Lush green farm, chirping sparrows, farmers busy reaping – this is just another country-side farm but with a difference!
Inflation making the headlines combined with the unseasonal rains, increased vegetable prices and thereby increased cost of cooking, is a story every household in the country is familiar with. For The Akshaya Patra Foundation which feeds millions of children everyday, the impact is all the more challenging. To address the situation to an extent, The Akshaya Patra Foundation runs an organic farm 55kms away from Jaipur. The kitchen garden programme is a pilot project; the land was taken on lease in April 2010 and dehydration and green house have been set up.
The 15 acres of land yields about 90 tonnes of vegetables a year. These vegetables are then dehydrated and stored in the go-downs. During the off-season, when the prices of vegetables soar, these vegetables are used for cooking, thus bringing about cost efficiency and at the same time ensuring that the continuously given nutritive food.
The health advantage comes from the fact that the meal is cooked from a variety of vegetables that are not available during the off-season and also because these vegetables are grown by kitchen garden methodology. Spinach, cabbage, carrot, broccoli, radish and peas are grown on a rotation basis all through out the year. Manure which is acquired from the Vermi-compost ensures a good yield. The Neem extracts are used as insecticides which alter insect’s behavior or life processes in ways that can be extremely subtle. Eventually, however, the insect can no longer feed or breed or metamorphose and can cause no further damage.
In addition to adopting kitchen garden, the farmers in the nearby areas are also educated and trained on it. Many of them have already started implementing kitchen garden practices. The produce from these farmers is then bought by Akshaya Patra. Hansraj Mali, a local farmer says in addition to reaping the benefits of kitchen garden, they are reaping better financial outcomes, “Since Akshaya Patra buys the produce directly from us and we are spared from the work of transporting all the produce and finding a vendor. Moreover we save on the money which we used to pay as commissions.” A talk with the farmers reveals that they have resorted to using cow dung as manure and say that the soil structure has improved. A few years ago they used fertilizers which during the course of time had a negative impact on the soil fertility.
The farm is still in its inception phase and has long way ahead. But with a project like this, the organisation is setting a foot to address the challenge of classroom hunger at the same time ensuring quality nutrition around the year with no compromise, be it inflation or missing monsoon.