A village about three kilometres from the IIT Kharagpur campus will learn from engineering students techniques that will probably change age-old practices and train them in new techniques.
A group of IITians, who have taken education beyond the hallowed campus to turn a village around, has set its sight on an initiative called “greenovation”, that could be a game-changer in the lives of poor farmers.
The Gopali Youth Welfare Society, an organisation of about a hundred IIT students, has engaged postgraduate students of the agricultural and food engineering department to arm farmers with the technique.
The students recently completed a two-day training for farmers of the village, one of the students said.
“The training took place at the Precision Farming Development Center at IIT Kharagpur. Farmers learnt about new and innovative low-cost techniques that may boost their income,” said Hemant Kumar, a second-year postgraduate student.
Farmers attending the workshop were acquainted with techniques of micro-irrigation and drip irrigation that require less water.
“The present irrigation technique (flood irrigation) uses a lot of water. If the use of water could be reduced, it would bring down the cost of farming. We also taught them how to use organic manure, which costs less than inorganic farming,” Kumar said.
Precision farming is an approach where inputs are utilised in precise amounts to get an increased average yield, compared to traditional cultivation techniques, he added.
Mrinal Bhanja, a villager who has been associated with the society since its launch, said a large number of villagers are junking farming as the cost is on the rise and they don’t have access to modern sustainable farming techniques.
“We have observed that vast agricultural lands in the village are lying unused because of this shortcoming. Therefore we thought of engaging IIT students. We will soon do an assessment on how they have been benefited,” Bhanja said.
A teacher of IIT Kharagpur said with little industrial activity in and around the village, the villagers rely on farming for a living.
The society was set up in 2002 with a mission to improve the living standards of the people of Gopali.
Its flagship initiative is Jagriti Vidya Mandir, an English-medium primary school started in 2008 that provides free education to children from financially poor background.
Under the Greenovation project, students have started creating a garden for the school. “Kids can enjoy their lunch break and play games in the garden. In winter, they can also have classes here,” said Nishanth, an IIT Kharagpur student.
The welfare initiatives of the society are funded by IIT Kharagpur alumni.
“The initiatives are acts of social service by IIT Kharagpur students with a motivation to give something back to the society,” said Partha Pratim Chakraborty, the director of IIT Kharagpur.
“The determination of the students to bring about a change amazes me. I feel privileged to have such students on the campus.”