Since 2001, PRASAD Chikitsa has been implementing meaningful and effective sustainable community development programs. Initiatives include agricultural, environmental, educational and women’s empowerment programs that provide a more stable livelihood for the people.
In India, many circumstances thwart the farmers of smallholdings – inability to get financing, the high cost of supplies, poor irrigation and lack of transportation to get crops to market before they spoil.
PRASAD Chikitsa helps farmers to form clubs, and educates them on a range of issues, including how to increase crop output, conserve water, and implement year-round farming techniques. The Tansa Valley now has five PRASAD Farmers Clubs, with a combined membership of 212 men and women.
As with all of The PRASAD Project’s programs, the human element is key to the PRASAD Chikitsa Farmers Clubs. By working together, farmers are building partnerships with institutions such as the Indian National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development. As a result, the Farmer’s Clubs are able to secure loans that are not generally available to individuals.
With those loans, the clubs buy seed, fertilizer, and equipment at bulk rates. The farmers also help one another harvest and transport their crops to market. In addition, as the farmers prosper on their own lands, they become more invested in protecting the environment.
In 2007, PRASAD Chikitsa Self-Help Groups (SHGs) took the lead in implementing a tree-planting program in the Tansa Valley. So far, SHGs have planted thousands of trees around villages and schools throughout the region. The trees they have planted are helping to restore the environment. In the case of fruit trees, they also provide food and a cash crop.
Farming is the main livelihood for many people in the Tansa Valley. However, there are numerous environmental challenges, a limited growing season and significant associated costs that made sustaining a family with traditional farming alone difficult. PRASAD Chikitsa addresses this need by educating farmers about a range of issues, including how to increase crop output, conserve water, and implement year-round farming techniques. Since 2012, PRASAD has focused on organic farming and has committed to working only with farmers who pledge to use organic farming techniques.
Orchard (WADI) Project and Second Crop Initiative
With PRASAD Chikitsa’s support, farmers in the Tansa Valley have planted mango and chikku trees – popular fruits that are easy to sell. Amidst the trees, they also are planting cash crops such as colorful marigolds or chamomiles, and vegetables such as spinach, beans, cucumbers, peppers and squash. It takes five to seven years for the fruit trees to become productive and profitable; in the meantime these second crops provide both additional food and income. PRASAD Chikitsa plans to expand the project to more farmers in the next year.
Water and Soil Conservation Initiative
PRASAD’s Water and Soil Conservation initiative targets better water management by equipping villagers to combat soil erosion and keep drinking wells pure. Villagers and Women’s Self-Help Groups, like Ghotogon’s, are helped to make dams; restore bunds or embankments to prevent runoff; remove waste and silt from wells and keep surrounds clean. Organic farming reduces the pollution of ground and surface water.
Most farmers depend on monsoon rain for their crop production, usually rice. In the non-monsoon season they lack water to irrigate crops, which means many farms are productive for only half the year, and half as productive as they could be.
In December 2015- January 2016 PRASAD excavated 4 small wells (about 10-12 feet deep) in Nandani and Koshimshet to store rain water for irrigation. Excavation sites were chosen after careful study of the topography and ground water levels.
PRASAD staff also visit successful innovative local farmers, such as Anil Patil at Sanga village, Tal – Wada to learn from their experience with tools, irrigation systems, nurseries and different cultivation methods.