, everything is combined for good work and a great experience far from our usual way of living, and this is definitely inspiring for us!
More news to come, until then: Peri Betola! (Juliette made the bet to learn how to read and write Nepali in a three month-period, so our next articles will probably include more and more Nepali words!). Stay tuned!
This article was written collaboratively by our Agro-student team: Lucinne Ruff, Juliette Brown, and Aude Dupin.