Feb 4, 2014
Development Cooperation: K+S KALI GmbH participates in a Village Development Project in rural India
“Unnat Krishi”, literally meaning ‘improved agriculture’, is the title of a joint project between K+S KALI GmbH and IRRAD, the Institute of Rural Research and Development, an initiative set up by the Sehgal Foundation in India. During a ceremony in June this year, a grant agreement was signed by Prof. Dr. Jóska Gerendás, Director K+S Fertilizers (India) Pvt. Ltd., and Ms Jane Schukoske of M.S. Sehgal Foundation.
Subsequently, the project area in the Alwar region in Rajasthan, India, was further evaluated. This survey covered a region, which is very underdeveloped in terms of agriculture as well as social and economic conditions. For example, the rate of illiteracy is around 41% and less than 19% of the locals received education beyond primary/elementary level. Results clearly indicate a need to set up and initially support local cells of advice, knowledge and demonstration which then can function as nuclei to spread the messages and knowledge beyond the borders of the project. “Unnat Krishi” is designed to cover ten villages over a period of at least three years, and K+S KALI GmbH will administer its contribution via K+S Fertilizers (India) Pvt. Ltd.
Project background of “Unnat Krishi”
Many people in rural India are familiar with problems such as living on the edge of the poverty line, economic hardship and illiteracy. And: Even though soils are capable of bearing two crops per year (kharif and rabi crops for summer and winter season cultivation), low productivity levels and resulting economic threats (losses) can often be observed in main crops such as pearl millet, mustard or wheat.
As one particular local stakeholder group, women self-help groups are rather common in this district of Alwar, and they in turn are quite familiar with IRRAD and the S.M. Sehgal Foundation. This non-profit trust is based in Gurgaon, India, and focuses on sustainable development in rural communities through empowerment of local institutions and community participation.
Securing sustainable food supply, generating awareness of soil health and the importance of balanced crop nutrition, of the choice of varieties and appropriate plant protection products including their timely application as well as offering agricultural advice and training will be key areas of intervention for K+S KALI GmbH in this mutual project. Furthermore, the efficient use and storage of water resources with check dams may become an additional issue.
Clear focus on the “self-help approach”
Quite similar to the „Growth for Uganda”, project, which was also launched in 2013, the “Unnat Krishi” Village Development Project aims at setting a starting point, which then can be used and further developed by local stakeholders. The “input packages” offered to farmers include all agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilisers, crop protection products) required to set up and run a demonstration plot.
As part of the agricultural activities, K+S KALI GmbH will be involved in drawing and analysing soil samples and subsequent nutrient recommendations for macro- and micronutrients as a “package” for a given crop, including product mix and timing. All inputs for these demonstration plots will be provided by K+S KALI GmbH whereas manpower, land preparation and irrigation will remain in the hands of local farmers, explains Dr. Surender Roperia of K+S Fertilizers (India) Pvt. Ltd. Close records of all measures on the demonstration plots and the evaluation of results achieved here and on neighbouring farmers’ plots will then allow for comparisons and learning effects.
Irrigation and water conservation play a major role
Due to the high water demand of a two crop season and limited groundwater availability, water scarcity is a severe problem in the project area. Most wells in the area are between 76 and 213 metres deep, and there is a risk of further ground water depletion.
Some dams for the “harvest of rainwater” have already been constructed by different companies and IRRAD in the recent past in neighbouring areas, showing very encouraging results. These dams require very little maintenance and can be regarded as one-time expenditure. The effectiveness of these rainwater retention dams with regard to an increased ground water recharge is well documented, hence offering opportunities to link these dams to other initiatives such as on the impact of potassium supply on water retention of soils. With regard to water use efficiency in an environment with frequent water scarcity, this may well be a focal point of interest in the future.
Furthermore, dams for rainwater retention are well-regarded in the local population, and people will participate in the construction either financially or in kind, and they will also take care of possible maintenance requirements later on. K+S KALI GmbH therefore currently evaluates possibilities to support the construction of a dam in addition to measures which have started already.
Further project outlook
Following positive experiences from the starting period and as a consequence of the very positive attitude of participating farmers, the number of participants in the “Unnat Krishi” project was increased in the current rabi season. More than 100 beneficiaries from about 10 villages are participating in the new programme. Soil test values are used for generating adequate recommendations regarding nutrient management and fertiliser use.
Research efforts of K+S KALI GmbH for achieving food security
For more than 100 years, K+S KALI GmbH has been involved in agricultural research, investigating solutions for agronomical challenges such as productivity increases, improvement of soil fertility and resource use efficiency. Extensive field trials in the world’s most important agricultural regions are the foundation for these research activities to date, as well as the results that are passed on to farmers through K+S KALI GmbH consulting activities. Based on this century of research, the company has gathered a comprehensive database covering the optimum nutrition of agricultural crops as well as strategies for the improvement of soil fertility. This expertise will also be shared with the project partners of K+S KALI GmbH in India.
Research performed at the Institute for Applied Plant Nutrition (IAPN) in Göttingen, Germany, which is a public-private partnership between K+S KALI GmbH and the Georg-August-University of Göttingen, will also play an important role. According to Prof. Dr. Andreas Gransee, Director of Applied Research and Advisory Service Agro of K+S KALI GmbH, the efficient transfer of knowledge plays an important role, in particular for the developing countries.
In the ”Unnat Krishi” project, K+S KALI GmbH will therefore assist in the setting up of regular soil testing schemes, in the documentation of demonstration plots in comparison to farmers’ practice plots, and in establishing advisory systems. The concept aims for a “snowball-effect” which then will increase and spread the knowledge by itself. Additionally and in conjunction with local experts best management practices are to be developed for the cultivation of crops like pearl millet, wheat, and mustard, all being typical for the region.
The Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD) is an initiative of S.M. Sehgal Foundation. The Foundation is an India-based trust operating since 1999. IRRAD’s mission is to strengthen community-led development initiatives to achieve positive social, economic and environmental change across rural India.
Based in Gurgaon, Haryana, IRRAD follows an integrated and research driven approach to village development by empowering rural communities to access their entitlements, and use knowledge and networks to realize their full potential.
Collaborating with corporate, government and social sectors, IRRAD advances its mission by facilitating local ownership over the development process. It partners with rural communities to create and implement solutions to their most pressing needs, working primarily in the areas of good governance, water resource management and small-scale agriculture.
IRRAD has received best-in-category awards from FICCI, UNESCO-Water Digest, Bhaskar Foundation, and the Government of India (Ministry of Water Resources) for its contributions to rural water management. The agriculture model by IRRAD received global recognition at the Hague Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change.