Climate Farming Workshop in Nepal (March 2016)

The Ithaka Institute organised a Climate Farming Workshop in Nepal from  March 26th to Saturday April 2nd 2016. About 15 participants from 7 countries, including B4SS project director, Ruy Anaya de la Rosa, had the opportunity to learn how some Nepali farmers are improving resilience and creating new rural jobs through biochar-based agroforestry.

Ithaka Institute organised the Climate Farming Workshop in Ratanpur, Nepal in March 2016

The workshop included:

  • construction of affordable round houses using local materials;
  • simple production of lacto-fermented fertilisers to enhance crop productivity and health;
  • design of combination plantings, such as milpa, for diversifing ecosystem services and diet;
  • construction and operation of kon tiki kilns in the ground;
  • production of biochar formulations using cow urine and bones;
  • different methods for application of biochar formulations;
  • planting trees with biochar formulations;
  • establishment and monitoring of biochar field trials; and
  • heat recovery from a Kon Tiki kiln in the ground to produce essential oils – in our visit, they used cinnamon leaves from trees in the village.

First we visited Bandipur village where a group of women showed us how to produce biochar in a Kon Tiki kiln in the ground. An increasing number of Nepali men is migrating from their rural villages to foreign countries, or to Kathmandu, in search of opportunities. We learned that many men from Bandipur and Ratanpur have migrated to build stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and may be receiving “appalling treatment”. Women have to organise themselves to do most of the daily work required in the villages. Therefore, the Ithaka Institute focussed their efforts on women and trained some of them to construct Kon Tiki kilns in the ground to produce biochar-based fertilisers, which they use for growing their crops. The high skills and experience in producing biochar of some women leaders in Bandipur was evident … they fired and operated the Kon Tiki kiln in the ground with only one match! They also quenched the biochar, in a very natural way, with cow urine.

Then, the workshop took place in Ratanpur village, which has about 120 households located in close proximity to each other. Hans-Peter Schmidt explained the principles of the Kon Tiki kilns, during a demonstration of how to build Kon Tiki kilns in the ground.

We operated the Kon Tiki kiln in the ground that a very skilled man constructed during the demonstration.

After running the Kon Tiki kiln, the biochar was quenched with water.

We also produced biochar in Kon Tiki kilns made out of metal.

Kon Tiki kiln

Biochar production in metal Kon Tiki kilns

Ratanpur is now being called a biochar village, and this was an opportunity for 22 farmers to show off their farming practices. Each farmer showed us their farm that included a Kon Tiki kiln in the ground and biochar trials with crops grown with and without biochar formulations. The results have been positive. Most farmers have goats, cows and/or buffalos, and so most of them have installed a pit with biochar next to the animals’ shed to recover the urine and “charge” the biochar with nutrients prior to application to soil.

Pit with biochar collecting urine

The pit with biochar (left-hand side) collects the urine that comes out of the animal shelter

Workshop participants were divided into two groups, each group visited 11 farmers. Initially, we were supposed to compare farmers’ practices and select the “best” farmers to be rewarded during a public meeting in the evening. It became clear, however, that farmers’ conditions were not equivalent (some farmers have more resources than others) and therefore they could not be evaluated with the same criteria.

Judging farmers practices was difficult

Selecting the “best farmers” was difficult because some farmers have more resources than others

At the end of the day, all the participants were very impressed with the collective work observed in the biochar village, and this was acknowledged during the meeting. Everyone was happy!

Multiple reasons exist for the successful promotion and adoption of biochar technologies in Ratanpur. Ruy considers that the most important reason for success in Ratanpur is the participation of numerous “champions” throughout the different levels of the project.

Thank you Ithaka Institute!

PS You can find more information about the Kon Tiki kiln and download the operating manuals at the Ithaka Institute website: