It was the end of January when I first met Charlie, in the garden of Kathmandu Guesthouse–the following day I travelled the hour and half by bus to visit his organic farm named 5 Elements Organic Bastion (5EOB), outside the town of Panauti. He’s been there now for nearly four years.
foto by Keti Ji
Charlie Das (the name his teacher gave him) first arrived to Nepal in 2004, he was like most young Irish at the time–going to Australia to work. His short stopover became a 12 year story. In the beginning Charlie was a tourist on adventures like all many others, later he would spend five years as a journalist and photo correspondent discovering unique aspects of the country. And now, the last four years he has been making a dairy, fruit, nuts and vegetable farm in the hills outside Kathmandu. Building everything by hand using resources like bottles, earthbag, local adobe and other unique green engineering designs.
foto by Mathias Peter Christian
“I never really understood the meaning of working at a factory or in an office. I see the value of life living sustainably close to nature, having healthy food in a beautiful place”. Charlie is now slowly growing organic fruits and vegetable, as well as providing farm-made dairy products to the Oshell restaurant in Kathmandu, run by Chef Jade–with whom Charlie started 5EOB.
After the earthquakes in Nepal Charlie and his friends start to get some ideas about how to develop the local community and provide opportunities to the children in their small village and so grew the Trees For Relief (TFR) community project. Starting with providing 5 different seedlings of fruits and nuts trees to the children, with workshops on how to plant, maintain and propagate.
Next came a crew of earth-baggers called the Nepal Earthbag Project from Taos, New Mexico to build a demonstration eco-friendly earthbag dome, so Nepalese people may see cost effective earthquake resistant structures before the national rebuild would begin.
This building was donated to serve as TFRs community classroom for monthly free organic classes and as well as a resource center and garden for the village children aged between 14-18 years of age to grow, develop and maintain their own fruit and nut orchards and try to motivate people with intelligent agriculture. TFR and 5EOB has since bought 500sqm of the land around the dome and now have an Italian Doctor (GP) who will live and be based there for the community.
Currently Nepal is experience high numbers of outward migration–with record numbers going abroad doing very basic jobs. While the lands back home are becoming more and more neglected, with only the elderly and young remaining in the village. Education is basic and domestic violence is common. Leaving children with few options. Hence why TFR want to focus on the local youths to help them develop business ideas with a support network, tools and education to start.
"The bottle house" foto by 5 Elements organic bastion
foto by Tommi Polon
“We can take an almond as an example, the price of a kilo of almonds in Nepal is 1500 – 2000 rupees on the market, whereas the corn or mustardseed that is growing has a fraction of the earning. So, why not to learn to grow the nuts instead? Or the other example – Japanese mandarins, which are ripening two months earlier than the local Nepali variety, making it a profitable and intelligent off-season product for the market.
The idea is to help teenagers to see perspectives in agriculture development. Imagine if you will youths starting to develop their own high-value orchard at the age of 14. By the time they have finished school, already they will have some means of further development. Even if they want to go to work abroad, they will not need to take a loan and going will have different meaning, not because you have no choice, but it will turn into a choice towards new experiences
Young girls too, they will be empowered with a value of their own. Giving them choices outside of “just getting married”” – Charlie explains.
For me personally this project is interesting not only in the belief of the difference we can help make here, but because I myself am learning a lot here, from the elders, the ways they have done farming and construction for many generations. So, this is an exchange between us all and we can all grow from that, says Charlie.
the English edition by Pat Kauba