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The Pet Bharo Project-Solving Poverty and Hunger in India through Simplified Hydroponics


Simplified Hydroponics is a technology incorporating soilless culture techniques without the use of mechanical devices or testing equipment. Developed in the early 1980’s in Colombia, Simplified Hydroponics projects have been implemented in 22 Latin American and African countries mostly funded by UNDP and the UN FAO.

Simplified Hydroponics has been designed to be accessible to people with limited resources and inputs such as land space, water, nutrients and grower infrastructure. The technology has now evolved to incorporate low inputs and concentrates on utilizing recycled materials or agricultural wastes. People with disabilities and elderly people can also adopt the technology. A high level of literacy or prior agricultural knowledge is not required to learn the technique.

A simplified garden can be as small as one bed grower of 1m2 and even up to 1000m2which is a full-scale commercial operation. It has been estimated from empirical evidences that a family production unit that includes 20 bed growers of (40m2 growing space) can generate an income of about $ 101.00 per month. The above figures are based on the experience gained from projects implemented in Columbia and other countries in the past 24 years.

Project Objectives

The overall objective of the proposed project is to conduct adaptive research and pilot testing of simplified hydroponics technology involving poor and weaker communities to develop the technology package, technology and support services needed for its adoption, to suit local socio-economic conditions to facilitate the wider adoption and dissemination of the technology. 

Specific objectives are:

·         To set up the Indian Institute for Simplified Hydroponics which has now been established in Nov 2009 at Bangalore, India.

·         To transfer the simplified hydroponics technology to India and adopt the technology to suit local conditions through adoptive research.

·         To Pilot test the technology involving local communities

·         Organize and conduct training of trainers on Simplified Hydroponics technology for wider dissemination of this technology to reach poor rural families affected by drought.

·         Develop a comprehensive technology and services delivery package for its wider adoption.

·         To create a protocol for Hydroponics growing to suit different environments in India.

·         To create a list of vegetables and herbs that suit different environments in India at the same time ensuring basic nutritional values are achieved thus ensuring good health for the people.

Project Rationale

Drought is a perennial and recurring feature in many parts of India. According to Government of India reports, more than 50% of the country is prone to drought in varying degrees. Drought leads to large-scale migration in search of alternative livelihoods, loss of human life due to stress, suicide, starvation or unhygienic conditions and increased social conflict.

Even in Maharashtra, one of India’s most prosperous states, recurring drought has crippled the state’s economy, caused a fall in agricultural and non-agricultural wages, severely affected the livelihoods of millions, led to crop damage and death or incapacitation of livestock. Effect of drought on the vulnerability and the livelihoods of poor communities are manifested in scarcity of food for consumption and unemployment as a direct result of inadequate water for agricultural purposes. During drought most poor families have to satisfy themselves with only one meal a day.

Development of satisfactory strategies to combat drought, has been a major preoccupation of almost all succeeding governments of the past century. However, all such development interventions have been focused on supplying water through irrigation. It is a fact that irrigation water has become the most expensive input supplied by the state in the dry zone and in addition, in India, almost all economically promising sources of irrigation appears to be already developed. As a consequence, irrigation water has increasingly become a scarce input in agricultural production compounded by the ever-increasing population growth and demand for water.

The net effect of the above scenario is the increased vulnerability and food insecurity of thousands of families in marginalized communities that live in drought prone areas.

In view of these circumstances it has become imperative to shift the emphasis from the traditional objective of irrigation/water supply increases to other means of dry zone development and improve the livelihoods of poor communities in the dry zone. One such intervention is the introduction of water efficient agricultural technologies coupled with rain water harvesting technology. It is proposed to test a Pilot Simplified Hydroponics systems in India as one such alternative. (India’s first Simplified Hydroponics garden to grow vegetables and herbs has now been set up at the Sandra Ricketts Public School in rural Bangalore).

Project Partners and their role

v The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics, (ISH) India and it’s various state chapters, will provide technical training, technology transfer support, setting standards and maintaining the quality of the Simplified Hydroponic gardens and assist in gaining startup capital for projects from world and state bodies. ISH Bangalore has trained 126 Master Trainers from different parts of India between 16th Jan 2009-15th Feb 2009.

v The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics, (ISH) India will assist in establishing the Indian Institute of Simplified Hydroponics chapters in all Indian states. The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics, Bangalore, India will also be responsible for linking ISH with organizations in the entire Indian region and bringing regional perspective to the proposed project.

v The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics, (ISH) India will assist in conducting adoptive research component to determine the scientific and socio-economic parameters in technology transfer.

v The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics, (ISH) India will undertake adoptive research on technology development in areas of nutrient solution testing and improving and other scientific inputs in the field of analytical chemistry.

v The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics, (ISH) India will assist in setting up of the ISH Franchises/Chapters and its promotion through ISH web sites, transfer of technology, providing advisory services and fund raising where required.

v The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics, (ISH) India will be responsible for wider dissemination of the technology through its India wide network of NGO’s/ Societies/Trusts and various Social welfare schemes of the government, providing credit facilities to rural communities for adoption of the technology and other business development support services.

v The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics, (ISH) India will assist in participatory needs assessment, resource and livelihoods assessment of poor, participatory planning, project designing, monitoring and evaluations and producing case studies for wider dissemination.

Expected Outputs of the Project

·         To set up the Indian Institute for Simplified Hydroponics. (Now completed) A brick and mortar institute will become a reality at Bangalore Rural within 6 months i.e by the month of September 2009.

·         Understand the technical and economic parameters of the Simplified Hydroponics technology in relation to its adoptability to socio-economic conditions in India. Carry out a cost-benefit analysis of Simplified Hydroponics technology under Indian conditions.

·         Technical and Service package will be developed for wider dissemination of the simplified hydroponics technology. A compendium or Indian Hydroponics Handbook/Guidebook will be compiled within three years to act as a reference guide for all Indian’s practicing Simplified Hydroponics.

·         Quarterly, half-yearly and Annual seminars will be held region wise and at a national level every years where papers will be submitted by various practitioners of Simplified Hydroponics from different regions of India.

·         Production and marketing system will be developed for input supply. This includes the production of nutrient solution, delivery system, training package and a services package to facilitate the wider adoption of the technology.

·         Qualified trainers are to be made available to assist the dissemination of the technology. The Project aims to help master trainers so trained to make a livelihood by training of people in their areas of operation.

·         The project aims to measure the tangible benefits in terms of how people using Simplified Hydroponics have gained sustainability, livelihood and health over a period of 5-10 years since the project was launched.

·         Through Micro-Credit help the poorest sections of India gain Sustainability and Livelihood and see a tangible change in poverty and hunger in India.

Conclusion

It is the vision and mission of the Founder and Chief Visionary Lt Cdr (retd) CV Prakash of the Institute of Simplified Hydroponics Bangalore, India to spread the technology to all corners of India, through the fullest involvement of all individual, private and government bodies. The Pet Bharo Project aims to (in Gandhiji’s words) “wipe every tear from every eye”

Courtesy: Lt Cdr (retd) CV Prakash, Founder and Chief Visionary, The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics India 

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