Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Innovative Rashonara- rural lass with an extraordinary dream:

The heroine of this story is Rashonara Khatun of Patua village under Swarupnagar Block. For the last five years Swanirvar is campaigning for sustainable farming in Swarupnagar and have been quite successful in spreading it amongst a number of farmers.
With our consistent efforts in Barghoria Panchayat, many farmers like Moksed Mondal, Nazrul Islam, Tumpa, etc have become organic farmers. But the story of Rashonara is different. Rashonara’s father, Moksed Mondal is practicing organic compost and bio pest controllers since 2007 and now he is producing rice and all kinds of vegetables only by using vermi compost. Previously his wife helped him in farming but in 2008 she met an accident and her hands became partially paralyzed. Moksed was in deep trouble.
Observing that situation, his younger daughter, Rashonara came forward and told her father that she would produce bio pest controllers at home.
Previously, she and her mother took some training from Dhokra Palli Unnayan Samity, a sister NGO of Swanirvar on Integrated Pest management and making bio pest controllers. Returning home she and her father made a small bamboo hut adjacent to their house and requested her father to give her some money for buying the ingredients for making bio pest controllers.
Initially her father was hesitant but his elder daughter, who is a quack Homeopath, supported her sister’s mission. Gradually Rashonara became an expert in making bio pest controllers in that locality. Later, she took more training from Swanirvar and DRCSC.
In mid 2008 she took over the responsibility from her father for vermicompost pit. Now she is making bulk amount of compost in her pit. She also had made a place for making bucket compost adjacent to their vermicompost pit. From there she is also producing a good quantity of compost. Previously, her father did not use vermi wash but when she came to know about the goodness of vermi wash she started making this at home.
For bio pest controllers, she produced compost tea and Neem solvent and Garlic – kerosene- soap mixture at the initial stage. But from December, 2008 she started some experiments of her own. She mixed some amount of green chilly with the kerosene-garlic mixture and applied it to their farm for controlling pest and her experiment was quite successful.
Now she is producing many kinds of bio pest controllers in her laboratory. I went to her laboratory on 10th March, 2009 to see her experiments and found that she is quite busy. She told me that initially many farmers taunted her; but now they were coming to learn the bio pest controller making process.
She confidently told me that organic farming was the ultimate destiny for the Indian farmers. She said that with the use of inorganic substances in farm the cost of farming was increasing day by day but in return the production was decreasing.
She also added that when a farmer applied inorganic fertilizers and inorganic pesticides, he was unaware of the appropriate ratio; and there was the maximum chance to get adverse result. But there was much less chance of getting such adverse results if there was any misbalance in applying bio-pest controllers or bio-compost.
Sometimes she visited her father’s farm and supervised the processes of implementing integrated pest management. She showed me her small kitchen garden adjacent to her house where she is producing many vegetables. She was also using trellis for producing Bitter Gourd, Bottle Gourd.

Reported by,
Nilangshu Gain,


Stories of some Innovative Farmers in Swarupnagar Block: Anada Mondal

Ananda Mondal and his wife Rita and their two daughters lived in Mallikpur village under Swarupnagar Block. Mallikpur is on the Bangladesh border. Most of the villagers in this locality are involved with smuggling and illegal trafficking of drugs and women.
During my visit on 3rd March ’09 to Anada Mondal’s house, I was asked by the Border Security Personnel about the reason for my visit to Mallikpur. There are many non irrigated lands but no body is interested in farming as a man can earn much more through smuggling rather than farming.
After reaching Mallikpur, I asked local boys to show me the Ananda’s house. They gave me the direction and added that villagers had termed Anada as ‘Chona Dada’ (i.e., cow urine dada). Concealing my chuckle, I asked them about the reason for this name and they told me that Anada had opened an agriculture school in his home and teaching the illiterate farmers about the utility of cow urine, cow dung and vermicompost. After reaching there, I saw that Rita was making food and she told that Ananda knew that I would come and gave me some drawing sheets to look.
I saw that there were some excellent paintings. I asked her who had drawn these. She replied that her daughter and also expressed her sorrow that very soon their daughters would give up studies as no girl from that village went for high school.
After a while Ananda came and we three sat together for discussion. I came to know that 4 years ago, Ananda and Rita decided to give up farming as costs of manures, pesticides, seeds were increasing day by day and planned to start small business. That time they went to their relatives’ house at Kalshi village (in Baduria Block) for taking some suggestions on small business and by chance there they met with our staff, Sujit and Noni Gopal at a farmer’s-group meeting in Kalshi. Initially they were surprised by listening that one can produce rice without using inorganic fertilizers and pesticides.
They invited Sujit and Noni Gopal to visit his farm. Within a month, three Swanirvar staff, Sujit, NoniGopal and Tarun went there and advised him to start Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Rice and to make a small kitchen garden adjacent to his house.
Following all the steps in IPM he got 25% more production from his 5 bighas of land but his expenses reduced by 30%. Gradually he became an organic farmer. From 2007 he is using only organic composts, compost tea and bio pest controllers like soap-garlic- kerosene mixture, fresh cow urine and neem solvent mixture, etc in his farm.
In 2008, Rita went to a Swanirvar’s meeting on Land shaping and came to know there were multipurpose use of Pond and pond bank. She asked for a loan from DRCSC through Swanirvar and got loan for land shaping. With that money she had reshaped her pond; had made some plots for rice and some for fishes also made trellis on bank. Now she is producing rice and fish together and has planted lots of banana, papaya, turmeric and Elephant Foot Yam plants on the bank. On the trellis she is producing Bottle Gourds, Bitter Gourds. She has also planted some herbal plants like Prickly Amaranth, Indian Aloe, Ivy gourd (wild), Creat and Drumstick tree, etc.
In December 2008, Anada got some training on SRI system from our staff, Narayan and applied that concept in ½ bigha land area. When he was planting single saplings (Indian system of rice cultivation is to plant a bunch of saplings together) in his field all the local farmers thought that he had last the basic sense of farming. But after a month it was found that SRI was very successful and some of his paddy was taken by the district agriculture office, Barasat and Agriculture Training centre, Fulia, Nadia for demonstrating SRI in rice.
When I went to see SRI paddy with Ananda and Rita, a local farmer namely Arabindu came to us and told that he was taking training on SRI from Ananda and would apply it in his field for the coming session. He also told me that as they sprayed lots of pesticides in their paddy, they never saw butterflies and birds in fields. But in Ananda’s field one could always see lots of butterflies and birds. This had become a place of ananda ( Anada means joyfulness) for them.
Lastly, I requested Anada and Rita for a joint photo as they have none and they told me that I might take it in their vegetable garden adjacent to their house. There I went with them and suddenly saw that Rita was making some noise and surprisingly all of their hens and cocks came to them with their young ones . I took it (pic-1) both in my cam and in my heart to keep it for ever.

Reported by:
Nilangshu Gain,

Mob: +91 9647196250

Sunday, July 19, 2009


District : North 24 Parganas, West Bengal ( 22 blocks, 211 GPs, 1612 villages)
Blocks we work in : 7 --- Baduria, Deganga, Swarupnagar, Basirhat-I, Hingalganj, Habra- 1,Sandeshkhali
No. of villages : 110
No.of farmers : ~ 10,000.

# 1990 - 1994: SA workers undertook various experiments in lands belonging to or leased by Swanirvar for their own learning and for demonstration.
# 1994 - 1997: Swanirvar gave up working on such plots. Instead it got involved in extension work with about 500 farmers in 8 villages. The emphasis was on spreading various SA techniques and elements to as many farmers as possible.
# From 1997: Work expanded to 25 villages . There were major shifts
· Attempts at systematic “trials” and keeping data for proper learning and widespread replication;
· Forming farmers’ “groups” so that spreading SA becomes a collective effort;
· Trying to persuade some farmers to convert their total “system” into a sustainable one, instead of incorporating some isolated SA elements.
# From 2007 : Extension to other areas . Current status (Jan 2009) given above – a five fold expansion of area and farmers compared to status in 2006.

· Intensive Home Nutrition Garden Models: year round vegetables for balanced nutrition, proper use of sun and shade, multi-tier cropping, live fence, compost, liquid manure, herbs , totally organic etc.
· Upland organic model in the field : intensive mixed vegetable plots.
· Lowland integrated model : land shaping integrated farms including pond with fishery, rice field, bunds with trees and vegetables, poultry farming. Total trails : 20 ( Dec 2008)

· Azolla ; compost (at home ,in the field , with water hyacinth) ; vermicompost, ; liquid compost ; fish manure ; rock phosphate ; pond & canal sludge; oilseed cakes
· Rhizobium ; azotobacter ; phospho solubilising bacteria (PSB) ;--- multiplied in own bio-lab;
· Re- popularize a legume crop in crop cycle. We have tried 11 different species-varieties.

· Trials with new varieties : many rice varieties ; dals; beans ; various vegetables, oilseeds, other cereals
· Production, collection, treatment, preservation, and supply of quality seeds through individual and group based seed stores in different areas.
· A special Rice seed bank

· Use of mulching in cultivation of Potato and vegetables.
· Anti-Boro (the water- guzzling winter rice) campaign ,
· Use of dew in wheat cultivation by pulling a rope across the field
· Residual moisture crop (relay cropping).

· Bourdeaux Mixture ; cow urine + cow dung water
· Leaves of neem , ata ( custard apple) , tobacco , extract of turmeric, garlic, Dhol Kalmi, Kerosene-soap-garlic mixture, various roots etc for pests and disease control in many crops.
· Trichoderma viride in certain diseases.
· Integrated Pest Management in rice : During aman 2007 , this was done with 1556 farmers in about 3000 acres in 44 villages under 22 panchatats of 6 blocks

· Community Grain Banks
· Popularizing herbals for common disease
· Organic marketing: in collaboration with marketing agency NABANNA.

· Various kinds of training are given to farmers and workers of other NGOs, ranging in duration from half a day to three days.
· In 2007 gave training to 1009 farmers and 2360 women SHG members on vermicompost and home garden as per request of govt agri department in Swarupnagar block
· Street theatre has been used extensively for quite a few years for sensitization. Village notice boards, wall writings, audio-visual show, rally, awareness camps, posters are also used.
· Swanirvar participates in several village fairs.
· Written and audiovisual documentation of models, trials, case studies is an on going process; but has been one of our weak areas.
· Good liaison with National Innovation Foundation ( IIM , Ahmedabad ) to identify local innovators and to facilitate exchange of ideas. In 2007 and 2008 we have actively participated in shodhyatars ( 10 day village walks organized by NIF in various parts of India ) and food festivals in Ahmedabad.

Guidance and funding
vFrom 1992 till date, the SA work of Swanirvar has been guided and funded (till 2003) by a Kolkata-based resource NGO -- Development Research Communications and Services Centre (DRCSC).
vFrom 2003 funding is being provided by Friends of Swanirvar, Worcester, England
vFrom 2009 funding is being provided by CIVA
vWe also have some support from Sonja Brodt and Friends of Swanirvar, Worcester, England