Indian farmers: voice of the oppressed

Archive for January, 2010

Herbal formulation finds acceptance after much convincing


Ishwar singh Kundu (right) clearing the doubts of a farmer about his herbal formulation.

CONVINCING A farmer to use a new innovation for his crops is quite a daunting task.

One cannot blame him for his suspicious nature which he claims, acts as a protective shield for his livelihood.

“Even if an expert speaks one whole day to the farmer, he cannot convince him. But if a farmer from another place, or region interacts and speaks then almost the entire village gets convinced,” says Prof Anil Gupta, Vice Chairman, National Innovation Foundation, (NIF), Ahmedabad, (phone: 079-26753338).

Cold shouldered

Take the case of a farmer Mr. Ishwar Singh Kundu, who developed his own herbal formulation (Kamaal- 505) for crops only to be ignored and cold shouldered by his ilk until he decided to use it in his 2 acres and invite farmers to come and see the positive results themselves.

“Many times I used to leave my samples with the farmers for them to test it on their crops and after some months,

Disappointed

“I used to get disappointed because farmers did not use his product and kept his sample aside for months.

It pained him to see his product lying unused in a corner of the field.

“The very mention of the word ‘herbal’ used to irritate some farmers. I tried to explain the merits of herbal formulations on the plant and the ill effects of inorganic pesticides and fertilizers,” says Mr. Ishwar. Somehow he managed to convince some farmers and as a result sold a few thousand rupees worth of his herbal formulation. “The herbal formulation produced good results in the Kurukshetra region, a rice belt,” he says.

When initially he started developing his formulation, he tested it by spraying it on his vegetable farm.

Later he started experimenting, changed the formulation, and tried it on paddy by mixing it with the fertilizer and spreading on the ground.

Excellent results

“This technique gave excellent results,” he says.

Slowly he started reducing the fertilizer quantity mixed along with the pesticide. When given to farmers for testing, the product received a good feedback. Apart from giving good results on rice it also showed promising effects on maize and jowar crops. Mr. Ishwar is now testing it on aloe vera crops in Punjab.

“In the initial stages people used to show me a portion of their field which did not yield properly and attribute it to his formulation.”

Trying to fool

His own village farmers did not trust him and say that he boiled some leaves in water and trying to fool them.

But when farmers from other villages started using his formulation, his village people also slowly started showing interest in his work.

Giving details on how his herbal pesticide is manufactured, he says:

“I started experimenting with neem (Azadirachta indica). First, I boiled the neem leaves in water and sprayed the solution on the crops. I proceeded further as I got encouraging results. In the second phase I mixed neem oil with the solution and got even better results.”

Further development

He developed his technique further using neem leaves, neem oil, jaggery along with a couple of other herbs.

All these herbs are mixed with cow’s urine in a vessel. After fifteen days the solution is filtered and used. For more effectiveness neem leaf decoction can also be added to it.

He used a litre of herbal solution diluted in 100 litres of water and sprayed on paddy crops and obtained good results.

Good feedback

Feedback from the users indicates that it is helpful in controlling several pests, insects and termites. It acts as a pesticide, insecticide and growth promoter.

Animals also do not eat this crop because the presence of the solution on the leaves makes it taste bitter.

“The product is a good hit in the local market and is fetching steady income for the innovator. “Queries are also being received from other states also,” says Prof. Gupta.

A patent for this formulation has been filed by NIF which supports him under the Micro Venture Innovation Fund (MVIF) of NIF-SIDBI.

For more information readers can contact Mr. Ishwar singh Kundu, Krishico Herbolic Laboratories (Regd.), Village Kailram, District Kaithal, ,Haryana, email: kisan.kamaal@gmail.com, Phone: 09255544241.

A sense of traditional wisdom leads to useful innovations


IMAGINE A tractor driven like a bullock cart. Instead of using reins, two joysticks turn, accelerate or stop the left and right wheels independently.

“The very idea of doing away with the steering wheel would not even occur to most automobile designers.

“But for the 10th pass self-taught innovator and farmer, Mr. Bachubhai Savajibhai Thesia, inventing and designing several low cost farm machineries is a hobby,” says Prof Anil Gupta, Vice Chairman, National Innovation Foundation (NIF), Ahmedabad.

Mr. Thesia lives in village Kalavad, 30 km away from Jamnagar, Gujarat.

“I see new opportunities in what appears as junk to others,” he says.

Two joysticks

His small wheel rotary tractor is operated by joysticks. He masked the gearbox with card boards.

A simple diesel engine fitted on a chassis made especially for the tractor using an old axle of a used vehicle. Motor power drives the rear wheels, equipped with brakes.

“The idea of making a tractor with a joystick came from the rope tied to the bullock cart oxen,” says Mr. Thesia

Same as bullock cart

As you pull the rope left or right, the animal turns and when you pull it hard andstraight, it stops. This tractor works exactly the same way.

The tractor takes sharper turns than any other existing tractors available in the market and a person operating it can manoeuvre it with ease using the two joysticks.

The machine operates on a 10 HP stationary engine and consumes around five litres of diesel for eight hours of work.

Low on funds

“I am not able to work on it further as I am low on funds at present.” he says. The Foundation helped him file a patent for his discovery.

“There are thousands of farmers with their acute sense of traditional knowledge and wisdom who discover several efficient and pocket friendly devices or gadgets. But they struggle hard to gain recognition.

Why should an innovator struggle so much?” asks Prof Anil Gupta.

Mr. Thesia’s other inventions are:

a simple seed sowing rolling device (He made two models of the device, one with smaller holes for smaller seeds and the other one with larger holes).

Explosion circuit

An explosion circuit made at a cost of Rs.700 that provides 500 volt power for exploding dynamite sticks to dig open wells in hard rocky areas.

A motorcycle plough scooter, an electricity tester which can test current without touching wires.

Metal comb

A metal comb for removing chickpea pods and a modified bulb which elongates the life of the bulb many times due to a small circuit that he inserts. The light is good for farm (though not for home) because of slight flickering. “Absence of encouragement for such practical creativity at community level is the main drawback in our country.

Not a simple question

These are not simple questions; answers to these will determine the shapethe destinyour country will takein the future,” says Prof Gupta.

For more details contact Mr. Bachubhai Savjibhai Thesia, Cinema road, opposite Sisu Mandir, Digvijay plot, village: Kalavad (Sitala), Jamnagar, Gujarat, mobile: 9375956870 and The National Innovation Foundation (NIF) , Bungalow No.1 – Satellite Complex, Premchand Nagar Road, Ahmedabad 380 015 India, website: www.nifindia.org, e-mail: info@nifindia.org, phone: 079-26753338 and 26732456.

Thesia driving his new invention in his field at Jamnagar, Gujarat.

An experiment with asafoetida leads to a crop protection technique


The farmer, Chellamuthu, in his field with the asafoetida placed inside a gunny bag at Kodumudi, Erode, Tamil Nadu.

INVENTIONS AND discoveries by farmers do not often get recognition from experts because they find a lack of scientific validity. But farmers who benefit from such discoveries vouch for their efficiency. Mr. K. Chellamuthu, a farm labourer, at Kodumudi village, Erode, Tamil Nadu, came under a lot of criticism from experts, when he developed a herbal spray for control of eriophyd mite in coconut trees. Non poisonous “Unlike toxic chemical sprays, the bio-spray being non poisonous, does not cause harm to the crops, field, environment and humans,” says Dr. K. Natrajan (mobile: 9443358379) a physician and organic farmer in Kodumudi. Giving details on its preparation, Mr. Chellamuthu says: “About one kg of custard apple leaves, turmeric rhizome, peenari changu (Tamil name) (Clerodendrum inermi), Aloe vera, Nochi (Vitex negundo), neem kernel (Azadirachta indica) and calotropis (calotropis gigantia) each should be ground into a fine paste by adding sufficient water and about five litres of essence extracted from it. “The essence must be diluted in 15 litres of water (to make it 20 litres) and sprayed on to the crown of the tree at the rate of 2 litres per tree after harvesting the nuts. “The procedure should be repeated once every two months. “Nearly 2,000 coconut trees treated with my herbal formula are healthy and about 300 farmers are using it,” says Mr. Chellamuthu. Regular spraying Regular spraying (once every 2 months in the beginning and later twice a year) controls the infestation, according to Chellamuthu. The farmer also advocates use of asafoetida for increasing crop yield. “I accidentally discovered that asafoetida acts as a pest repellent and aids plant growth,” he says. The school dropout only knows that asafoetida benefits plant health but does not know why. Aids crop growth For an acre he places one kg of asafoetida inside a sack and places it in the irrigation channel. “The water along with the dissolved asafoetida repels pests and aids crop growth,” he says. Where did he learn this technique? “I once jokingly suggested to my neighbour, to use the surplus half-a-kg asafoetida he had, on his ring gourd plants affected by pests. I wanted to tease him and did not know the consequences,” he says. Healthy yield To the neighbour’s and his own surprise, the plants not only survived the pest attack but also grew well to yield bigger, healthier gourds than the normal ones. Similarly a farmer from a neighbouring village, on hearing about this, also used it in his 2.5 acres for jasmine plants and got a good yield. “I started experimenting asafoetida’s effect on paddy, sesame seeds, ground nut, tomato, brinjal and other crops and found that the yield increased and the plants were healthy,” says Chellamuthu. Several farmers in the district have stopped spraying pesticides and follow Chellamuthu’s practice. Positive report The Centre for Plant Protection Studies at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, undertook a scientific study on the effect of the bio-spray on paddy and brinjal crops and endorsed its usage. For more information readers can contact Mr. Chellamuthu at Karukkamapalayam, Oonchalur Post, Kodumudi via, Erode District, Tamil Nadu, phone: 04204-266127, mobile: 9486602389.

Tasting the fruits of labour, in season, out of season


The farmer Allimuthu showing the mango tree in which more than 20 varieties have been grafted in his farm at Namakkal, Tamil Nadu.

More often than not, agricultural discoveries or innovations by farmers come out of necessity and not an accident. Farmers know the practical problems both on and off the field, and keep thinking about solutions. “A farmer invests money, time and labour and must get a good price for his produce to survive,” says P. Allimuthu a mango farmer of Namakkal district in Tamil Nadu. Own example “Take my own case as an example,” he says: “Some years back I cultivated some mangoes and got a good price during the season. But once the season ended, like many others, I had no work. “Unlike office goers, who get salaries all through the year, we get income only during the season and for the rest of the year we either remain idle or start working for the next season. “By that time our pockets would have thinned and we used to hunt around for money to keep our home fires burning. Continuing trend “Since our forefathers’ days this has been the trend for us and many others. “This made me think that if only the trees bore fruits all through the year, they would continue to fetch income. I did not know how to bring this about initially. But after interacting with the staff of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in my area, during a farmers’ meet, “I learnt that through grafting, a single mango tree can be made to bear different fruit varieties throughout the year,” explains Mr. Allimuthu. After attending some training programmes the farmer started grafting some of his trees. Solution “Usually mango farmers cite pest infestation or low bearing as the reason for cutting down their trees. But I learnt through personal experience that by grafting, low yielding trees can also be made to bear more fruits,” he says. Pointing to a tree he says: “If you look closely at this tree you can notice that more than 20 varieties are grafted in this and I get different fruits all through the year.” Good yield Unlike a single variety, a tree in which different varieties are grafted may not give the same yield, but if a majority of trees in a farm are grafted then one can get a good yield (different varieties) all through the year, according to him. The farmer further elaborates: “Farmers should understand that to get a good price, they must be able to supply their produce even during lean periods and if possible throughout the year. “Mangoes are available only during a particular season and one cannot command a good price during the season. Lean period “We are at the mercy of the buyers during peak season. But if you can supply during lean periods then the farmer dictates terms to the buyer,” the farmer says. At present Mr. Allimuthu teaches a number of farmers to graft their own seedlings. “Interested farmers can visit my farm and learn to graft their required varieties. I am also selling the grafted seedlings at Rs. 50 per seedling,” he says. For more information readers can contact Mr. P. Allimuthu, Rasipuram taluka, Minakal post, Namakkal district, Tamil Nadu, mobile: 94435-11253, 94422-64273 and phone:04287-264273.

A management graduate’s mission to help the underprivileged


Kaushlendra (left) at one of the vegetable vending centres.

When even children of farmers are not taking to farming as a full time profession, a management graduate from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, Mr. Kaushlendra, instead of opting for a high-salaried job, set up a foundation to help poor vegetable growers, vendors, and farm labourers in Bihar.

Explaining the reason for this unusual decision, he says:

“When I enrolled at the Gujarat College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology at Junagadh, the prosperous farms, booming industries and above all, the industriousness of the State impressed me.

“Compared to my native Mohammadpur village in Nalanda district of Bihar, where villagers even now have to trudge 2 km on a dusty path before reaching the main road. I nursed a desire to do something to change the lives of the poor and disadvantaged.”

Providing a platform

After completing his education, Mr. Kaushlendra started the foundation ‘Kaushalya’ which he says,

“Provides a platform of opportunities for gainful and dignified self-employment for families dependent on agriculture, especially disadvantaged sections (farmers, farm labourers, vegetable vendors and ensuring sustainable livelihood, improved quality of life and human values.”

Professionalizing street vendors and marginal growers, and empowering them to face future challenges in the new global economy seemed a big challenge at first, because bringing them together, interacting and convincing them took time, according to him.

Project Samriddhii

Under a project called Samriddhii, Mr. Kaushlendra created a vegetable supply chain and linked together scattered vegetable growers and vendors in the state.

The project staff collected the vegetables from the farmers and supplied them to the vegetable vendors.

“Our staff also supplied high quality vegetable seeds to farmers through a tie-up with reputed seed suppliers and also offer crop production services to them,” he says.

Partnership

“We also formed partnerships between farmers and vendors with a focus on shared interests and mutual development. “To maintain product integrity and continuity from source to the customer, our organization established an integrated supply chain which connects and maintains the goods flow from the source (growers) to customers (road-side vendors, organized retail, food service and hospitality industry”, explains Mr. Kaushlendra.

Growing numbers

About 600 farmers, 300 vegetable vendors, 11 Farmers’ Self Help Groups and 26 women vegetable vendors are associated with the organization at present.

Sensitization programmes to inform and introduce the producers and vendors to the value of collective action under a business model are regularly organized.

A beneficiary, Ms. Poonam Devi says:

“I took credit from money lenders (a hefty 10 per cent a day) in the absence of any other facility after my husband’s death. Local policemen and sometimes anti-social element fleeced and harassed me.

Daily earning

“My daily earning after long hard work and harassment hardly met my daily requirements. Fortunately, I met members of the Foundation (KF), who encouraged me to from a Self Help Group (SHG).

“Today I am able to earn about Rs.200 a day and am able to provide three meals a day to my children and send them to school for some basic education. I feel confident and empowered,” she says with a smile.

For more information contact Mr. Kaushlendra, Managing trustee, Kaushlya Foundation, I Floor, K/A-44, Lalita Market, Hanuman Nagar, Kankerbagh, Patna- 800020,website: www.kaushalyafoundation.org, email- kaushal.indra@gmail.com, mobile: 09304446443

Tasting the fruits of labour, in season, out of season


The farmer Allimuthu showing the mango tree in which more than 20 varieties have been grafted in his farm at Namakkal, Tamil Nadu

More often than not, agricultural discoveries or innovations by farmers come out of necessity and not an accident. Farmers know the practical problems both on and off the field, and keep thinking about solutions.

“A farmer invests money, time and labour and must get a good price for his produce to survive,” says P. Allimuthu a mango farmer of Namakkal district in Tamil Nadu.

Own example

“Take my own case as an example,” he says:

“Some years back I cultivated some mangoes and got a good price during the season. But once the season ended, like many others, I had no work.

“Unlike office goers, who get salaries all through the year, we get income only during the season and for the rest of the year we either remain idle or start working for the next season.

“By that time our pockets would have thinned and we used to hunt around for money to keep our home fires burning.

Continuing trend

“Since our forefathers’ days this has been the trend for us and many others.

“This made me think that if only the trees bore fruits all through the year, they would continue to fetch income. I did not know how to bring this about initially.

But after interacting with the staff of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in my area, during a farmers’ meet, “I learnt that through grafting, a single mango tree can be made to bear different fruit varieties throughout the year,” explains Mr. Allimuthu.

After attending some training programmes the farmer started grafting some of his trees.

Solution

“Usually mango farmers cite pest infestation or low bearing as the reason for cutting down their trees. But I learnt through personal experience that by grafting, low yielding trees can also be made to bear more fruits,” he says. Pointing to a tree he says:

“If you look closely at this tree you can notice that more than 20 varieties are grafted in this and I get different fruits all through the year.”

Good yield

Unlike a single variety, a tree in which different varieties are grafted may not give the same yield, but if a majority of trees in a farm are grafted then one can get a good yield (different varieties) all through the year, according to him.

The farmer further elaborates:

“Farmers should understand that to get a good price, they must be able to supply their produce even during lean periods and if possible throughout the year.

“Mangoes are available only during a particular season and one cannot command a good price during the season.

Lean period

“We are at the mercy of the buyers during peak season. But if you can supply during lean periods then the farmer dictates terms to the buyer,” the farmer says.

At present Mr. Allimuthu teaches a number of farmers to graft their own seedlings. “Interested farmers can visit my farm and learn to graft their required varieties. I am also selling the grafted seedlings at Rs. 50 per seedling,” he says.

For more information readers can contact Mr. P. Allimuthu, Rasipuram taluka, Minakal post, Namakkal district, Tamil Nadu, mobile: 94435-11253, 94422-64273 and phone:04287-264273.

Zero farming: no investment, yet guarantees good yield


The concept of natural farming, “revolves around the theory that ‘nature knows best’ and hence it is better to leave everything in her care.

“No ploughing, fertilizers or weeding needed to get a good harvest.”

That may sound like a fairy tale. But if one visits the farm of Mr. M.K. Kailash Murthy, of Doddinduvadi village of Kollegal taluk in Chamarajanagar district, you will realise it is true.

A banker who left his job to become a farmer, Mr. Murthy says, “external inputs are not necessary for getting a good yield.”

Inspiration

He calls this system of farming “zero farming method” and says, “reading the book The One-Straw Revolution written by Masanobu Fukuoka, a pioneer in natural farming in Japan, motivated me to follow this technique.”

The concept of natural farming, “revolves around the theory that ‘nature knows best’ and hence it is better to leave everything in her care,” he says.

In his 6.5 acres, Mr. Murthy, like several farmers, used fertilizers and pesticides and got a good yield.

Declining yield

“However, to my dismay, the yield started reducing steadily every year. Desperate to find a solution for this declining yield, I decided to experiment on the zero farming technique in my field.

“Except seeds, I did not use any other external input and a remarkable transformation started taking place gradually,” says Mr. Murthy.

The natural balance of the soil got restored, which transformed his fields into a mini-forest. Thousands of plant varieties, including many medicinal plants, started growing.

Bountiful birds

Several bird species and reptiles made their homes in the farm. “But this transformation was not an overnight miracle. It takes time,” he cautions.

On an experimental basis he harvested about 3 tonnes of paddy by this method from one acre against 1.18 tonnes harvested by his neighbours using fertilizers and modern techniques. “Farmers must understand that pests are natural occurrences. Left alone, the crops develop a resistance to them.

“Merely spraying the crops with pesticides will not control the pests. Initially it may seem to control, but in the long run the pests become immune,” he explains.

Myth broken

Zero farming method requires no investment but guarantees good yield. It dispels the myth that hybrid seeds, fertilizers, and pest-control techniques alone can guarantee good yield.

“Visitors can personally come and see my farm and if they desire, can emulate it,” says Mr. Murthy. Switching directly from chemical farming to natural farming is a risky proposition, according to him.

Soil productivity

“It is better to maintain soil productivity by adopting organic farming for at least three years before switching over to natural farming,” he explains.

In future, more than food crises, global warming threatens to create serious harm to the planet.

With this method of farming one can reduce global warming which in turn increases food production and protection of bio-diversity, according to him.

But how far is this technique reliable to feed the world population?

“In the last five to six decades, we have inflicted irreparable damage to the lands as a result of which agricultural output is declining.

“This method rejuvenates the land, which directly increases the food output. Instead of worrying about what to do to the land, we have to think about what not to do,” he concludes.

Positive report

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, Bangalore visited his farm and endorsed his zero farming technique.

For more information contact Mr. M.K. Kailash Murthy, Academy of Natural Farming, Doddinduvadi village, Kollegal, Chamarajanagar district, Karnataka, website: www.the-anf.org, email: kailashnatufarm@gmail.com, mobile: 9880185757 and 9845125808.

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