An important issue in the Spiti valley is the availability of green vegetables throughout the year, especially in the winters. Due to harsh climatic conditions in the 6 month long winter (temperature go as low as -30 degree centigrade) it is practically impossible to grow anything. Most of the vegetables that are available in Spiti (all imported from the neighbouring regions) are centred around the urban areas and not accessible to villagers in remoter areas. The other issue pertains to the high costs of these vegetables as they require long distance transportation which also gives them a very high carbon footprint. In the winter months when most of the road access to Spiti is blocked the accessibility of green vegetables becomes even harder and more expensive.
Based on a simple concept of using passive solar technology, the improved green houses are well adapted to the geographic and socio-economic context of cold desert areas such as Spiti. Since these green houses enable vegetable cultivation in harsh climatic conditions, they not only contribute in providing additional income to the locals but also contribute to the improvement of daily nutritional intake. Besides they help in reducing the heavy carbon footprint of the vegetables brought from outside.
Towards Women’s Empowerment
Most of the agricultural and domestic labour work is done by the women, however it has no economic recognition to it. The running of the green houses and selling of vegetables will in the long run enable the women to earn their own income. This will give them a greater decision making authority within the household.
Green Houses – A Simple and Efficient Technology
The green house concept consists in providing plants with the necessary sunshine and the adequate temperature for their growth. The solar energy is collected on the south face of the green house through a transparent polythene sheet. The heat is then stored in the walls and released during the night. The wall insulation maintains the inner temperature at a reasonable level. The walls are double and the air gap is filled with locally available materials (straw, dung saw dust) or garbage. The latter is not only a great insulating material but also helps in resolving the menace of garbage in the region. The roof, made of branches and mud, increases the insulation. A door and some shutters, on the roof and the walls, help to ventilate the green house to avoid overheating.
A new design, based on local materials (mud brick, local wood, straw, etc), adapted to the investment capacity of the farmers and to the skill of the local masons, was developed to enable rural farmers to grow vegetables during winter (up to -25 degree centigrade), to supplement their own needs and also to supply to the local markets.
Monitoring shows that farmers, mostly women, are able to generate Rs. 1500 per month (25 Euro per month) and save an equal amount of money with a 50 sq m greenhouse and increase their income by 50%. The profits have been found to be often invested in children’s education.
Ecosphere has so far built over 30 green houses in the Spiti valley and another 25 in Lahaul. Ecosphere continues to develop these greenhouses in the valley through revenues generated from its tourism and other income generating initiatives. We also run various voluntours in the region to help build more greenhouses for the communities (for more detalis – link to voluntour page)
- Maintenance: Rs. 1800/ year
- Working time: < 8 hours/ week
- Over 50 Kgs of vegetables/ month
- Average income /savings of up to Rs. 2500/ month