Bengaluru: Urgain Phuntsog is a 48-year-old from Gya village. This village, sitting comfortably at 14,000 feet above sea level, is 70 km from Leh.  

He is an organic farmer. Losing his father at a young age, Urgain helped his mother in the field. At he grew up, he wanted to join ITBP and Indian Navy as well. But the love for his mother and organic farming drew him to this profession. 

“My father passed away when I was barely 12 years old, and I had no choice but to quickly learn ploughing, sowing, grinding flour and making irrigation channels as a young boy. Of course, starting out I would struggle with these tasks, but back then other residents of the village didn’t mind showing me the ropes. On the family farm, we would grow mustard, potatoes, peas and barley, but our main source of income and sustenance, particularly during the winters, was our livestock. The fondest memories I have of my childhood is working in the fields,” The Better India quoted him as saying. 

He adds further, “I realised that there was no one to look after my family and it was hopeless to expect a government job considering the circumstances of my family. My sister, Tsering, who decided to forego marriage and take care of our livestock, said that it would be a matter of shame if we didn’t work together to hold onto the land our ancestors left behind”. 

For his farming prowess, he has earned the epithet ‘Mitti Ka Aadmi’. At a height of 14,000 feet, he grows cereals, raises livestock, cultivates mushrooms.

His achievements have been published in a 2019 paper published in the International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences.  

“The name Mitti Ka Aadmi (man of the soil), which my fellow villagers have given me comes from my obsession with farming. They say I am too engaged with farming since there is soil on my clothes all the time. Even my sisters scold me saying that I spend too much time alone working with soil, which they argue will reduce my lifespan,” he adds further.