Combating hunger in the Thar

In 2015 India was placed at top in the United Nations World Hunger List, being home to more than 194 million people living with hunger. Failed crop cycles due to drought, diseases and poor seed quality not only lead to hunger but also influence farmers’ economic situation (as they can no longer sell products) and the well-being of their animals. To combat hunger in the Thar and support villagers of whom approximately 82% claim agriculture as their livelihood we operate with different methods concentrating on several aspects that improve agricultural produce. Apart from providing families with Arid Horticulture Units (a supply of vital nutrients for a family) which we talked about in our last post there are three more methods we work with to aid villagers.
Seed Banks
Our work with seed banks is split. First of all we analyse different seeds in order to find the most profitable ones in terms of water consumption and agricultural produce. As soon as the most efficient ones are spotted we store these seeds in a mix of neem leaf and ash until we hand them over to villagers. The above described process has significant benefits. Villagers don’t have to go to the market in order to get seeds, which can save them an enormous amount of time and money. Additionally the seeds have been tested in soil that is similar to theirs hence the chances that the yield will be successful increase. As of 2016 we have set up 453 seed banks.
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A farmer growing mustard on water-saturated land during winter
Khadin
Khadins were established many, many years ago in Jaisalmer but still serve as an effective way of water harvesting. When constructing a khadin, a 100 to 300 m long earthen embankment is build at the end of upland fields to collect rainwater. This water is used to moisturize the fields and the then water-saturated land is used for agriculture. We promote this technique and have so far aided in the construction of more than 5000 khadins.
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A Khadin after the harvest

Oran 

Even though the practice of setting up orans is fading, they continue to be an important instrument of revitalizing the environment in the Thar, seeing that overgrazing and unsustainable farming techniques are still major problems. Originally having been private land, orans have been handed over to the community and now serve as community pastureland. The growth of shrubs and trees on this land has many advantages for the community including the provision of fodder for livestock, the adding of nutrients to the soil and the prevention of soil erosion. We have to date set up 69 orans.

In the future, GRAVIS will continue its efforts to improve the nutritional and economical situation of those living in the Thar, especially farmers, and to find sustainable solutions to enhance their quality of life.
*by Anna Gall, Volunteer
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