Portrait of a Conservation Pioneer

Located about 25 kilometers from Tawang near the Indo-Tibetan border, Gomkhang village is home to Tsering Topgey and his unique organic nursery. The 68-year-old dedicates himself full-time to cultivating wild medicinal plants, to practicing Tibetan medicine and to creating awareness about the need for conservation.

As a young man working as a nurse in the Indian Army, Topgey accompanied Tibetan healer Tenzin Chotala on long treks in the Tawang hills to assess the availability of medicinal plants needed for Tibetan medicines. Chotala introduced Topgey to the notion that the forests of western Arunachal Pradesh are a store house of medicinal plants that contain the ultimate medical resources of the future.

Forests around Gomkhang

Tsering Topgey in his greenhouse

Plant species grown at Topgey’s nursery

With great enthusiasm, Topgey showed us his two-acre garden and greenhouse where he currently grows more than 20 medicinal plant species, each in its own plot and carefully labeled. From these he prepares medicines to treat illnesses ranging from common cold and cough to diarrhea, viral infections, and asthma. Over the past several years Topgey has helped over 1500 local villagers.

Tsering Topgey in his organic garden

Topgey told us that local youths have expressed interest in learning his methods, but at present he lacks the infrastructure required to conduct such training in a systematic way. With support from the state government, for example, Topgey is sure that he could establish a traditional healing and Tibetan medicine training center in Tawang along with a rare and endangered plant garden to supply the raw materials needed for medicine preparation.

We applaud Topgey’s perseverance and share his hope that, with the upsurge in popularity of Men-Tse-Khang facilities for Tibetan medical treatment recently set up by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the concepts born in his organic garden in Gomkhang will take root on a larger scale across Arunachal Pradesh and beyond.

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