This month, the newsletter brings a range of stories across programmes in India, which showcase the scale and diversity of our interventions. From training on natural rubber cultivation to devising and implementing innovative solutions to check pollution in leather processing, and many more. We also have an inspiring story about a progressive farmer bouncing back from the pandemic by daring to do things differently.
Roundtable on Oil Palm Cultivation in Northeast India
Solidaridad Asia, alongside Godrej Agrovet Ltd., Indian Institute of Oil Palm Research and The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, participated in a roundtable organised in Guwahati on 26 July. It commemorated the launch of a Mega Oil Plantation Drive by the Government of India, under National Mission on Edible Oils - Oil Palm (NMEO-OP), from 25 July to 3 August. In the discussion held around the importance of oil palm cultivation in northeast India and its benefits for the farmers, Solidaridad advocated for responsible oil palm cultivation in the region.
By adopting sustainable practices, oil palm plantations can balance the demand for palm oil production with environmental and social responsibility, reducing their overall ecological footprint and contributing to a more sustainable future for smallholders. In this context, the role of the Indian Palm Oil Sustainability framework (IPOS) in driving a positive change in the palm oil industry, contributing to more sustainable practices, and improving the state of the environment, local communities and the Indian economy, was also discussed.
Pioneering Progress in Odisha
The inauguration of a new Centre of Excellence in the village of Bantala in Cuttack district marks a significant milestone in the advancement of modern agricultural practices in Odisha. This specialised centre focuses on harnessing cutting-edge technologies and data-driven approaches to optimise agricultural processes, improve productivity, and ensure sustainable farming practices. The centre has been co-founded by Solidaridad and Sarat Kar and Anima Kar (SKAK) Foundation, in collaboration with Vodafone-Idea Foundation. It will cater to the needs of smallholder farmers in the state by demonstrating different agricultural practices on the campus for their education. For this purpose, the Solidaridad team in Cuttack also visited project areas in Madhya Pradesh, including the Nizo Roozen International Centre of Excellence for Regenerative Agriculture, Sehore, to build on their knowledge of regenerative agricultural practices.
Solidaridad’s Policy Head Visits India
Last month, Frederik Claasen — Head of Policy at Solidaridad Network — visited the districts of Nagpur and Wardha in Maharashtra, and interacted with farmers who are part of the regenagri project. The visit provided a platform for farmers to share their transformational experiences and showcase the positive impact of sustainable farming techniques on their livelihoods and the environment.
During Frederik’s visit, farmers showed the low-cost biodigesters, and bio-inputs prepared by them, such as neem ark and dashparni ark (biopesticides). They also explained the benefits of adopting regenerative, water-efficient farming techniques. To understand market linkages and the practice of collective bargaining, Frederik went to a ginning unit in Wardha, as well as a vermiculture unit and a processing unit operated by a farmer producer organisation in Nagpur.
He also saw a trial demo of Ballotronix (which categorises different types of tea leaves according to their quality) at Coonoor Tea Estate (in Ooty, Tamil Nadu), as well as that of the Trinitea app (for a full-picture view of a product's composition and sourcing journey) at the Darmona Tea Factory in the Nilgiris district. He rounded it off with a visit to Malai Mavatta Siru Vivasaya Nala Sangam, a small tea-growers’ association in the Nilgiris.
Needless to say, Frederik was impressed by the sustainable farming practices adopted by farmers.
Needless to say, Frederik was impressed by the sustainable farming practices adopted by farmers.
A three-day training of trainers (ToT) on natural rubber cultivation was organised for the Solidaridad team under the Unnati-Sustainable Natural Rubber Initiative by the National Institute for Rubber Training from 5 July to 7 July 2023, at Kottayam, Kerala. The training focused on providing insights on various practices (from cultivation to post-harvest), in addition to field visits to the rubber-sheet processing unit, central nursery and central experimental station. The objective of the session, which also saw inputs from the experts of the Rubber Research Institute of India, was to update the knowledge of trainers, who in turn can share it among the community.
Comprehensive Training for Farmers in Yavatmal
In collaboration with the agriculture department officials in Kalamb block, Yavatmal district, Maharashtra, Solidaridad conducted a comprehensive training programme for farmers. The training sessions were organised in the villages of Kota, Chaparda and Pardi, and focused on important topics such as seed treatment before sowing, intercropping (in the case of cotton), innovative concepts (like nutrient gardens, trap crops, border crops, among others) and integrated pest management practices. This partnership aims to equip farmers with essential knowledge and skills to optimise crop yield, reduce input costs, and promote sustainable farming practices. In Chaparda and Kota, soybean mini-kits and millet seeds were distributed to the farmers by the agriculture department.
Empowering Women in Sugarcane Farming
Sugarcane is a key crop that supports the economies of many countries. It is, therefore, fitting that the main agenda of the Krishak Samagam, an event organised by Solidaridad in association with Baramati Agro and the Coca Cola Foundation on 1 July 2023 in Baramati, Pune district, was “Promotion of Biodiversity and Inclusion of Women in Sugarcane Farming”. The event, which saw around 261 participants, promoted and championed the cause of women’s involvement in agriculture, and provided an opportunity for sugarcane farmers to unlearn traditional farming practices and adopt climate-positive and sustainable practices.
In Village in Yavatmal, Farmers Join One Village One Crop Initiative
At Mangaladevi village in Yavatmal district, our project farmers and Bemda Dam Farmer Producer Company Ltd., also supported by Solidaridad, participated in a new Maharashtra government initiative — Ek Gaon Ek Vaan (or, one village, one crop). Under this scheme, the farmers in the village decided to grow cotton crop, and they would be provided with natural fertilisers by the government. The aim is to prevent the occurrence of various diseases afflicting the cotton plant, and to promote collective bargaining.
A Fruitful Association
Ajit Kumar Chetia is a progressive tea farmer from Barekuri village in Tinsukia district, Assam. Passionate about building a horticulture nursery of exotic plants, he was immediately selected as a demo plot holder for the Vodafone Idea Smart Agri Project. Not a conventional farmer, Ajit was never interested in large-scale production and trading of plants but believes in experimenting with and researching various ways of growing exotic and rare plants which are not commonly found in the region, and then sharing the knowledge with the community.
Ajit’s enthusiasm and a can-do spirit carried him through the tough times during the pandemic. In the last three years, Ajit has grown nearly 100 different varieties of plants, including numerous variants of mango, ber (jujube), apples, guavas, dragon fruit, bananas, as well as flowers and medicinal herbs, with the help of organic fertilisers and pesticides which he makes in his farm. Solidaridad is proud to stand by Ajit and his efforts.
Revolutionising Leather Processing
Pollution and tannery effluents have long plagued developing countries, necessitating urgent measures to minimise their impact. In pursuit of sustainable solutions, Trident Leather, a progressive tannery in the Kolkata Leather Cluster, has embraced innovation. Solidaridad's introduction of the Smart Water Saving System marks a milestone in the industry, addressing key challenges and ushering in a new era of efficiency and environmental consciousness.
By automating water management, the tannery ensures precise chemical measurements, optimises production processes, and minimises wastage. Not only does it elevate the quality of leather, it also fosters a safer and healthier working environment.
Bhumika Solanki, joined us on 3rd July as Field Coordinator. She comes with eight years of experience in data collection, community engagement and on ground program management. She has done B.A in Sociology and Master in Social Work from Saurashtra University. Previously, she was associated with TISS-Saksham Project as a DRTB Counselor. We welcome, and wish her all the best.
Ekta Chothani, joined us on 3rd July, as Field Coordinator. She comes with five years of experience in organic farming, data collection for agtech projects through remote sensing and satellite technology. She has done M.Sc in Agriculture from College of Agriculture,Junagarh. Previously, she was associated with IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited as a Content Executive. We welcome, and wish her all the best.
Jadav Uday Vrajlal, joined us on 11th July, as Field Supervisor. He comes with more than seven years of experience in field operations and management. He has done B.Sc Chemistry from Saurashtra University, Rajkot. Previously, he was associated with Synergy Technofin Ltd. as a Field Operation Expert. We welcome, and wish him all the best.
Vrajlal Soniriya, joined us on 11th July, as Field Supervisor. He comes with more than twenty years of experience in project implementation, team management, stakeholder management and monitoring and evaluation. He has done MSW from Saurashtra University,Rajkot. Previously, he was associated with Reliance Foundation as a District Program Officer. We welcome, and wish him all the best.
Administrative Officer, Bhopal
Assistant Manager-Accounts and Finance, Bhopal