My farming memories
I spent my whole childhood in a small hamlet called Garang in Lahaul. In the summers my sister and I would help our grandmother with the household chores and in in the fields. She would cultivate green peas, potatoes and wheat. In Lahaul, the sowing season starts from mid-March. Villagers would first clear the snow from the fields and then start sowing various seeds. Green peas and cauliflower seeds are sown first followed by potatoes. Farming is the sole livelihood of many villagers and before ploughing, people pray to their fields, the tools and the baang (oxen) in hope of a good harvest. After ploughing, the farmers use pickaxe to create small water channels in the fields. Our grandmother would let me and my sister do this task. She would instruct us on how to do this carefully and correctly. She would then add seeds of green peas after us. After covering the field with seeds, she would level it using long dry twigs.
Photo Courtesy: Vikram Katoch
We used to eagerly wait for the seedlings to grow. It would take around 30 to 45 days for the first seedlings to emerge. This was the time when the weeds would be removed and the field would be watered through Kuls. Unlike traditional crops, most of the fields like green peas and cauliflower, require frequent watering - once in every 15-20 days. Around June flowers will start blooming in green peas fields and by August, the crops are ready. Harvesting season is the most important and everyone in the family will help collect the ripe peas. Since there is no farmers market/cooperative for peas in Lahaul, we are often forced to sell their produce to private dealers at meagre sum.
Potato field in Lahaul (left) Fields in Lahaul (right). Photo Courtesy: Vikram Katoch
Similarly potatoes are also grown in our village. Each household prepares their own seed by keeping sacks of potatoes in a pit during the winters. When spring arrives, the seeds are unearthed and prepared. The beds laid for potatoes are deeper than that of green peas and are placed 5 to 6 inches apart from each other. The seeds are buried deep in the soil to ensure high and good production of potatoes. When the seedlings emerge, the fields are watered and by September the harvest is almost ready. The leaves from the plant are removed a few days before uprooting the plants. This helps to thicken the potato skin, thus making them more long-lasting. The potato harvest is ready by early October and the whole valley is suddenly humming with trucks collecting produce and taking it to the market. There are times when it's even difficult to find trucks in Lahaul and the farmers have to arrange trucks from the nearest town. Farming has changed a lot since my grandmother's days - increasing mechanization has certainly filled the gap of labour shortage but many households still struggle to find good market exposure.
Photos Courtesy: Vikram Katoch
About the Author
Vikram Singh Katoch
Vikram Singh Katoch is from Garang village in Lahaul. He is passionate about wildlife and likes exploring the beautiful landscape of his hometown. He has worked for 6 years in the maintenance department of Atal tunnel project in Rohtang -the longest highway tunnel in Leh-Manali road. He joined NCF’s Himalayan Lab and assists the team in community survey and field interventions.