Monday, July 12, 2010


Raised Bed Farming – One of the simple solutions for food crisis

Today, our world communities are confronting the worst food crisis in 45 years. The World Bank estimates that 100 million people are falling deeper into poverty as prices for basic staples that feed the world - wheat, rice, and corn - have risen by a staggering 83%. Right now, hundreds of thousands are facing potential famine and starvation unless something is done to curb the rising cost of food.

"With one child dying every five seconds from hunger-related causes, the time to act is now," stressed Prime Minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown during a joint White House news conference with President George Bush.

According to the survey, conducted between December 2005 and August 2006, a whopping 45.9 per cent of India's under-three kids are underweight, 39 per cent are stunted, 20 per cent severely malnourished, 80 per cent anaemic while infant mortality hovers at 67 per 1,000. More than 6,000 Indian children below five years die everyday due to malnourishment or lack of basic micro-nutrients like Vitamin A, iron, iodine, zinc or folic acid. Overall, India hosts 57 million - or more than a third - of the world's 146 million undernourished children.

After the globalisation and liberalisation the overall control of the world is belonging to the business corporate houses. Food security and sovereignty is under threat of the small and marginal people. Agriculture investment is decreased due to the external pressure to the Government. Every day the crisis of food security is increasing through various angles.

We have 65% of the population dependent on agriculture but we have less than 2% public funding in the agriculture sector. Yields are declining because of soil deterioration due to “Green Revolution”. Excessive chemicals and pesticides used in the conventional methods as prescribed by the "Green Revolution". In the 1950's Green Revolution had its relevance when the soils still had fertility and there was water table. But now it has outlived its utility. There is an over draw of groundwater by tube wells owned by big farmers who are able to create irrigation facility. These farmers, as long as there is water available in the tube well, do unsustainable cultivation in the form of growing Paddy, Sugarcane, Banana and such other water intensive crops in dry areas!!

Land degradation and salinity due to water logging and poor drainage because of the big irrigation dams resulting in thousands of acres of land. Lack of crop rotation and mono cropping has increased the risks of pest attacks and soil degradation resulting in the usage of more fertilizers and chemicals.

Small and marginal Farmers are not able to afford the cost of fertilizers, petroleum fuels & energy at commercial rates. They are heavily indebted due to crop failures resulting from pest attacks & vagaries of climate. Most of these small and marginal farmers are also dry land farmers with no irrigation facility and hence the heavy dependency on Monsoon.

Whenever the Government conceives of any program for agriculture it is always property-centric. There is also not much effort put in to create awareness to the farmers about the same and one should be an enlightened khata (patta) holder of a piece of land for you to avail of these benefits. Recently somebody was telling that by the time they got the information, the department people said that the beneficiaries have been already distributed the benefits and they have to wait for the next batch!! What this means is that only the rich and influential people who have anyways access to everything also have access to these programs. The marginalized or the resource poor farmer doesn't get any information at all. Let alone the benefits.

Now let us come to the plight of the landless agricultural labourers or the resource poor ones. These are the people who are dependent on the work that they get from the land holding farmers. If there is good monsoon and all the other conditions are favourable these people get work and their livelihood gets somewhat taken care of but otherwise the only option left to them is migration in search of labour and the resultant proliferation of the cities / towns and the creation of slums and their associated health problems. Some of them also is fighting for their land rights as well. For nearly 58 yrs their struggles have yielded very minimal results.

ADISIL had experimented a small venture to safeguard the food security of the local community through Raised Bed Farming initiative. It will address the food crisis, landlessness, women enslavement and unsustainable agriculture.
The following objects of the intervention,

To supply organic and local food to the community

To make the women working as a cooperative way in the village

To make employment and income through the vegetable cultivation

The "raised" part means that the soil level in the bed is higher than the surrounding soil, and "bed" implies a size small enough to work without actually stepping onto the bed. A bed should be no wider than 4 feet, but length can be whatever suits the site or gardener's needs. Wider beds can be subdivided into sections accessible from planks or stepping-stones. The bed does not have to be enclosed or framed, but if unframed, the use of power tillers is feasible. Framing offers several other opportunities, however; and a properly maintained bed will not need power cultivation.

Another reason for greater production in a given space is the improvement of soil conditions. Soil compaction can reduce crop yields up to 50 percent. Water, air and roots all have difficulty moving through soil compressed by tractors, tillers or human feet. Ploughs, tillers or spades have been the usual answer to this problem, but gardeners can avoid the problem completely by creating beds narrow enough to work from the sides. Soil organic matter content can be increased greatly without getting bogged down.

The narrow dimensions of beds are advantageous for water conservation. There are several watering systems that ensure the water gets only where it is needed. Canvas soaker hoses, perforated plastic sprinkle hoses and drip-type irrigation disperse water in a long, narrow pattern well suited to beds. They also reduce disease by directing water to the soil instead of wetting leaf surfaces as with overhead irrigation.

A small village in Madurai district was the target village and a 20-member women group was the target people. They were landless poor belongs to Dalit community.

The small group of women was taking responsibility of this project. Half an acre of Land hired for the trail cultivation. The 25% of profit would be given to the landowner. She had accepted to supply water for the raised beds. The women were come forward and followed the various organic farming techniques. ADISIL expert team had provide the technical support. The beds are prepared by the women folk with small tools and hand. They collect the biomass around the village and put it them in the bed. The bed was put up with garden soil and biomass. This mixer was turning slowly in rich humus.

The size of the bed was 4 feed breadth and 20 feet length and the height was 2 feet. Two feet pathways were allocated to feeding water and collect the vegetable. Vegetables are high value crops because of their perishable nature. They are short-term crops (45-60 days) with a chance of doing 3-4 cycles in a year. Since they can be repeated over 3-4 cycles, if for some reason a mistake happens and the crop is lost there is still a chance of doing 2-3 cycles more and overcome the loss due to the mistake. Vegetables have high nutritive value and help to eradicate the malnutrition of the rural community.

After the cultivation the women were harvest cluster beans continuously. Twenty nos of beds were cultivated with bendi, brinjal and tomato crops in rotational basis. They are consuming themselves and also selling the vegetables in the local villagers.

This venture attracted a local bank manager and he initiated a dialogue with the TADCO official. ADISIL coordinator also contacted to the Project Officer and gets a loan of Rs. 40000 with a subsidy of Rs. 1.25000 to up scaling the project further.

This is a model and viable replicable model for the landless poor women communities.

Svaraj’s support for this intervention:

Only through the Svaraj, Bangalore support this venture had succeeded. Svaraj had provided not only the finance support but also guidance to organise the women committee and conceptual clarity. Mr. Rajkumar (Svaraj team) discussed with ADISIL team elaborately about this project. He had visited two times to the village and discussed with the committee members.

1 comment:

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