Newsletter No. 17 : A month into Kharif 2018

We have had an exciting few months leading up to the start of monsoon and Kharif 2018 season. The seeds of SRT revolution sown in Kharif 2011 and 2012 are seen to be bearing results in the form of enthusiasm shown by the farmers in Kharif 2018.

Our 15-member strong team of SRT Sevaks have been extremely busy showcasing the amazing results and advantages of SRT through meetings and presentations. There were meetings held right from early in the morning to late at nights either for one farmer or 100’s of farmers. Presentations were done on mobile phones or laptops to big screens in an auditorium to on field live demonstrations at Saguna Baug and on SRT farmers plots. The live demonstrations initially were done to highlight successful farmers. It was followed by practical training on farmer’s fields by showing how the beds are prepared by manual method(spade and shovel), bullock drawn plough, power tiller singular ridger or tractor drawn BBF machine; how to spray weedicide safely and effectively; how to use the SRT frame for dibbling of seeds. Our SRT Sevaks had the work motto of ‘Wake up to SRT, Eat with SRT, Sleep to SRT and Repeat’.

The enthusiasm and driving force for their excellent work is both due to their passion for SRT and the welcome and amount of respect they received wherever they went for visits. This respect is the proof of their hard work in the previous season and the remarkable results SRT has shown over the previous seasons. However, the biggest endorsement for SRT and the work done so far was the fact that for almost every meeting there were existing SRT farmers talking about and recommending SRT. These farmers took the initiative to organise meetings in their area or for their farmers group at their house or on their farms. Similarly, we have seen that lot of our old SRT farmers have grown in self-confidence that they have taken up the mantle of SRT Sevaks and carrying the torch of SRT revolution forward.

All the hard work of previous months has paid off with some amazing results which have been witnessed from initial sprouting of the rice plants across the fields of 1000’s of farmers. Almost all the plots have shown strong and uniform growths which are showing healthy and promising signs of another successful year for SRT.

We are extremely grateful and indebted by the support provided by RPF and all our donor relatives and friends for taking part in our successful SRT journey.

SRT Sevaks July 2018
SRT Sevak team

Extension of SRT by “SRT Sevak

We organised meetings in interior parts of village to motivate farmers about SRT – zero till agriculture. Love to share some photos from such meetings organized across various parts of Maharashtra.

Farmer meet at Khed, Pune
Farmer meet at Khed, Pune
Mulashi, Pune
Mulashi, Pune
Dapoli, Ratnagiri
Dapoli, Ratnagiri
Guhagar, Ratnagiri
Guhagar, Ratnagiri
Guhagar, Ratnagiri
Guhagar, Ratnagiri
Alibaug, Raigad
Alibaug, Raigad

Photos of various SRT farmer plots from Kharif 2018

Thank you,
Shekhar Bhadsavle

 

Newsletter No. 16 : Introducing SVT

We have been actively engaged researching and implementing on very exciting and important projects for the past 6 months due to which we were unable to provide our monthly newsletter to you on time. The past months have been a period of growth for our organisation, SRT(SRT Thailand project) as well as taking forward with forest department a unique, effective and simple technique called Saguna Vanasanvardhan Tantra (SVT)’.

Defination of Saguna Vansanvardhan Tantra (SVT):
It is a simple, low cost and effective technique which stops wildfires by converting the inflammable dry grass into organic manure and fixing of atmospheric carbon, promoting natural production of earthworms and soil aggregation, completely stopping soil erosion, there by initiating water infiltration, thus once again regenerating greenery and biodiversity on degraded lands.

Saguna Vanasanvardhan Tantra (SVT)
Recognising one of our core objective of ‘Carbon Sequestration’, SVT has been developed to prevent forest fire & regenerate degraded & barren mountains.  The initial research on SVT was undertaken due to the fact that vast mountainous area surrounding Saguna Baug were barren and prone to forest fires every year. To prevent and regenerate this dangerous cycle, we have been conducting research on our owned hillock since 2014.

Last year in collaboration with Principle Chief Conservator of Forest, R&D(PCCF) Mr. Jeet Singh, Research Education and Training wing of Maharashtra forest department, a pilot project was started on three mountains in the Karjat taluka and one at Mannashakti, Lonawala. The positive results and advantages which were achieved on these mountains has led to keen interest and feedback in the State forest department from the Secretary Shri. Vikas Kharge to the grassroot level forest worker in Karjat, Mr. Tukaram. Also, Dr. Afroz Ahmed one of the leading environmental scientist and planner in India visited and was impressed by our SVT and SRT work. Similarly, some motivated NGOs are also conducting SVT trials near their surrounding areas under our guidance and encouragement. During Monsoon 2018, we have undertaken a bigger task & expecting astonishing findings.

1
SVT treated forest plot of about 5Ha at Shirase, Karjat was the only central portion which did not burn in wildfire, saved 100% plantation, while hundreds of hectors 360 degree around the plot was completely burned & charred, thereby killing 100% of the plantation.

The excitement at all these levels is due to following reasons:

  1. It is a very low cost & effective, requires less manpower, easy and sustainable way of stopping forest fire.
  2. Rather than burning a million tons of organic biomass in the forests and mountains, it can be possible to convert in situ. Due to this, relating to global ecosystem a large amount of “carbon fixation” can be achieved.
  3. Biodiversity in the forest area can be saved as the dying & destruction of lifecycle of birds, rodents, reptiles and microorganism can be avoided. Similarly, destruction of their habitats due to high temperature caused by wildfires can be stopped. It will also evade the risk of injury to life of forest guards and volunteers when extinguishing these fires.
  4. Due to this technique the earthworm activities increases; soil aggregation occurs which then stops soil erosion and increases water infiltration due to which the mountains and forest can enriched with large water reservoir.
  5. Regeneration of the degraded mountains can be achieved quickly and they can once again become place of healthy biodiversity and source of income.
2
Visit of the Forest Secretary to the Shirase plot

The Technique :

The technique involves a set of three practices to achieve our objectives as follows:

  1. To protect forest land from wildfire by using weed killer :
    Using general purpose weedicide i.e Glyphosate on green grass in the month of September-October to make vertical and horizontal sections of the mountains.  Thus the grass which otherwise would have dried and become inflammable material turns into non inflammable organic manure. This adds considerable amount of organic carbon to the soil. It promotes earthworm’s growth which makes soil porous. This is a perfect situation which increases water infiltration of the soil rather than water runoff.
  1. Live fence and Live contour bunding :
    To protect forest area from poachers and stray cattle a live fence is provided at the bottom of mountain. The live fence is of thorny plants/bushes such as Cactus (Opuntia species), Agave (Agave americana), Karvanda (Carissa congesta) and Wild date palm (Phoenix sylvestris). After long R&D we confirmed  following suitable species for live contour bunding. Such plants are resistent to forest fire, drought conditions and stray animals. These plants are 1) Nirgudi (Vitex negundo), 2) Karvanda (Carissa congesta), 3) Cliff banana (Enset superbum), 4) Khus grass (Vetiver Zizanoides), 5) Agave (Agave americana), 6) Wild date palm (Phoenix sylvestris).
  1. Use of 3 layer plastic cover (SVT-Sleeve)
    To enhance growth of plants, protection from stray cattle & protection from hot-dry summer winds we have come up with a three layer plastic cover, the SVT-Sleeve. Inner and outer layer have anti-fogging property which enables collecting and trickling of the due drops to the root zone of the sapling. And the middle layer being UV resistant prevents scorching of the plant and allowing smooth photosynthesis. The sleeves have demonstrated survival of plants to the tune of 80%.
Amazing survival and growth results of forest plantation by SVT-Sleeve
Amazing survival and growth results of forest plantation by SVT-Sleeve
SVT Model to prevent loss in forest area by wildfire and to start regenerative activity by effectively planting bush species.
SVT Model to prevent loss in forest area by wildfire and to start regenerative activity by effectively planting bush species.
Social awareness and social movement to the stop the wildfire and bring back greenery for healthy is on the go.
Social awareness and social movement to the stop the wildfire and bring back greenery for healthy is on the go.

We are financially supported by Rama Purushottam Foundation, Pune for the work.

With warm regards,
Shekhar Bhadsavle
Founder and Managing Trustee,
Saguna Rice Technique (SRT) and Saguna Rural Foundation (SRF)

 

Newsletter No. 14 : Introducing SRT’s dearest friends

Namaste,
Every passing day; corporates, NGO’s and various government departments have started walking with us on this path of SRT, Conservation Agriculture method, which is leading to the supreme happiness and confidence building all over. Today, we’d like to share the lovely work these organisations are doing together with us.

Corporates

1. Jindal Steel Works(JSW Foundation)

During current Kharif season in Palghar, Thane, Raigad & Ratnagiri districts there are 300 SRT beneficiary farmers in Jawhar, Shahapur, Murud, Alibaug, Pen and Ratnagiri talukas. Almost all farmers are heading for success in this method.

JSW organized event

2. Rama Purushottam Foundation (RPF)

In Pune district there are 75 SRT beneficiary farmers in Khed, Junnar, Mulashi and Bhor Talukas. In this area the alternative second crop in Kharif season by SRT method is groundnut. So far the vegetative growth of the crops appears excellent. Recharging of aquifers due to efficient drainage in SRT is their main expectation.

Listen to the happiness beaming from one of SRT farmer:

3. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)

Through their new innovation lab, TCS is helping us to digitalize the data for effective analysis and drawing appropriate conclusions.

TCS Data

NGO’s

1. Vivekananda Research and Training Institute (VRTI), Roha.

This is the 1st NGO who has promoted SRT for their beneficiary farmers in 2014. Now they have 187 farmers through Kharif 2017. Their team is doing excellent work of hand holding of early adopter farmers.

VRTI Farmer

2. Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra (SNM), Chiplun.

After their successful mission of saving Olive Ridley turtles and its integration with tourism at Velas, Ratnagiri now they are actively working to save Indian Pangolin. Their vision is that if local folks get affordable and easy livelihood through SRT, they will forsake hunting of Pangolin.

Here’s a video of the local leader speaks for itself that the NGO is headed for success in their hypothetical goal. In the 1st year itself SNM team has successfully taken forward 22 farmers with SRT.

3. Mahila Arthik Vikas Mandal (MAVIM), Gadchiroli.

This is excellent work with SRT for tribal women in the naxal affected Gadchiroli district. Because of the long distance and lack of funds our frequency to reach the farmers is limited; if it can be improved much more better results and data collection will be possible.

Leading newspaper Sakal had a article on the success being achieved by these farmers.

4. Lupin Foundation, Pune.

The team is doing very good persistent work about SRT for last two years. 18 farmers are making good progress with rice and groundnut crop in Junnar Taluka of Pune district.

5. Mannashakti, Lonavala.

This NGO is concerned about environmental aspects. On their small private hill they face wildfire problem every year. Now they have accepted to work with SRT principles to resolve the problem of wildfire. Also to create friendly environment on the hill slope, they have planted live contour of Wild Banana, Karavanda, Nirgudi, Vetiver grass and Wild Date palm by SRT principles.

Mannashakti Hill

Government

1. Maharashtra Agriculture Department.

Agriculture department accepted SRT on trail basis for the Public Private Partnership – Integrated Agriculture Development(PPP-IAD) program in 2014-15. Now they have taken up this regenerative method of farming for their “Unnat Sheti, Samruddha Shetakari Abhiyan“. Quite a few serious agricultural officials are effectively able to showcase good SRT plots, by the SRT farmers in their command area.

2. Forest Department.

  • Bhandardara section of forest department has taken keen interest helping farmers in the forest region with SRT persistently for last 3 years. Their success is extraordinarily good.
  • Research and Development wing of forest has liked the idea of using SRT principles to prevent wildfires. They invited us for presentation and further interaction is in progress.

Forest Dept Farmer

3. National Water Academy(NWA), Pune.

They were impressed about SRT getting the international “WatSave Farmer Award 2016“. After interaction with them they are actively participating with our team with the objective of sharing knowledge for efficient use of water and effective water infiltration into the ground.

NWA Farmer


Saguna Rice Technique(SRT) definition:

It is a Conservation Agriculture (CA), Zero Till method of farming which does not cause atrocity of tillage, completely stops soil erosion, promotes natural production of earthworms, increases organic carbon of the soil, considerably increases productivity of the land and added effect of amazing happiness and confidence to the farmer.

As the South West Monsoon 2017 starts its preparations for withdrawal, we made an attempt to film flourishing rice fields at Saguna Baug using an angle never attempted before. Using a GoPro Hero 4 camera generously sponsored by JSW Foundation. And we’re so happy to share it with you all.

 

A month into Kharif 2017

This year’s Monsoon has now completed its first 30 days. All the new SRT farmers have come to end of their first phase of SRT operations that is bed making, seed dibbling, use of pre emergence and post emergence weedicides, observing and sharing information of germination, connecting with our SRT Sevak and so on. We are hoping that SRT headquarter will be able to connect with about 1000 farmers through our SRT Sevaks during Kharif 2017. Eventually the successful farmers will be the “Islands of Light” for “Happy and Confident farmers” in their area.

At the start of this Kharif season, we’d set two primary tasks for ourselves. Describing it below:

Task 1:

To generate a happy and confident farmer using SRT for field crops such as Rice, Ragi, Pulses, Vegetables, Bajra, etc. We have big hopes in these agro-climatically diversified crops in 16 districts of Maharashtra. These farmers will make positive contribution for national food security and global issue of carbon sequestration.

Each one of these farmers will be tagged with a permanent farmer ID having his/her details such as personal & land information, GPS location, field operations data, photographs, etc. All this information will be available to public through internet within a month. This way we want to create online collaboration portal for which we expect feedback and input from all of you.

Task 2:

To reverse degradation of mountain slopes by wildfire, erosion and runoff. Four years of our persistent efforts to stop wildfire and erosion on steep slopes and initiate greenery in these difficult terrain has resulted some good hopes. We have found out that carbon sequestration in these specific areas is the key to achieve above mentioned task. We have also found out which species of plants (Cliff banana, Shindi palm, Fan palm, Nirgudi, Vetiver grass, Karavanda) can best survive in existing worst scenario (lack of irrigation and very low moisture content of the soil, uncontrolled grazing, wildfire, etc.). With these plants we are creating live contour bund on the slopes which will stop further degradation, water runoff and create livable condition for more species of plants and grasses.

The work at Peb fort (Left) and second at Mannashakti hill Lonavala (Right) is in progress. The result of these spots can only be confirmed in July 2018.

Hope generated for our concentrated efforts since 2010

The team

The field level team has grown to 12 of us active in various locations for hand holding of farmers and providing us with the field data. Aamod and Kapil, our teammates keep helping us from long distance.

Team SRT
Team SRT meet at Saguna Baug

SRF Trust/NGO

Saguna Rural Foundation is registered as charitable trust E-31621 (Mumbai) and also has got 80G (No. CIT(E)/80G/2123/2016-17) certificate from income tax department.

Finance

We have started getting financial help from JSW foundation, Mumbai; Rama Purushottam Foundation, Pune and Kisan Forum, Pune. I have also been getting considerable support from friends and relatives. This support is keeping us going strong without financial worries.

Technical Backup

  • Data digitization guidance and help is given by Mr Dineshkumar Singh, Group leader, TCS innovation lab Mumbai.
  • Validating the economic and sociological parameters will soon commence with Gokhale Institute of Economics and Politics, Pune.

New Research & Development

  • Designing seed dibbling machine for SRT
  • Rice seed treatment to give a smoother surface for machine dibbling is in the pipeline.

SRT definition

It is a Conservation Agriculture (CA), Zero Till method of farming which does not cause atrocity of tillage, completely stops soil erosion, promotes natural production of earthworms, increases organic carbon of the soil, considerably increases productivity of the land and added effect of amazing happiness and confidence to the farmer.

 

Kharif 2017 progress

It has been pretty long time since we’ve communicated with you about the progress of SRT-SRF team with the farmers in various areas; mainly because every one of us with our all capacities of mind, body and energy were occupied with the farmers. We began extension of SRT knowledge to farmers in 2013 with a very small group of 30 farmers. Whereas during last April-May-June Team SRT (8 locations) have been meeting at least 50 farmers per day throughout Maharashtra. All these meetings to orient the farmers for Zero Till SRT technique was in the form of meeting with one to one or group of farmers; either in field demonstration or documentary screening.

Present SRT team includes 6 agricultural graduates, 1 IT professional and three expert farmers working in 11 thrust areas as follows:

  • Salav – Murud
  • Alibaug – Pen
  • Vasind – Shahapur
  • Tarapur – Vasai – Mokhada
  • Pune – Maval – Mulshi
  • Roha – Karjat
  • Satara – Kolhapur
  • Chandrapur – Gadchiroli – Nagpur
  • Ratnagiri – Dapoli – Khed – Chiplun
  • Nasik – Ghoti
  • Rest of India

We are not able to confirm the exact number of farmers in all these areas today but we should be able to finish this work by the end of this crop season. We are going to give a permanent serial number to each farmer with his/her GPS location and farm details. Progressive photographs of each farmer will be available for analytics and checking progress. As of now the participating farmers have completed bed making and sowing operations. The handholding of farmers enters into second phase which is weed management, gap filling and fertilizer application; the important stage for success of the whole exercise.

Other than field crops we are attempting Carbon Sequestration by SRT principles and live contour bunding on hill slopes at four sites. The projected objectives are:

  • To stop wildfire completely.
  • Assured increase in green cover with low maintenance plants.
  • Confirming probability of use of cliff Banana, Vetiver grass, Karvanda bush and Phoenix palm in combination as live contour bund to prevent soil erosion.

Also, effective Carbon Sequestration in Horticulture projects with SRT principles is being tried at three different locations.


SRT definition

It is a Conservation Agriculture (CA), Zero Till method of farming which does not cause atrocity of tillage, completely stops soil erosion, promotes natural production of earthworms, increases organic carbon of the soil, considerably increases productivity of the land and added effect of amazing happiness and confidence to the farmer.

 

Visits to meet various SRT farmers

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to tell you that farmer’s enthusiasm about SRT is ever increasing. Some of the NGO’s & CSR departments in Maharashtra and outside are also taking it forward in the interest of farmers and the environment.

Following are pictorial stories in the past 45-50 days in which we will update you about above statement.

Invitation from the Yerwada jail, Pune and in the jail (5th May 2016) with inmates and police for SRT purpose was interesting experience they were very good and also said “SRT will be the way for us when we will be out there”.

Farmers meet at Maval, Pune MH (11th May 2016) sponsored by Kisan Forum, Pune & Agriculture dept. Pune.

Demonstration and presentation (17th May 2016) at Balgram, Ramkrishna Mission, Gwalior