Friday, December 26, 2008

Aurangabad

Peter and I traveled north to Aurangabad to meet with the people at Global Easy Water Products (GEWP), the irrigation supply company that provides materials to IDE. We learned more about how their supply chain works and how we could potentially work with them in order to get our improved low-cost drip tape into the hands of thousands of Indian farmers. We showed them samples of our tubing and even had a live demonstration with Peter’s sample kit. We also visited more farmers who are using IDE’s current drip technology: this farmer is using drip irrigation to grow cotton.
One of the most fun parts of our visit was a shopping trip to GEWP’s warehouse, where we spent a lovely morning looking at each and every piece they use for both custom irrigation installations and small irrigation kits. We purchased boxes of tubing, fittings, filters, and tools—and then had quite the adventure explaining the contents of our luggage to airport security on the journey home.

GEWP staff examining a demonstration of driptech irrigation tubing



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A visit from Peter and our first installations in farmers’ fields



Peter arrived this week and we’ve been busy checking out potential farmers and fields for the pilot study. At the end of this busy week, we’ve already installed irrigation at three sites. The first one is a small backyard kitchen garden in the town of Melur, where we’re using a small reservoir. The second is a field in Arsajul that will be planted in chilies; here we’ve used a double reservoir. The third and largest is one tenth of an acre, or 10 cents (centimes, or hundredths of an acre) in Indian English. Here, we’re running the irrigation directly from the diesel pump, with no reservoir. We’ve had great reactions from the farmers and their neighbors—several people have asked us when they’ll be able to buy our drip tape.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It works!



Our first demonstration plot, the kitchen garden at Ravi’s farm, is coming along nicely. This week the beds looked lush and full and green—so we decided we probably should weed them.
Now the green is a bit more sparse, but still encouraging. The beans are growing fast, though not as fast as the radishes, and the transplanted tomatoes are still head and shoulders above the other veggies.
Though the irrigation system does seem to be working well, I have to admit that it’s still been raining off and on since we planted the garden. These days, though, the forecast is for dry weather—for the next five months. Now we’ll really get to see what a difference drip irrigation can make.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Agricultural ruins and new beginnings


I’ve spent the last couple weeks visiting local farms, large and small, trying to learn as much as possible about how people farm in these hills. I’ve walked through acres of meticulously weeded and trellised tomatoes, admired neat rows of turmeric, and stopped to watch the beginning of the finger millet harvest. I think the strangest visit was this semi-abandoned cut-flower farm near Kamagiri. Though the shadehouses and hoophouses are now just empty frames, the fruit tree orchards are still thriving; the papayas and bananas are loaded with fruit, and the mangoes and citrus are glossy and bright with fresh growth. Back on the other side of the forest hills, near the bottom of the valley, we visited these farmers who are preparing their fields for an irrigated winter finger millet crop. They’ve already turned the soil and leveled the fields, and started transplant beds of finger millet seedlings. That unmistakable neon green of fresh growth is amazing. These farmers will also be growing winter cash crops in a few of their small field sections—chilies, flowers, and green beans. Several of them are interested in trying out our drip irrigation in a section or two; the sandy soil in this part of the valley makes it difficult to irrigate by the conventional flooded furrow or basin system.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Krishi Mela


Ravi said… there’s an agricultural exhibit; you might want to attend. I pictured research posters on improved cotton varieties and perhaps a powerpoint presentation or two. Nope—this event, hosted by G.K.V.K. University, Bangalore—lives up to its name: Farmer’s Exhibition. Part trade show, part county fair, the hundreds of booths drew huge crowds of farmers, schoolkids, university staff, and general gawkers. I’m not sure how aquariums fit into this event—perhaps they just snuck in on the coattails of the aquaculture promoters? But the ornamental fish displays and quintessential fairground fish-in-a-bag giveaways drew a throng of gleeful kids; I think the fish were more popular than even the emu exhibits. My favorite booths were the seed variety displays, beautifully garlanded not only with flowers and sparkles, but also with intricately braided bouquets and pillars of grains. Fighting the distractions of tractor implement demonstrations and a man dressed as an orange paper mache horse, I spent quite a while in the irrigation section, scoping out our competition—and asking them for help finding some plastic fittings. Next year, perhaps driptech will our own booth at the Krishi Mela—I should probably start braiding some drip tape garlands now.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Planting our first demonstration plot in India


The first seeds are in the ground! We’ve worked up a 10 x 10 meter section (30 by 30 feet), added manure, shaped some nice beds, and laid out the drip tape. After admiring the little jets of water for a while (Shane from Hatsun Dairies agrees we need a lighted drip tape for ornamental installations), we decided the ground was wet enough to start planting. This first plot will have a wide variety of vegetables, to show what’s possible with drip irrigation. Some of the veggies we’re growing, like tomatoes and green beans, will be familiar to our blog followers back in the U.S.; others, like ridged gourd and ladyfingers (okra) may be more exotic. Murgesh, the farm manager, got quite an array of vegetable seeds in Denkanikottai; most of them I can identify, but there’s a few that have defied all our efforts at cross-cultural understanding, even with our nice thick English-Tamil dictionary. Murgesh promises he’ll find me some pictures.