Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Trash talking with the Local Schools

School kids learn about the importance of a clean environment
In order to make the S.W.A.S.H. project in Janauri sustainable we need to change peoples behaviours. This happens through making waste disposal easy and practical. In our case, we firstly introduced the recycling bags scheme within the village, and then followed this up with projects, such as restoring the public restroom and undertaking groundworks in the water gutter area. Much to our delight, all of these S.W.A.S.H. efforts have drawn increasing interest and cooperation from within the local community.

Changing age-old habits is not going to happen in the short-term. We recognise that we won't be pulling up any trees overnight, but with the success of these projects, coupled with a great visual presence in the village, this may take a while, but we will change peoples attitudes over time!

With the idea of 'legacy' in mind, for the long-term success of this effort, the S.W.A.S.H. team decided to sensitize the minds of the future decision makers - the children of Janauri. We are currently working with four schools, three in Janauri - the Girls Middle School, the Mixed Middle School and the Modern Public School - and one in Paro (neighbouring village) - the SDM School. The general idea is to give presentations and workshops at these schools, to raise awareness, so students learn about local and global environmental problems. With a problem, there needs to be an remedy, so we discuss and propose solutions with the children and teachers too. Together we work to identify how the locals can strive towards achieving the goal of a clean environment to live within!

There have been presentations in three of the schools with the Modern Public School already scheduled for July. In the future we are looking forward to create one presentation/workshop per month and present them at the schools, one school a week. This series of events will start in July as the kids are on holiday throughout June.

The plinth - just before the Janauri team address their masses!!
The children have been enjoying our presentations and showed great interest. With games like the 'trash game', where the children have to guess what kind of waste is shown to them, and the 'good/bad plays', where we act out different good and bad habits concerning waste. We are trying to make learning about the environment as fun and exciting as possible. It is a serious health issue, which is sometimes difficult to raise the children's interest towards the topic. However, by making the presentations interactive and exciting, we seem to be capturing their attention!

We have to keep our presentations very basic and simple so the translation into Hindi/Punjabi is easier for the teachers. Having experienced good translation so far and having increased the general knowledge of the students about environment, we will try to go into more detail and address more complicated topics in the future. So far so good!! :)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

All the way to Uttarakhand... Organic farming!!

Success!! Interns had a great time at the organic farm camp!!!
It was a long trip. An overnight train, a day on the bus, a three-hour taxi ride and a 40 minute hike up to the SARG farm near Nainital, Uttarakhand. But we were rewarded by stunning mountain views, excellent home-cooked meals and a wealth of knowledge on bio-dynamic farming – a very unique method well suited to the Indian culture and environment.

Our teachers were experts in the fields on organic and bio-dynamic farming, some working for the government training centers of Uttarakhand, and some farmers themselves. They were kind enough to share with us their knowledge of the field and let us ask copious amount of questions.

Eight members of EduCARE completed a three-day course which included lectures and practical lessons on the basics of bio-dynamic farming – which in the very simplest terms means “How to make cow poo work for you”. The method was developed in New Zealand, and later brought to India, where it has caught on widely in some regions, and presents a promising alternative to conventional, chemical farming. It uses cow dung and urine, green manure, compost and vermiculture systems to create a completely closed-circle sustainable farm, complete with natural growth hormones, pesticides, fertilizers and seeds, all produced on-site. The bio-dynamic method also incorporates the astrological calendar when determining dates of sewing, harvesting, fertilizing and general farm activity.

Although it is empty at the moment, the farm hosts a bee-house where honey is produced, and 4 cows which produce enough by-product to sustain the entire 24 acre farm. It is also the largest producer of vermilian extract in India.

We were introduced to several different composting methods, seed storage methods, and pesticide recipes, and of which we would like to see working on the EduCARE farm in Sotla in the future. We were also surprised and happy to hear that bio-dynamic and organic farms produce just as much crop as a chemical farm – which we know is a huge concern for farmers who sustain themselves and their families on their land.

We are sincerely grateful to the organizers and teachers of our course for giving us some of the tools we need to make our farm a productive and sustainable example for local farmers in the Bhunga Block, and throughout India. 

Here is another really interesting website on organic farming and organic products from Uttarakhand!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Going with the flow

The disgusting state of the muddy hole/run-off water
As part of our ongoing S.W.A.S.H. project in Januari, this Wednesday, those interns who were not away on a the bio-dynamic farming course (more to come on the blog soon), gathered to take on the so-called water gutter problem that is being faced by the village. 

The problem: The used run-off water that is guttered along the side of the street (mainly from the kitchens and showers of peoples homes) had become stuck in front of the Boy's Middle School, due to a muddy hole that had formed in the street. This, combined with trash flushed in by the rain, coupled with the extreme heat, had led to this disgusting patch that the school kids had to confront on a daily basis - both aurally and visually.

Additionally, this area had become a more problematic issue for the whole village at large. Not only had the area become aesthetically unappealing, but now the stagnant water that had formed was slowly seeping into the ground, which is one of main causes of the bad ground water quality, the water that people drink and use to irrigate their farmland - a real issue for concern!

Appoline and Annette picking up the trash
What happened: The days work started with the ladies bravely taking on the dirty job of cleaning out the water gutter, and ridding it of all the trash that had been thrown carelessly into the area. Meanwhile, simultaneously, the men dug out the canal on the other side of the road, to make it ready for the plumbing of the pipe under the road that had become blocked over the years with trash and sludge. 

There was plenty of support from the locals
Right from the start the interns experienced a lot of community support, which was fantastic for us! To see that the community were interested and willing to help was really nice. We had up to four community members helping at one time - support that was very welcome on such a hot day!!

The all-important plumbing - with bamboo!
After the plumbing was done, we needed to rebuild the original canal in the water gutter section of the project and then level the rest of the hole. After moderate success using the leveler (a cricket pitch roller), it was clear, that the leveling could not be finished, as the ground was still too wet under the layer of dry mud and sand that all the interns had dug up. This particular part of the project, the leveling, will be continued during the next week by the S.W.A.S.H. team members in Janauri, as the land will dry out and become more stable.

Leveling out the area with sand, mud, and feet!
Yet, having everybody thinking that the work was done, the project manager for the day, Manuel, happened to have his heart set on the idea of moving the extremely heavy concrete pipes. His desire, to use them to protect the new canal we had dug-out from preventing trash from gathering their again. 

Despite the fact we were all tired, after another hour of hard and sweaty work, the first part of the canal was successfully covered by one of the big concrete pipes - a great success. Covering the canal properly will now prevent the water from future blockages due to trash, mud and plants that had previously caused flow issues.

The new canal, a job well done!!
Pipe down - the new drainage system in place
From the side of the S.W.A.S.H. project team in Janauri it has to said: Thanks for the great support from the interns in Adampur and Dosarka for helping out with what was a very hard, very hot and dirty days work.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Pandori's football frenzy!

Talking tactics, before the game
On Wednesday afternoon, the ‘International Hunters’ football team once again squared off against the always dangerous ‘Pandori Tigers’. Our team was made up of Will, Javin, Manuel, Ethan, Daikin and myself (Tom). The game was played on Pandori soil, on a new pitch far larger than anything played on before. The sheer size of the pitch was a rigorous test of cardio for all players. I personally found myself insisting on being goal keeper in the second half, and with a benevolent show of mercy, the other players let me.

Stand out performances came from Daikin and Ethan, who did not shy away from battling, with great success, with individuals far larger and older than themselves. Daikin took a few knocks, but with an admirable display of resolve, was quick to shake them off and head back into the thick of the action. Manuel had to leave after the first half, which was unfortunate because he was our main goal scorer. He had the uncanny ability to score goals using what seemed like pure strength. It was as if the ball was in a snow plough being driven straight into the goal, with bodies being flung from all sides. Praise also goes to Javin and Will, who were the rocks of the team, grinding out the hard work and keeping the Tigers at bay.

Leslie's view of all the action!!
Thanks to Yi Wen and Leslie for coming and showing support. About twenty five players and spectators came from Pandori village. Even though we ended up losing 7-4, it was a fun way to get to know more of the young people from the village, and they were very eager to schedule in the next game. I hope in the near future SWASH will be able to launch a project in Pandori, for which activities such as this will play a vital part in promoting. The environmental message of SWASH, and RuralDEV values of volunteerism are most easily promoted amongst the young, and I look forward to future activities to further build the relationship between the Dosarka Centre and Pandori Village.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Daikin's compost tales...

Attending Adampur's compost
At the minute, here in Adampur, we have some really smelly, unattractive looking compost that is developing nicely. We been checking up on our sludgy mess frequently, and we realised that some things in the compost were not decomposing. Therefore, with this issue in mind, we decided to take out the egg shells, cigarette butts and peanut husks from the compost, as they were not showing any signs of being broken down. We also took this opportunity to add some more food to the compost. This was a bit smelly and does not look very appealing - all is good then!

Daikin's delicious decomposition
We have been working on organic composting on the roof of the centre for the past few months. We are trying to find a way to make it smell less, because there are a lot of flies at present. A few days ago we added cow poo and it has been successful, as the poo has helped to speed up with decomposition, but has made it smell more! We have been mixing the compost regularly and watering it to create a slurry and develop the compost more quickly - with the sun playing its part, as the heat makes the organic material mash together quickly. We are still looking into how to deal with those pesky flies!