Abali Organic Tea

About Abali Organic Tea Estate
Abali Organic Tea Estate located in the Lower  Dibang Valley,18 kms from Roing in Arunachal Pradesh, India, is a picture of calm serenity  swathed in a sea of bright forest green as the  tea bushes wait patiently to reveal their secrets.  It is lodged in the eastern most part of the  country, on the foothills of the Himalayas,  overlooking the snow clad peaks which look  down on the mighty Brahamaputra river, known in the ancient Indian scriptures as the Gandharvanagri.

Ancient Ayurveda and Modern Techniques Worked Together for Abali Organic Tea Estate
. This is also the land of Idu Mishmi and Adi  Padum tribe. They came centuries ago from China across the Himalayas . Even today they have their  kinsmen on the other side of the border in China. They were very ferocious people and till the early 1900's  were fighting the British near Sadiya where tea was first found in India.

In economic terms too, the decision of Binod Saharia and his partners to go for organic tea has paid off since chemical farming was a losing proposition. But keeping the costs of organic tea production down was a challenge Binod faced and it was sheer synchronicity that led him to meet with Swami Valmiki Srinivasa Ayangarya from Karnataka who introduced the methods of Vrikshayurveda (ancient Indian science of Agriculture) on Abali Organic Tea Estate. This was in 2004 and there has been no looking back ever since.

Methods of Vrikshayurveda, the seed for the abali organic tea estate

For organic tea, Vrikshayurveda (Ayurveda for the plants) methods have improved the soil fertility, corrected mineral deficiencies, righted the pH balance of the soil and have almost eliminated heliopeltis, leaf blister and a host of other plant diseases and pests which could not be controlled by chemical methods. And all this in the space of a little more than a year!

This seemingly miraculous transformation  which Swami Valmiki Srinivasa Ayangarya  claimed for preparing the organic tea estate at abali was the first grand experiment of  its kind in organic tea production in the  whole of India . A down-to-earth man with a  great sense of humour Swami Valmiki had  been experimenting with the methods described in the eleventh century Sanskrit treatise Vrikshayurveda by Surapala for the  past 15 years or so in the coffee estates of Karnataka. In the course of his experiments  he had devised his own formulations to suit  the situations he was called upon to deal  with, which were based on the spirit of the  Vrikshayurveda treatise though not  mentioned specifically in it.

He had asked for a free hand in implementing his methods to convert Abali Organic Tea Estate to full organic production and Binod Saharia had granted his request. Binod admitted  that it was tantamount to taking a big risk but then he had little choice in the matter since chemical  production was not viable either. However, it was a risk that paid off handsomely if the health of the tea  bushes, their deep glossy green leaves and general vigour were anything to go by. Tea brewed from  these leaves tasted like ambrosia to me with a wonderful liqueur (colour) the colour of deep amber.

Another fact to be noted is the near absence of mosquitoes on the abali organic tea estate even after sunset. Vrikshayurveda methods has eliminated not only heliopeltis but also ordinary mosquitoes and thus the menace of malaria amongst the staff and tea garden.

Vrikshayurveda and its methods have achieved such phenomenal results with such little inputs. Listening to Swami Valmiki, and absorbing the sights and sounds of tea garden life makes one realize that Vrikshayurveda is the epitome of the Purusha sukta of the Rig Veda wherein Purusha , the Supreme Being sacrificed himself to bring creation and the Vedic social order into being. Here too, Nature is being sacrificed (or utilized) to feed or propagate itself. The other salient feature underlying Swamiji's approach was "Living in the present moment."

At Abali Organic Tea Estate Swami Valmiki has come up with more than 20 formulations using the local vegetation, mostly wild fruits, grasses, leaves and weeds like guatemala grass, mechania, outenga, rabak tenga and the like.

The use of cow dung and cow urine is also important and about 50 cows are being maintained by the tea garden. They are allowed to roam and graze on the outlying fields. They are not being given the usual commercial cattle feed since it is their dung and urine which is the desired product. This is known as Dry Dairy. Even parthenium (congress grass), lantana and water hyacinth, rampant weeds are used to prepare Vrikshayurveda preparations to boost soil fertility and plant health. Since the local vegetation and available biomass varies from region to region and even from one tea estate to another, the formulations have to be different in each instance.

Two simple formulations that Swamiji uses extensively at Abali are termed as "sasyagavya" and "chara sudha". "Sasyagavya" consists of one part green biomass, one part cow dung and one part water mixed together and is allowed to ferment in a drum for a period of 10-15 days. The resultant slurry is used as a foliar spray and as a soil drench. Its viscosity and pH balance is also important to achieve the desired results. The timing of application is also critical and early morning before sunrise or late afternoon are the best times for spraying. The workers have become accustomed to waking up at 3 a.m. , preparing the foliar spray according to the desired strength and finishing the spraying by 5 a.m. before total sunrise. "Chara Sudha" consists of fermenting waste in a covered vessel buried underground for a period of three months or so. The resultant liquid is a potent manure and growth promoter which works wonders on all types of crops.

The water at Abali taste sweet, the milk from  the cows heavenly and the locally grown red  rice, locally pressed mustard oil and the  various gourds and squashes made for  wonderful, delicious meals. Human health is  as important as plant and animal health and  only by adopting the holistic approach of  Vrikshayurveda could all prosper and enjoy  life on this beautiful planet, a planet of love,  prosperity and plenty if only we have the eyes  and the hearts to see, feel and experience all  of this and more!

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