The Telegraph
Thursday , February 13 , 2014
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Vancouver varsity to help train farmers

- Canada-based NGO sets up demo farm

Jorhat, Feb. 12: Fertile Ground, an NGO based in Canada, and Kaziranga University here have drafted an MoU to create a training and educational centre on sustainable agricultural practices in collaboration with Kwantlen University, Vancouver, which has a course on the subject.

The NGO, which has been operating in Assam since 2006, is looking to expand its base on a mass scale in regard to organic tea growing, farming and preservation of indigenous plant varieties through the facilities of Kaziranga University.

Peggy Carswell, co-ordinator of Fertile Ground who is touring Upper Assam along with her husband and chairman of the board, Kel Kelly, said it was not possible for the NGO to show and train all the farmers how to go about organic farming. However, she said with a few of them interested in sustainable practices and in collaboration with Kaziranga University, which had evinced interest in training on a mass scale, and Kwantlen University, they would be able to set up a model farm to teach everyone.

Kelly said the modalities were being worked out with the university and their next meeting would be on Friday.

“Our group believes in the East-West sustainable network and we learn from each other. Much of the organic pesticides and fertilisers we use in Canada is taken from Vedic and traditional knowledge here and this is what we are giving back to tea growers and farmers along with a scientific tweak,” he said.

Anil Sadaf, vice-president of the university, said the project would be under the skill development programme of the university.

“At first we will set up a demo farm and train farmers in and around Jorhat. If it takes off, we will pursue it on a larger scale,” he said.

The NGO has set up a demo farm in Digboi with the help of Rotary Club, Digboi and IOCL (Assam Oil Division) in Tinsukia and also worked in Kokrajhar and Sadiya.

Carswell, who addressed awareness campaigns at Kakojan College in Jorhat and Lengeri Anchalik gaon panchayat in Moran in Dibrugarh, said chemical fertilisers and pesticides were very harmful in the long run, depleting soil quality and leading to resistance in diseases.

“Indigenous traditional knowledge is to be practised and plants like bihlongoni and neem mixed with water in a formulation could be used as pesticides,” she said.

Referring to panchgavya, Carswell said it was a Vedic formula in which five products of the cow, including urine, and a bit of jaggery could be used to improve soil quality and keep insects at bay.

Mahaan Bora, associated with Fertile Ground, gave the example of the moa puk (insect), also known as Gandhi puk, which emitted a peculiar smell to attract other insects to the food. If these insects were collected and kept in an enclosed bottle for three days, they emitted another smell signalling danger.

These insects should then be killed and crushed and if strewn on the fields would keep off other insects, as they would emit smell signalling danger.