One Organic Farmer From Assam: Tenzing Bodosa
SalamatRaho presents the story of an organic farmer from Assam Tenzing, who is driven by love and peace and has made an inspiring move to lead an organic way of life. This farmer is showing the path how to transcend international boundaries in spite of a humble beginning.
Your deepest roots are in nature. No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation.
But how many actually realise this truth.? Being intelligent beings, we were able to create industries. With industry comes pollution. We also grew in size and needed to create urban areas for people to live. This so-called progress, unfortunately, destroys beautiful parts of nature and reduces available shelter for animals. Mother Nature gives us a lot. That’s why we need to give back, too. The best way to give back is to show respect to our planet.
Who knows this better than a son of the earth, a simple farmer- Tenzing Bodosa – Saviour of farmland and animals.
Humble Background of Tenzing Bodosa
Tenzing Bodosa was born in Assam(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assam)
When he was just 6 years old, his father passed away and his mother had to work looking after their 2-hectare ancestral farm alone. He lost interest in school after class 6 and left his home when he was 10 and went to earn for his family. By the time he was 13, he was doing odd jobs and then joined a Malaysian construction company. Being a quick learner, he learnt to drive, repair machinery, work on the internet and even speak English fluently. This made him gain a lot of confidence.
Son of the soil returns home to become a farmer
When his mother needed him, he decided to return home in 2006. For generations, his family always grew paddy and vegetables. He realised everyone was growing tea in Assam and exporting tea was a good business. Tenzing too decided to grow tea in his farm but had no experience. He learnt through watching others and working on the ground. He understood early in life that the only source of knowledge is experience. You need experience to gain wisdom.
The turning point moment for Tenzing Bodosa
He started growing tea and followed what other tea experts were doing. He also used chemical fertilisers, pesticides and genetically modified seeds as this would give the fastest and highest yield.
Soon nature started giving him warning signals. Whenever he would spray pesticide on his farm, he would get a headache and feel nauseous. The chemical smell was unbearable and fishes were dying in the ponds. It was confirmed that the pesticides were poisonous.
Influence of his mother
He was strongly influenced by his mother and grandmother’s ideologies to protect nature. Traditionally, the original farmers always used organic fertilisers made of cow dung and urine which was healthy for the environment and humans.
Tensing’s conscience pricked him as felt guilty for adding poisonous items to the tea which millions drank daily. Most experts told him it is not possible to grow tea without using pesticides. Tensing could not give up.
Even though he did not hold high tech degrees, he studied online and came to know about Dr. L Narayan Reddy from Bangalore, who was an organic farmer and took his guidance. In 2007, he invited a Canadian NGO Fertile Ground to his farm, and trained under them too. Tenzing says,’ Madam Peggy C, Mr. Khel Khelly and Ms. Lissa helped me promote my products in the global markets.”
Hard work paid off and success followed. He was the first in his generation, who started organic tea farming. The yield and quality improved slowly. It wasn’t so simple. He faced many challenges as he had to compete with almost 12000 farmers, who could sell at a cheaper price as they used pesticides etc.
Tenzing explains- “No man-made chemical fertilizers or organic fertilizer were used. I use everything from local input, wood chips, compost, dry manure, liquid manure etc”.
He had crossed the first hurdle of growing organic tea, but marketing this tea was the real challenge. To help reduce the cost and have more quality control, he then decided to have his own processing unit, through which he processed the tea and packaged it all by himself.
His Introduction to the international community and markets
In 2016, Sebastian Beckwith, founder of ‘In Pursuit of Tea”, who brings legendary tea to New York restaurants like Eleven Madison park and others, visited Assam to meet Tenzing after tasting his samples. He inspected the farm and processing unit and ordered 500 kilos instantly, worth 500,000 rupees, and that was a changing point in Tenzings life. Beckwith’s support, his guidance about various international teas, remarks, validations, took Tenzing’s tea towards international markets.
Beckwith said – “That’s ultimately going to make us all healthier … He is someone who is succeeding on a very small level, and I think it’s great.”
Soon, he started selling his tea in Canada, German, US and UK through a tea company which helped him export. He visited Hong Kong and Australia for the royal expo to find a market and this helped him to change his vision too.
Tenzing’s tea estate is about 32 acres situated in the Himalayas, and touches the borders of Bhutan to the north. He grows almost all types of fruits, vegetables and paddy in the rest of the land. His natural park helps stimulate growth in his tea farm. The plants are full of calcium, potassium and iron which he ferments and uses them as fertilizer for his tea bushes.
Coexisting with other farmers and ‘1 family, 1 hectare and 1 cow’ formula
Tenzing set an example for the farmers in that region. Many were inspired by his success, and farmers from Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh also started coming to his farm to learn organic farming. He has trained about 30,000- 35,000 farmers so far.
Farmers were under the assumption that only tea can be grown on their land, especially since they used pesticides and soil became infertile. He encouraged them to use organic fertilisers and manure and to inter crop. If farmers grow organically, then all the seasonal fruits, vegetables and even paddy can be grown in the same tea farm as Indian climate, if extremely favourable. This makes the farmers self-sufficient, grow more than what his family needs and enough is left for exports.
Once majority farmers shifted to organic farming, Tenzing proposed another plan. He recommends the ‘1 family, 1 hectare and 1 cow’ formula, which means that the fertiliser made from cow urine and dung is sufficient to grow in one hectare of land which is sufficient for one family. No need to buy things from the market. This helped to save costs too and gain higher profits.
Tenzing says -“I love to teach them. I want to share what I learn. I want to give back to my people,” he says, adding that if we “respect nature, nature will respect us.”
Tenzing’s coexistence with wild elephants.
Tenzing believes strongly that one must maintain the ecological balance in nature. This region of Bhutan border is inhabited with wild elephants who used to often destroy these plantations. Animals attack when they feel endangered. He created a 74-acre wildlife preserve, a buffer zone, that attracts herds of elephants, which roam between Assam and Bhutan, without any barriers. He planted lots of bamboo, jackfruit, pumpkin, watermelon banana etc and provided water, pond, salt. Elephants have a super memory. Over time, the elephants realised that this area was safe to walk around, feed on healthy meals and leave. The workers too have got used to them and don’t fear or harm them. Total Co- existence. It’s beautiful to watch 70-80 majestic gentle giants gracing around along with Hornbills, wild pigs, deer’s, peacocks and a variety of birds like peacocks etc. Due to organic rotation of crops throughout the year, these varieties of species get enough to feed on.
Despite how beloved elephants are by many, poaching and environmental destruction has taken a toll on them. Asian elephants are listed as endangered. It would be a tragic and profound loss if elephants were to go extinct. What Tensing is doing is a great boon for society and this generation, protecting these nearly extinct species.
“The elephant can survive only if forests survive.” – Says Tenzing.
Certified as the world’s first elephant-friendly farms.
An elephant died on his farm and Tenzing, being extremely disturbed, kept writing to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to visit his village and help. Fortunately, after two years of persuasion, they visited the elephant farm and were very happy to see the wild animals roaming freely.
Tenzing’s two farms in Bodoland territorial area of Kachibari village in the Udalguri district of Assam have recently been certified as the world’s first elephant-friendly farms.
This acclaim made big news amongst the International environmental enthusiasts, conservation specialists and hundreds of tourists visit Tenzing’s farm from all parts of the world like Japan, China, UK, Australia and Germany.
Elephant Friendly Tea Eco Tourism
To host all these tourists, volunteers, buyers, environmentalists etc, Tenzing ventured into eco-tourism.
He constructed a tree house resort in natural surroundings, perched on top of the trees to remain safe from the elephants.
Tenzing shared with me that -“Yes stone age people lived in jungle and treehouses, now people live in concrete modern cities. Coming to my Tree resort, travellers can experience a new paradise and can see wild animals very safely from the top of the tree.”
History repeatedly tells us of experiences of people who tried to defy Nature, but regretted later. This reminds us of how small we are in comparison, especially after this Covid experience.
Tenzing Bodosa is one warrior who is fighting to preserve the environment, animals, local tribes and spreading his knowledge to change the mind-set of future generations. We need more people to join his mission and initiate similar projects in other regions to make India a better place to live in, coexistence of – Man and Nature.
You can contact Tenzing at [email protected]
Team NomadLawyer salutes Tenzing Bodosa for his contribution towards the beautiful state of Assam
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Team NomadLawyer’s ambition is to positively impact the world through the stories of HumanKind. We believe in the art of storytelling. Through “Salamat Raho ”, we are creating a database for social good in the form of “Impact Stories”, which will help us achieve our goal and reach out to the world at large. By contributing through your stories and experience you create a significant impact on the community and an exceptional experience for yourself. Visit the NomadLawyer portal at nomadlawyer.org and you can also get in touch with us at [email protected] We will use hashtag #SalamatRaho for the series.