Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Local Produce; A peri urban perspective.

Local Produce; A peri urban perspective.

Peri-urban areas are an interesting  setting for research studies. the mix match of occupation, lifestyle, work habits reflect an area which is neither purely rural, or purely urban. in Gurgaon, farming for commercial purposes is declining. Land acquisition, changing climate, lack of water avalibility due to the falling grounwater tables is a major reason for people shifting to jobs in secondary and tertiary sectors. Here what is interesting is that, although urbane in their job profile, these people also wish to be rooted in a traditional rural setting and ethos. Modernity and tradition have a perfect blend in these peri-urban areas.

Traditionally these  people were all employeed by farming or allied activities like animal husbandry etc. changing needs and times have forced many to take up jobs in and around urban areas as guards, auto drivers etc. The fall in commercial agriculture has been due to various reasons that have been already discussed, but the emotional connect with local produce has not let subsitence farming die. Subsistence farming according to my understanding of the field , is one the most important  aspects of peri-urban life. 

A lady proudly told me that my Six year old daughter refuses to drink packaged milk. we only drink from our own buffalo. other than that various encounters have led to the understanding that vegetables are either grown or bought from nearby villages, where the farmers have some solidarity. Peri-urban agriculture is seen to have many positive effects, it can primarily be used as a sink for organic wastes of urban areas.it is interesting  to see how emotion is the tie between modernity and tradition. although surviving at the present, peri-urban agriculture needs to be given incentives, if it has to have long term sustainability, because regardless of emotional connect, the land price escalation caused by growing commerce, will make peri-urban agriculture a losing sum game. hence eventually farmers will end up selling thier land. Despite such possible outcomes, in todays peri-urban gurgaon, local produce is most relished and serves as a connect for the people with thier ancestrol roots.

Frustrating borrowed Bureaucracy

Frustrating borrowed Bureaucracy

“Main nahi deti data,mere pass tame nah hai is kaam ke liye” (I will not provide this information, I do not have time for such work)
A freezing Monday morning of January 7, 2013 will be imprinted in my internship experience. The day started with locating Partwari (village accountant) for Budheda and Sadhrana villages and ended with a reprimand from the sarkari Babu (government clerk) at the mini secretariat in Gurgaon. I decided to collect
Panchayat land use pattern data from Patwari to understand the decline in the common property and what are the various institutions in the village periphery who have been allocated Panchayat land for development purposes. The data set can also help me to actually interpret what is the amount of land left with the
Panchayat and how much have been acquired by state or markets.Few of my village informants told me that the Patwari for both the villages have their office in Old Gurgaon at Krishna Palace. However, some of the other informants told me all the Patwaris of Gurgaon block are placed in Patwar Bhawan. I tried to trace-out the phone number of the offive, but could not, therefore decided to visit Patwar Bhawan. After reaching, Patwar Bhawan, I could see a group of people sitting around the bonfire in the porch of the office building.
The office does not even has a name board of Patwar Bhawan. I went into two rooms of the office, and these rooms had no staff. I could now make out that all the staff was hanging outside, trying to warm up themselves from the nippy cold day.I approached the group after visiting the empty rooms of the Patwar
Bhawan. I further disclosed my reason to visit the office. One of the group member sarcastically asked me the use of the data. He told me to go back to the village to collect this data. He said “are gaon walon ko sab pata, yahan kyon aaye ho, kya karoge data ka” (villagers know everything, why have you come here,
what will you do with this data). He further suggested me to go to the PHED for data I was looking for. On my further request about whereabouts of Patwari's for both the villages, one of the other group member asked me to visit Krishna Palace near Sohna Chowk. Me and Aman took their leave and left for Sohna Road.Our imagination of a typical bureaucratic“sarkari daftar” (government office) was visible in Patwar Bhawan. A very lame question came to my mind after this experience, that why people behave the same way in all the government offices. I could also relate myself to my experience of working with Dairy board. At the Dairy Board we always use to question the bureaucratic procedures at various meetings and among colleagues, however I found these discussion were not about finding answers for the concern but to accept and imbibe bureaucracy within us. This system of bureaucracy is been given to us by English, but the
bigger mistake was that we accepted it as a good system to rule the country. Mahatma Gandhi once said “Our tyranny, if we impose on others, will be infinitely worse than that of the Englishmen who form the bureaucracy. Theirs is a terrorism imposed by the minority struggling to exist in the myths of opposition. Ours will be the terrorism imposed by a majority and therefore worse and really more godless than the first”.Every individual in our country now breaths bureaucracy and feels proud about the system which is slowly eating our roots of envisaged democracy based on equality and decentralized decision making. The days journey moved ahead with the search of Krishna Palace, a commercial building in which few of the shops are rented as Patwari's office. Most of the village Patwari's of Gurgaon Block are located in the building in different
shops. After few queries we could reach shop no. 112, where Patwari of Budheda and Sadhrana is situated. It was the most crowded spot at this time of the day in the whole complex. There was no furniture in the office, except a carpet where everybody was sitting surrounded by piled old records. Although it was 12' o
'clock the Patwari has not arrived yet. We decided to meet the clerk sitting and introduce ourselves. He asked us to wait as he is not authorized to share any information without seeking permission from the Patwari. We took empty chairs outside the office and decided to wait for him. An elderly person next to me,
asked about my whereabouts and in that conversation, disclosed that Patwari would only come by 2'o clock. He further mentioned that he has been trying to meet him since last Thursday, but he could not. There was a continuous movement of the people and most of the work was taken care by the Munshis (junior clerk) under Patwaris. At 2 pm, the Patwari arrives and clerk said something to him regarding us and the information we are seeking for. Patwari came to us, and asked about the information we are looking for.
After listening he mentioned that we can get that information either from the village or else we can visit the record room in the mini secretariat. He said mini secretariat would be a good place to visit as there are some retired Patwaris who can also explain the records and information we are seeking for. He was not keen
on sharing the information with us and therefore suggested us other ways to retrieve information.
After the conversation, we decided to visit the mini secretariat near Rajiv Chowk, Gurgaon. Moving around the huge government building we inquired about the record room. With some help on directions we reached the record room which was all surrounded by file pedestals and discarded furniture in one of the
corners. The center of the room had a table and a chair. A middle-aged woman was having lunch with her subordinates. Diagonally to her table, there was a carpet and few villagers were seated and confabbing. We thought interrupting the government clerks in the middle of their lunch would not be a good idea, and
thus we waited outside the room. After a while, as the lunch was over, the women started snacking the guavas. Now, we decided to talk to her. On our introduction, she just nodded and asked us what we want from her. On explaining our data requirement, she brusquely replied “main nahi deti, mere pass tame nah hai is kaam ke liye” (I will not provide this information, I do not have time for such work).Listening to this I had no clue on how to respond. We decided to just move out and think further on how to get the data. A friend came to rescue. A youth I met during my visit to village Sadhrana was also looking for some records. He
said he is been coming here since last month and she does not give me access to my own land records. She is corrupt and would not provide any data without bribe. He further asked us to visit village next time and he would help us retrievedata from village Sarpanch.
This experience sharing is just to picturize how difficult it can be to retrieve data for a research student in this bureaucratic democracy. Moreover, this situation also depicts how difficult it could be for a rural inhabitant seeking someinformation for his own land. I can easily make out that he/she has to at least dedicate a day or may be more to just meet these Sarkari Babu's. Furthermore, if they wish to get some assistance from these government paper-pushers, may be the time frame gets converted into weeks or months.
-Sumit Vij

Monday, January 21, 2013

Peri-urban South Asia Team visits Ravirala - Press Coverage

The above article appears in Sakshi, a regional Telugu Newspaper on December 20,212. The translation of this article is given below.

Plan for reviving “Pedda Cheruvu”

Anjal Prakash, Executive Director of South Asia Consortitium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies (SaciWATERs,) promised Kongara Raviryala that they would look into the matters for providing clean drinking water to the village and also would help in facilitating the dialogue between the village representatives and the government officials for reviving their “Pedda Cheruvu”. On Wednesday, the team of SaciWATERs along with scientists from Bangladesh and Nepal visited the village. Talking to the villagers, Mr. Prakash informed that their organization has adopted the village and that they would take up programmes related to water resources and environmental protection. He conveyed that tree plantation and sanitation activities in the village would be taken up. The international delegates have sought out information on the lake and also questioned the farmers about their agricultural practices. SaciWATERs team – Sreoshi and Shaili, S. A.  Khan, Shahjahan, Rahman, other researchers from Bangladesh and Nepal, VWSC Committee President – S. Srinivas, Shivalingam, T. Srinivas, Lakshmaiah took part in the meeting.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Training on Preparation of Organic Fertilizer and Soil Management

Date: 13th-14th November, 2012

The analysis of household survey showed that more than 90 percent of the farmers are not getting sufficient food from agriculture to meet the needs of the family throughout the year. It also found that the agricultural productivity has decreased tremendously in comparision to productivity of thirty years back. The farmers pointed out the water scarcity, insect/pest attack, use of low quality fertilizer, use of extensive chemical fertilizer, soil degradation as the major causes of decrease in crop productivity. They have been adapting to water scarcity through various adaptation strategies but for rest of the causes, farmers are still shrugging off their owes with “what to do”. The farmers in Lubhu were therefore increasingly getting attracted towards organic fertilizers and though in small number, the practice of making compost fertilizer at household level had already been started at the farmers own initiatives. However lack of proper knowledge on the process of preparation of compost and its application techniques was hindering the farmers in expansion of its use. While doing need assessment with the farmers and conversation with the official from agriculture service center in Lubhu, it was found that they are in urgent need of capacity building programme on Preparation, Use and Application of Compost and Vermicompost Fertilizer for Better Soil Management. Though, this type of training was already conducted by Department of Cooperatives, it was limited to only few farmers of Lubhu. It is in this context, Peri-urban Water Security Project underway at Nepal Engineering College considered that organizing a training on preparing organic fertilizer for farmers of Lubhu is timely and important.
The basic objective of organizing this training is to provide the theoretical as well as practical knowledge on preparing organic fertilizer to the farmers of Lubhu VDC and capacitate them in preparing and applying the prepared fertilizer to improve the soil and enhance the agricultural productivity.
A resource person for the training was Dr. Janardhan Khadka, the Senior Soil Scientist from Central Horticulture Center, Kirtipur, Kathmandu and a total of 28 farmers from various Farmer's Committee in Lubhu participated in the training. The 1st day of the training involved imparting basic theoretical knowledge on soil, water and plant and importance of organic fertilizers whereas second day was exclusively allocated for demonstration of the use of compost fertilizer and preparation of organic fertilizer and vermin-composting practically.
Day 1
Session 1
The first day of the training began with a brief description of the peri-urban project and the activities conducted in Lubhu as the pilot intervention site. Following this was the theory classes on the organic fertilizer which started with the presentation on the soil and soil management techniques wherein the role of soil in plant growth was focused in simple terms so as to make the training effective and interesting to the participant farmers. The participatory approach of training helped to bring forward the problems being faced by the farmers, the causes and the knowledge gaps. The interaction also helped to identify possible solutions to the existing and emerging problems of soil degradation through sharing of the field based experiences and experiences from research and practices in different parts of the country and the world. While doing so, the facilitator highlighted on the need of identification of soil type and state of soil such as its pH prior to the soil treatment process. Additionally the farmers also understood the proper technique and appropriate time for the application of Calcium carbonate (Chun), commonly used by farmers to neutralize acidic soil.

Session 2
The second session began with short note on the types of solid waste and need of proper management of solid waste wherein the 3R principle was introduced (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). Resource person introduced about different techniques of preparation of compost fertilizer on a domestic scale such as bin compost, pile compost, pit compost, chamber compost and vermi-compost. Similarly he elaborated the need of segregation of bio-degradable and non-biodegradable solid waste as primary need of compost preparation and how increasing solid waste with increasing urbanization can be a source of fertilizer through proper composting techniques. He also discussed the aerobic and anaerobic composting techniques and provided a detailed explanation on Size of waste, C:N ratio, Air, Moisture, Temperature, Micro-organisms and  pH range.
During the session, the problems commonly faced by farmer during composting were discussed. The most common problems faced by the farmers were unpleasant odors from piled compost and cowshed for which resource person made multiple suggestions like
  • Do not to put bones or meat scraps into the compost;
  • Cover the compost pile with dry grasses, hay, dry leaves or saw dust and
  • Add lime or calcium to neutralize odors.
The other commonly faced challenge for small-scale backyard composting was finding enough carbon-rich materials to balance the regular input of nitrogen-rich materials to maintain C: N ratio in compost. Resource person explained about green material such as kitchen wastes, fruit and vegetable peelings, grass clippings and other fresh materials as the common sources of Nitrogen and brown material such as straw, branches, stems, dried leaves, peels, bits of wood, bark dust or sawdust as a source of Carbon. He also explained about the role of carbon in providing energy and the fluffy nature of compost and nitrogen in providing protein needed for making enzymes and also emphasized the need of balance between carbon and nitrogen. A healthy compost pile should have much more carbon than nitrogen. A simple rule of thumb is to use one-third green and two-thirds brown materials. This allows oxygen to penetrate and nourish the microorganisms that reside there.
The training focused on aerated composting and explained about the significance of turning over the pile to provide aeration. Similarly the new techniques of no-turn composting techniques through management of aeration mechanisms were also introduced. The aeration is to maintain the appropriate temperature for the proliferation of microbes responsible for the decay of organic wastes. The trainers advised the farmers to cover the compost pits to reduce the loss of moisture and the nutrients and protect from rain to maintain the moisture content in the compost as the excess of water could result into decay of compost.
The training was focused on the use of locally available material for the successful and sustainable use of compost as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. The trainer explained the role of ash in regulating moisture and quantity of its use. The excess use of ash could result into increased pH due to its alkaline nature thus deactivating the microbial activity in compost. Similarly, he described three simple tips to improve the cow-shed quality and the quality of compost from animal dung by managing the base for the animal bed, a canal for urine discharge and collection and a roof for protection of cow-shed from direct sunlight and rain.
The resource person also described about the Effective Micro-organisms (EM) to be used in preparing compost fertilizer. He elaborated the role of EM in proliferation of micro-organisms responsible for composting. Further, he focused on the need of checking the manufacture and expiry date prior to the purchase of EM and advised to collect fresh EM for its effective action. Towards the end of the session, he described about the proper technique of application of compost including complete information on the application time, distance from the plant, techniques to apply different types of plants and season and timing for reapplication. In addition, he also explained about the technique of application of human urine in agricultural crops.

Session 3
The session started with introduction of Vermincompost. Vermicompost is the product of composting using various earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast. Vermicast, also called worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by an earthworm. These castings have been shown to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients than organic materials contain before vermicomposting. Containing water-soluble nutrients, vermicompost is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. This process of producing vermicompost is called vermicomposting.
The facilitator further classified two major types of earthworms. Epigeic types live on the surface in freshly decayed plants and animal residues whereas Endogeic types live underground and eat soil to extract nutrient from decayed organic residues. Earthworms of epigeic category are commonly used in vermicomposting and Eisenia foetida is the species most commonly used. It is a voracious eater, each worm eating 1-7 gram/day and cast 0.8- 6 gram/day.
Following the introduction of vermicomposting was the presentation on the process of vermicomposting, beginning with the process of preparing bed for the vermicompost. Bedding is the living medium and also a source of food for the worms. The bedding should be moist and loose enough to enable the worms to breath and to facilitate aerobic decomposition of the food that is buried in it. He further explained the possibility of vermicomposting in both indoors and outdoors with proper care and management of the appropriate environment keeping away from the direct sunlight and rain. The environment management involved the management of bedding material, organic materials needed to supply necessary nutrients, need of management of moisture and temperature range for the survival of earthworm and the microbial activities in vermicomposting. Eisenia foetida, the most common worms used in composting systems, feed most rapidly at temperatures of 10–32 °C and the temperatures above the range may harm them.
During the training the facilitator explained the possibility of vermicomposting on both small and commercial scale and explained about it increasing popularity at both national and international scale. He suggested to add the fresh organic material based on how rapidly those were being consumed by earthworm and let the material to decompose outside the bed for about two weeks so that the leachate drains out, thus maintain moisture content in vericompost. Further, he requested to not to leave the vermicompost unattended for too long time as there can be excess or deficiency of moisture or any other imbalances in layering of bedding materials. Vermicompost is ready for harvest when it contains few to no scraps of uneaten food or bedding and can be collected when contents look like dark black soil and most worms have migrated to the second and third working lower layers. It takes 3-4 months to get first collection of vermicompost after starting. While collecting vermicompost, he recommended to consider the value of earthworm and suggested to pick out as many worms, eggs and cocoons as possible from prepared fertilizer and returning them to the compost bin. The training also included a session on troubleshooting the possible problems and instructing the points to be considered in selecting the bedding materials, composting material and explained the possible risks and pests, along with the ways to avoid them.
He explained that the vermicompost  is richer in many nutrients than compost fertilizer produced by other composting methods. The value of vermicompost as soil conditioner and plant growth stimulant is due to the concentrated nutrient in worm cast. Unlike other compost, worm castings also contain worm mucus which helps prevent nutrients from washing away with the first watering and holds moisture better than plain soil from the decomposition of organic material. Further, it is rich in microbial life which converts nutrients already present in the soil into plant-available forms. Its recognition with a wide range of applications in homes and commercial gardens was growing.
He also shared about the ongoing research on the process of collection and application of human urine as fertilizer and other hormones such as Rotex and Trichoderma fungus to upgrade the quality of compost. Upon the discussion about the perceived cause of declining application of organic manure, the participating farmers felt the growing deviation from the indigenous farming practice and lack of knowledge transfer from the expert to the farming communities are the major causes of not applying of chemical fertilizers.

Day 2
The second day was for demonstration visit and doing practical in preparing compost fertilizer and vermicompost at Bagbani, Central Horticulture Center, Kirtipur. It was intended to provide the participants an exposure to the activities involved in composting and vermicomposting and providing them hands-on skill in preparing these fertilizers so that the farmers themselves can prepare the fertilizers independently.
The farmers had a short visit in the center premise where they got chance to see all the process of preparing and applying organic fertilizer and arrangement of collection of human urine and its application after disinfection along with several fruit varieties under research. Further, they also visited the waste water treatment plant being constructed to supplement the irrigation water need for the horticultural crops and various other researches undertaken in the centre.
During the practical session for the prepation of compost and vermicompost, the total participants were divided into two groups. The trainer reminded the first days theoretical session to both the groups and asked to prepare compost and vermicompost themselves. With close observation and facilitation of the trainer, all the participants themselves prepared compost fertilizer and vermicompost.
Post lunch, the resource person trained the participants on the use of bone powder and Trichoderma for upgrading the prepared vermicompost. Following this, he explained the process of application of the disinfected human urine for irrigation purpose.
The training ended with a evaluation of the training from the participants perspectives and a short note from the research team and the facilitator encouraging participants to take advantage of the capacity building activities and to consult experts in case of any problem.

Figure: Evaluation of Overall Training by the Participants

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Poster Presentation at World Water Week 2012, Stockholm

This poster is an output of action research project entitled "Water Security in Peri-urban South Asia: Adapting to Climate Change and Urbanization" and was presented at World Water Week 2012, Stockholm in a theme called "Securing Water and Food in an Urbanizing World". 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Stakeholder meeting in Gurgaon

The SaciWATERS stakeholder meeting held in Gurgaon on the 13th of December 2012, began with Dr Narain, setting the agenda for the meeting. He expressed, that the role of SaciWATERS is that of a dialogue facilitator and that it wanted to promote mutual accountability amongst the main stakeholders. They being the community and the PHED. Further Aman Dewan, with prior consultation from the community, set out the main points that had to be discussed. Two main issues were cropped up; the first being that the Dharamsala line of the village is not able to get access to PHED water supply. The second issue was that a Tube-well is needed beyond the railway line so that people not serviced by the PHED can also access a safe water source. 

In Sultanpur a settlement of Balmiks live beyond the railway line, the PHED does not have permission to supply water beyond that point, as it comes under the jurisdiction of the railways. The Balmiks being lower caste people are often refused water by the upper castes, as they feel that their presence pollutes their water sources. Due to this lack of social cohesion, amongst the different castes of the village, the Balmiks suffer the most.  Starting with the first issue, the people said that, they want a larger capacity motor to increase pressure of the water supply. The PHED responded, that the mess was due to illegal water connections, and that if people installed taps then, he would ensure that sufficient water will be provided. 

Understanding the concern of the community, the PHED team said that it shall try to increase the allocation of time; water is supplied, from 20 to 30 minutes. The issues were concluded by agreement that the Panchyat will cut illegal connections and get the village water connections registered, further to which if water availability is not sufficient; the PHED shall install a larger motor. The second issue was a relatively more harmonious issue. The PHED was in agreement that a tube-well must be present, and that a resolution should be given proclaiming that area as a Dhaani, as they are getting government patronage. It was agreed that within a week, the Panchayat will present the resolution to the PHED, which would then process it. 

Dr Narain showed concern towards the timeline of this activity, to which the PHED replied, that they shall be informed about funds availability during a meeting in April, and thus this issue will be fixed post that. The meeting concluded on a positive note, with the community agreeing to try out legal water connections and the PHED also assuring the people, that if even that did not work out, they shall be ready with their next set of solutions. Personally it was great to see the stakeholders interact, such dialogue does not leave room for doubt, thus furthering the trust levels between stakeholders.
Thus the stakeholders meeting was a great opportunity for SaciWATERS to fulfill its agenda as a catalyst for change.