May 6 2022
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While the Ruby Valley is a region of scenic beauty, it owes much of its charm to the cohabitation of humans with other species and their environment. The valley is populated by more animals than people, and the flora is free to roam the natural areas.
“If we share with other species a common origin, if we are infinitely varied products of the evolution of living things, then, while marvelling at our own eminent qualities, we can only appreciate those of other species and strive to live with as little harm as possible.”~ Matthieu Ricard, Advocacy for animals
The Ruby Valley is unique because of the harmony between all the beings that inhabit it. The fauna occupying these spaces is mostly composed of hoofed mammals such as yaks, oxen, cows, sheep and mules. They play an important role in human activities and living space. The regularly nomadic population is indeed dependent on their presence for daily chores, travel and subsistence farming. A sensitive and reciprocal link is forged between humans and animals who share the same land.
Maruni lives a nomadic life. For 10 months, she travels with her hundred or so sheep, goats and cows, from the highlands to the lowlands, depending on the season. She tells us: “I have a hard life, I live in sheds in remote areas raising my animals. My animals are my friends, my family and my only source of income. I sell their wool and the fertiliser from their waste. With this income I am able to help my children.”
At a time when humanity is consuming resources in less time than the planet can regenerate in a year, the inhabitants of the Ruby Valley, an economically and geographically isolated region, are living at odds with urban societies that produce and consume more than they can handle. Indeed, the locals meet their needs solely through the subsistence agriculture developed in the valley. No imports are made and the inhabitants only draw on the necessary resources. Thanks to a minimalist way of life and a moderate and conscious management of the land, the community is self-sufficient and evolves in the respect of its natural environment.
However, this isolation also has negative aspects. The population is regularly confronted with the hazards of the extreme conditions of the mountainous terrain and does not have sufficient access to health care. Their livestock are also challenged by the snow that covers their main source of food and weakens them. To help them get through the winter, farmers try to care for them.
To support the self-sufficiency of the communities in the Ruby Valley, Karuna is developing a sustainable agriculture programme. Traditionally, only few vegetables are grown in the region because of its climate and the methods used.
The agricultural programme focused mainly on building the capacity of 144 local farmers in vegetable gardening. They received a two-day training on vegetable gardening, focusing on both theory and practice. Initially, a nursery was set up to grow seedlings of different vegetables such as chilli, cucumber, pumpkin, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, tomato, crested gourd, coriander etc. After the training, the seedlings were distributed to 233 farmers.
These food crops are important sources of food for the population. They ensure a reciprocal link between the natural products of the land and the people who grow them. With Karuna’s help, communities can continue to develop and gain access to better nutrition without giving up their independence.
Mrs Tamang, a mother of two, is involved with her husband in farming for their livelihood. She had planned to set up a vegetable garden so that they could enjoy a healthy and varied diet. Immediately after Karuna’s training, she took the plunge and said: “I received several vegetable plants that I was able to put in my garden. I planted according to the training I received from Karuna Shechen. Before that, I didn’t know how to grow cucumbers and the plants always died. Now I know when and how to apply fertiliser to make the soil favourable for my plantations.”
Improving living conditions also involves access to health care. Karuna’s programme also aims to provide medical care and training to the population. The aim is to help them to remain independent while ensuring that the health of both humans and animals is protected. Thus, laboratories and health centres have been opened to the inhabitants and veterinarians intervene to respond to animal needs.
The veterinary programme consists of several steps. Firstly, Karuna brings the medicines, vitamins and dewormers. Then the products are transported by mules up the mountain to be distributed to as many farmers as possible in the Ruby Valley. Finally, the animals are cared for and the farmers are given training in the correct practices to adopt. To date, Karuna has given vitamins and deworming medication to 12,472 animals from 663 different families.
Maruni testifies to the positive effect of the care on her animals: “Thanks to Karuna-Shechen, I was able to get multivitamins for my ewes and pregnant cows. In winter, the animals don’t have enough grass to eat and they get weak, especially pregnant animals, so the multi-vitamins will make them stronger.”
This has an impact not only on the health of the animals but also on the health of the humans who consume some of their produce. Dhana B.K., 55, lives in Tipling, Ruby Valley, with his wife and daughter. A farmer by profession, he owns four buffaloes and his daily chores are to work on the farm and look after the animals. Like the other farmers in the village, he has also received the veterinary medicines distributed by Karuna-Shechen. “Before giving these medicines, the milk was just enough for the calves. The dewormer and multivitamins have not only increased their appetite, but they are also giving more milk.”
Karuna’s new programmes in the Ruby Valley aim to protect nature and its vulnerable population in an atypical living environment. Through a holistic approach, our teams aim to provide a better standard of living while allowing communities to maintain their independence and respect for the land.
With the health crisis, health needs and daily obstacles have increased.
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