On 25 April 2015 a massive earthquake struck Nepal, affecting the country and its people deeply. There was a series of earthquakes over several days, with the most devastating one reaching 7.8 on the Richter scale. As well as numerous small tremors, a further large earthquake of 7.3 magnitude hit on 12 May.
These earthquakes caused serious damage to many parts of the capital, Kathmandu; however, the worst of the damage was seen in the rural villages in fourteen districts surrounding the city. Over 9000 people were killed, and nearly a million homes were destroyed. Infrastructure, farms and businesses were also destroyed, and years of small growth and development wiped out.
Sunrise Farm in Rani Patati village, near Kathmandu, is a community farm owned and managed by Mr Shyam Shrestha and his family. It is a working farm, established in 1995, offering demonstration, training, and seed and seedling distribution facilities. It also runs a program committed to demonstration of, and training about, sustainable agriculture and community development techniques and approaches. A diversity of foods and resources is grown, including: roots; grain; leaf, fruit and flower crops from trees, shrubs, grasses and herbs; firewood; animal fodder; and mulch. Crops are protected by integrated pest management strategies, encouraged by created microclimates.
Immediately after the earthquakes, hundreds of people descended on the farm’s land, to get away from large buildings that were collapsing all around. The farmhouse was structurally damaged and became unsafe, and the barn was totally destroyed.
Many people sheltered under hastily constructed plastic tarps, including the Shrestha family. They cooked for dozens of displaced people for four days, until emergency services, water and electricity reached the area. The family continued catering for their community for some weeks, using the farm’s abundant vegetables and grains grown in organic no-till beds.
Following a crowd-funding appeal, donations and a micro-grant from Permafund, work to rebuild Sunrise Farm started in November 2015. However, it was affected by the embargo on Nepal by India, which ran from September 2015 until January 2016.
Commodities became unavailable or, at best, prohibitively expensive as fuel became rare. While the city lacked cooking gas, forests around the valley began to be stripped. The Shresthas were able to cook on the Farm’s ageing biogas unit, fuelled by recycled manure plus biomass supplemented by firewood from their agroforestry.
The delay was used for planning and research into the best methods of rebuilding. Work started in December 2015, with deconstruction of damaged areas of the house and barn, and recycling of the materials.
The house rebuild involved jacking up existing concrete beams, and strengthening them with new and stronger beams infilled with traditional brickwork, using both recycled bricks from the demolished walls and stabilised compressed earth bricks (SCEBs). The SCEBs were manufactured using a hydraulic ram made in Nepal, with an earth and six per cent cement mix; they weren’t fired. The house has been completely restored, except for plastering and painting, which will be done in autumn 2016, following a planned training course in lime plastering.
Work on the barn used a combination of SCEBs, stone and mud mortar, bamboo (both as structural beams and woven as wall fabric), with a corrugated tin and perspex roof for extra light. The barn is also complete, except for detailing and painting.
Sunrise Farm was fortunate to strike up a partnership with International Disaster Volunteers (IDV), which provided an architect and a stream of volunteer helpers. The family is now constructing a new training hall, also with IDV help, and aims to have it complete, or at least covered, before the monsoon sets in.
Sunrise Farm has already begun to host training and demonstration projects, thanks to the help of crowd-funding and donations. Permaculture diploma induction events, and farmers’ field trip visits, will be included.
To help rebuild Sunrise Farm, go to their crowd-funding website at www.gofundme.com/wr2cn5y4.
Permafund… It’s About Fair Share
Permafund exists to receive funds and distribute them to permaculture projects around the world that desperately need them. Money is donated by permaculture businesses, groups and individuals, raising $10 000 which was distributed in Permafund’s 2015 micro-grant round to the following organisations.
GrassRoots Economics, Kenya $2000
OTEPIC, The Organic Technology Extension and Promotion of Initiative Centre, Kenya $2000
CENDEP Centre for Nursery Development and Eru Propagation Cameroon $1500
THREAD, Team for Human Resource Education and Action for Development, India $1500
Sekolahkan, Java $1000
Epic Inc. Sherbrooke Forest, Victoria $1000
Sunrise Farm, Nepal $500
To support future grant rounds donate to Permafund (Permaculture International Public Fund). Donations of $2.00 or more are tax deductible. To learn more see http://permacultureaustralia.org.au/permafund