Traditional Farming in Spiti - A photo story

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After the snow melts on the high peaks around the villages of Spiti, the hard working people start their annual summer works - livestock are taken to the grasslands for grazing and people get busy preparing for agriculture season. Barley, potatoes and green peas are cultivated in the month of May and the crop is harvested at the end of August. It is then the valley gets a shade of green on its barren brown mountains.

Spiti receives very less average rainfall. The locals can not depend on rain for irrigation. The solution for this was found centuries ago and is still in practice.

The melted snow water from the glaciers flows down in the valley and is directed through kulhs (water channels) to the fields.

This process takes hours of hard work. The villagers, mostly women, start curing the fields in the month of June when the small stems of green pea plants can be seen in the fields.

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In old days, people cultivated only barley and black peas for self- consumption, but around 1960s, the H.P govt. started promoting the cultivation of green peas, potatoes and other cash crops. In recent years, the region is gaining keen interest on cultivation of sea-buckthorn; the wonder berries rich in vitamin C.

The concept of organic farming, which has become well known in the last decade, is not new to Spiti. Crops like black pea and barley still remain free from any chemicals. So the next time you have Sampa (local Spitian barley flour), you can be certain of its purity!

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The green peas of Spiti are sold at a premium when they reach the market but people face the problem of connectivity. There is a major delay for the crop to reach the markets.

Despite many problems, the people of Spiti live with happiness and pride. They will be more than happy to have you as their guest. When my friend and I were trekking through distant villages, we tried to offer them money as a token of our gratitude for their amazing hospitality. No one accepted it and yet they asked us to come back again. We soon found a way to thank them. After saying bye to them, we would put the money in their pockets and run away!

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About the Author

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Himanshu Khagta

 

Himanshu Khagta is an Indian photographer based in Shimla and he is known for documenting life in mountainous areas of Indian Himalayas. His work often revolves around the events and ordinary lives of the people that live in the region around his hometown.

 

His two long term projects, Life in Spiti and Life in Shimla chronicle his experiences living in the city of Shimla and the Spiti valley. His photographs have been featured in many publications including: The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, BBC Travel. Conde Nast Traveller and Outlook traveller. Checkout his book Life in Spiti on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3LiEjr0

All the photos are taken by Himanshu Khagta