Theory of change:
"Show people the alternatives, link them to the people practicing, provide them support to innovate and communities find their indigenous sustainable solutions..."
Sustainable Agriculture Programme
"Urmul farm is teaching us revolutionary techniques of farming. Sustainable farming has opened new ways for us. Being a farmer in the Thar is easier for us now." -Neola Ram, Farmer
"I am impressed with the concept of organic farming and with the assurance of increase in milk yield with Azolla. I feel that a huge sum of money can be saved with organic farming" -Chena Ram, Program Participant
"I want to become a cluster leader in my village once I grow up. I will take a lead on making a micro-forest in my school. I will also come back here to check on the sapling that I have planted today." -Raju Ram, Student
"The training helped me understand and see the benefits of organic farming. I always wanted to learn new farming techniques but never had any opportunity to. Now that I have got it I would not likely miss it." -Madan Singh, Farmer
Through the sustainable Agricultural Program supported by #OracleGiving, We’re working withfarmers, students and agriculture enthusiasts in the remote parts of western Rajasthan. We are promoting prevalent sustainable practices, introducing alternatives, demonstrating scalable interventions and organising individuals into social venture collectives. In the last two years, we have set up a demo farm, solar micro grids, organised a seed bank owned by farmers, reached out to over 1500 farmers, setup hundreds of azolla cultivation units.
Aimed at showcasing and inspiring farmers to adopt organic and sustainable farming, the programme has been focussing on trainings, infrastructure development, exposure, and, handholding and organising farmers towards enterprises. We aim at transforming the practices and the attitudes towards responsibility and sustainability in agriculture.
We aim at advancing the agriculture program towards green enterprises, enabling farm and programme participants - through infrastructure, trainings and technology support.
Programme is designed and the activities undertaken in three programme verticals: Infrastructure Development, Capacity Building and Enterprise Development.
- A demo farm promoting and showcasing soil improvement, composting, rain water harvesting, indigenous seed, seed banking, orchard development, dairy development, Nursery and more agriculture and allied activities. Farm is open for everyone to come and experiment with soil and the desert living
- Design and Installation of clean energy grids.So far commissioned two micro grids - producing around 14 KWp power at the farm.
- Reviving traditional water harvesting structures and designing and installing new.
- Trainings and orientation session reaching out to over 2000 farmers in the first two years.
- Exposure trips for peer learning, innovation and knowledge transfer. Several exposure trips were undertaken in the two years to different parts of the country.
- Advocacy sessions and workshops organised with school students.
- Farm established as a sustainable enterprise. Business models developedfor setting up and running the cow dairy and the seed bank
- Trainings on setting up Azolla cultivation pits and using with livestock. An impact assessment report on the work in the year 1: Impact Assessment of Azolla for Animal Husbandry
- Composting units at the farm are used for producing high quality compost.
- A Seed Bank is setup with community contribution of around 40% of the total costs. A steering committee manages the seed bank and regulates the procurement and disbursal. A detailed business plan has been developed, and in the next year, it’ll be consolidated as a scalable social enterprise venture.
Many community members are already the messengers of the programme beyond practising the learning themselves. Very satisfying is also the fact that the project team has had a great learning curve while working on this programme. Most of the team member had no understanding of sustainable or organic farming and are greatly benefitted by the programme. They now champion the cause out in the programme field.
Working with a physically challenged farmer’s group
The western Thar is a remote, testing and disperse region. Life for normal individual itself is quite challenging but then if one is living with a physical disability, it’s a different level of challenge. This accentuates when one has to manage livelihood through farming for the entire family. In the programme, we focused on working with a group of physically challenged individuals. Training for sixty farmers who have some kind of disability was organized at the demo farm. The objective was to work with this group in finding alternatives for their sustainable livelihood. We focused on how enterprises like that of composting, azolla, seed processing could be formed or steered by physically challenged people and how they could manage the living through this.
“I always wanted to learn alternative farming techniques. My disability always falls in the way of my learning”, says Moola Ram of village Jaggasar. Moola Ram like many other disabled farmers has been fighting the system, society and mindsets for an opportunity to prove his worth. He lost one leg to polio but never let that distance him from his love for farming. Lal Chand from Shastri Nagar was also a part of this training. Visually impaired Lal Chand saw the world through his son Khia Ram’s eyes who accompanied him in the training. Nothing could stop these sixty energetic and excited farmers from learning, neither the burning sun of the Thar nor binding stereotypes.
Ranging from presentation water conservation to advanced techniques of farming, the training brought in various facets of sustainability. Introducing the farmers to organic and sustainable techniques of growing Azolla cattle feed in and preparing Vermi-compost in their farms was a major take away from the training for them. Chena Ram, A programme participant said, “I am impressed with the concept of organic farming and with the assurance of increase in milk yield with Azolla. I feel that a huge sum of money can be saved with organic farming”.
Investing in next generation, working with students:
A three-day student’s training on sustainability and micro forestry followed by regular follow-up and school level plantation drive gave students of three villages (schools) an opportunity to learn several new things on forests and plantation. These sixty students from three schools of Ghadiyala, Girijasar and Charanwala learnt on organic farming, azolla, vermicomposting, biogas and the need and importance of desert viable plantation. Students did actual field work at Urmul farm and planted around 100 trees.
Raju Ram from Ghadiyala village said, “I want to become a cluster leader in my village once I grow up. I will take a lead on making a micro-forest in my school. I will also come back here to check on the sapling that I have planted today.” Students were given over 300 plants and substantial amount of vermin-compost to take back to their schools for school plantation drive. In another month, the programme team shall follow up on the plantation.
With head held high- Madan Singh
Madan Singh reflected strength ever since the day we met him at his small house in his fields in village Modayat. Limping around on one leg, he fell prey to polio in his early years but never let that hinder his path to become a successful farmer who tries his best to do justice to his land. When our farm team approached him to attend this training he showed a great deal of interest and was amongst the first few to reach the campus on the day of the training.
His inclination towards learning reflected from his active involvement in the sessions and his responsiveness to the trainer’s questions. Nothing could stop him not even him being affected with polio in one foot from working hard and providing for his family. Father to a daughter and a son Madan Singh lives in a joint family. He has toiled hard through the years and his disability has never been a hindrance to him. His family says that he is the hardest working person in the house and has always
been someone they look up to.
After attending the training, he went back to his village and promptly swung into action. When URMUL followed up with him sometime after the training, he was the first farmer who beamed and showed us a permanent Azolla pit at his farm. He said that “The training helped me understand and see the benefits of organic farming. I always wanted to learn new farming techniques but never had any opportunity to. Now that I have got it I would not likely miss it.”
Madan Singh has been an inspiration for others who joined the training. His undying spirit and incessant efforts have helped him grow and anchor change amongst the fellow farmers in his village.