Adharshila Learning Centre is a unique school for adivasi children in Madhya Pradesh that views education as a tool for liberation...and a place of fun.

The Adharshila Learning Centre was started in 1998 by the Veer Khajiya Naik Manav Vikas Pratishthan.

The children have an active role in running the school.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Children's Science Congress

PROJECT EXTRACT FOR NATIONAL CHILDREN’S SCIENCE CONGRESS

FROM FOOD INSECURITY ( MALNUTRITION)
TO
BIODIVERSITY --
A JOURNEY OF DISCOVERIES

(Under the Sub Title – Bio Diversity in Man made and Land Ecosystems )

Team : Suresh Dudve – Team Leader
Majali J.J.
Seetaram Dudve
Deewansingh Brahmane
Suresh Barole

The team was supported by almost 60 students of Adharshila Learning Centre, in the field surveys. In a sense the whole Centre was immersed in Bio Diversity.

Guide : Jayashree

Institution : Adharshila Learning Centre

Area of Study : Four villages namely – Sakad, Chatli, Kunjari and Merkhedi – of Newali Block, or Barwani district in western Madhya Pradesh. The district is a predominantly adivasi district ( 78%). It is situated in the Satpuda range bordering Maharashtra.

Importance and Relevance of the Topic

India is striving to stand amongst the leaders in the world community, but malnutrition is mocking us in the face. The fact that 40 – 45 % of the country’s children are malnutritioned is raising serious questions on the claims to development.Our strides in space are of no meaning if our children are malnutritioned, women are anemic. Something is gravely wrong somewhere.
Most children who have taken part in this project have suffered malnutrition in their childhood or seen there kith and kin die due to malnutrition. Majali’s eyesight is seriously impaired due to chronic Vitamin A deficiency during childhood. Malnutrition is very close to the hearts of the children.

Various surveys have shown that 58% - 60 % children of Madhya Pradesh are malnutritioned, much higher than the National average. Most of these are children of farmers and laborers.

The Journey of Discovery.

The study is based on the following sources –
Interviews of about 50 – 60 old people. Interviews of old people from outside the four villages were also recorded.
Household surveys in the four villages.
Books and journals were also used to understand the issues in depth.
We took advise from doctors, professors, organic farmers.
Some friends helped us search the internet. Due to electricity problems we could not do this ourselves.

Last year while learning about malnutrition and other health problems we surveyed the children of surrounding villages, taking their weights. We were shocked to see the extent of malnutrition. We saw children of 3 - 4 years who could not stand up. There were many children with Grade IV malnutrition. Many children from this group died after our survey. We reported this in papers and also to local officials.

On the 15th August we took a pledge to remove malnutrition and free the farms from market dependency. We used the opportunity of the Children’s Science Congress to go into the reasons of such wide spread malnutrition in our area, in depth.

We began by interviewing the old people of the villages to find out what they thought about the whole issue. About 50 old people were interviewed. Almost all of them were of the opinion that the quality of food had gone down in terms of quantity, quality and variety. They were the generation brought up on milk, ghee and curd. Even the poor in the village got a share of all this and at least pure butter milk was in abundance for everybody.

They also talked about the increased dependence on cash which was forcing everybody into cash crops and making farming totally dependent on the market. Farming which was once supposed to be an enterprise where - in people enjoyed independence, was now totally at the mercy of moneylenders and market prices.

They were convinced that due to the use of chemical fertilizers and hybrid seeds, which were promoted by Govt. agencies in the beginning, had led to loss of fertility of the soil.It was difficult for our young minds to digest what these old people were telling us. We were almost convinced that the adivasis of our area were going ahead on the development road – what about all the motorcycles, tractors, threshers, tube wells, pumps and irrigated fields, and quintals of cotton and soybean that we were selling by tractors, that we have been seeing since childhood ?

We undertook about 15 – 16 household surveys to validate these claims. A lot of food availability surveys were conducted. After these surveys we realized that behind the seeming prosperity there was severe food insecurity.

We found that -

There were about 120 types of food items which people ate of which now only 36 types were available. Most of the fruits, leafy vegetables, gums, honey, meat etc. available in the past have never been seen by the present generation. All these provided rare minerals, proteins, fats.
In most households only 7.14 kg pulses/person/year was available as against the required 22 – 27 kg/ person/ year( ICDS) .

Availability of milk and milk products had gone down drastically. Out of the 73% people who had got milk in there childhood only 17.39% are getting it now.

Where did all this vanish and why ?

We talked to people about this. About 40 years ago the govt. started promoting chemical fertilizers and hybrid seeds. The forests also started depleting about this time due to the pressure of urbanisation and population. Since then it has been a down slide. As dependency on the market increased people were forced to go in for cash crops. Cash crops meant loans at interests as high as 150%, dependency on the market, monoculture and depletion of the soil fertility. Before they realized people were in debt but started enjoying playing with cash. To repay loans more cash crops. This becomes a vicious cycle.

Also the mainstreaming pressure ( including our education system) forced the people to reject their traditional knowledge. They were made to lose faith in their knowledge systems and believe in the ideas being promoted by the market and Govt. agencies in tandem.

The main lesson that we learnt at the end of the exercise were that –

· Due to the depletion of farm and forest biodiversity about 54% of our food items have gone.
· Of the 65 items that we got now only 9 remain, i.e. an 87% decrease.
· Now 75% of our food items come from the farm.

These food crops are fast losing out to cash crops as market dependency is increasing in all aspects of our lives from clothes to health.

· Coarse grain and millets like bhadi which provided food security in droughts or scanty rainfall years are almost on the verge of vanishing.

· The quality of the soil has depleted, leading to loss of nutritional content of food.

· Cash crops now occupy the most fertile lands, leaving second grade land for food crops. Wheat is replacing traditional grains where irrigation's is there.

· The diversity in crops ensured that some crops will grow well in spite of changes in monsoons. Now with single crops occupying full fields the bad effects of erratic monsoons is more pronounced.

Conclusions

The loss of bio diversity has led to severe food insecurity. The quality, quantity and variety of food has decreased.
Adivasis and other small and marginal farmers are at the mercy of the market and dole provided by Govt. agencies.
If nothing is done then the future is bleak for farmers.

What is to be done ?

A strong campaign to save the farms from the clutches of the market and make the farmer independent, by promoting natural and organic farming techniques.

Fight malnutrition by making people aware about proper diet and importance of growing diverse food crops.

Awareness building programme in schools.

Incorporating related topics in the school curriculum.

Regenerate and save existing forest areas.

Re establish the self esteem of the farmer and adivasis. Revive useful traditional farming practices.


What we are doing ?

Natural farming on our campus.

School awareness programme.

Motivating families who have malnutritioned children to give special food preparations and grow vegetables. Children learnt to make sattoo and even gave it to many families.

Spreading the word through Baal – Melas.

Continue our research on this and related topics.

Motivate children and adults to adopt natural farming practices

Bio Diversity Project

Bio diversity Project selected to represent Madhya Pradesh in the National Children’s Science Congress


This is a first for us and all of us are very kicked about it. The science project submitted at the National Children’s Science Congress got selected to represent MP at the National Level conference. Right now the children are in Baramati, Maharashtra participating in the event.

As part of the Adharshila curriculum children do a lot of village surveys every year. One of the surveys done last year was to study the extent of malnutrition in surrounding villages.
This year we tried to go into the causes of such widespread malnutrition and we discovered that besides other things one of the main reason for this was the loss of bio-diversity in the area.
We submitted this report and vow ! the project got selected and now will be presented at the National Children’s Science Congress being held in Baramati, Maharashtra. The project was named – ‘ From Food Insecurity (malnutrition) to Bio-diversity – A Journey of Discovery ’

Another great thing is that this project has also been selected to be displayed at the National Science Congress at Vishakapattanam which is a conference of actual scientists (mainstream definition). This is a bigger honour because only one or two projects from each state are selected for this – projects which are of national importance and which researchers can pick up for furthur research.

About the project

About 50 elders were interviewed at first and asked questions related to farming practices, loans, quality of life etc. Invariably they said that the quality, quantity and variety of food has decreased now. They were the generation brought up on milk and fat( ghee) and now they lust to see even buttermilk, which they used to throw or give to cattle.

The main reasons for this decline, according to them were –

1. Depletion of forests and grazing grounds
2. Cash crops were replacing food crops.
3. Loss of nutrients in the soil

To check out what these oldies were saying, children did about 15 different types of surveys and found that most of what they were saying was true. Due to the pressure of cash economy farmers were forced to go in for cash crops which has resulted in loss of soil fertility, debt traps, suicides, loss of diversity in food crops etc. All this has resulted in chronic aneamia and malnutrition in children ( and women too) – the most vulnerable section of society.
The findings of the children are also corroborated by National Surveys where in we find that states famous for productivity and farming have high incidence of aneamia in women. Almost 50% – 60% children in Madhya Pradesh are underweight.

It was found that high chemical inputs, hybrid seeds and cash crops started started roughly 20 – 30 years ago ( which is roughly the time when the so called Green Revolution was introduced in our country ).

At the end of the study it was evident that eye catching and vote fetching social security schemes like anganwadis and mid day meals were not the solution to malnutrition. The solution lies at a deeper level of changing farm practices to non chemical and non market driven and market independent farming practices.

Side Effects

The children got a lot of exposure to whats happening in other ‘ big and good’ schools. Where many participants were son’s and daughters of teachers. How the world looks at tribals – poor, to be pitied, don’t know hindi, hey they are wearing clothes like us ! & Well you got selected only because you are tribals etc.

They just can't believe that these children have merit and they can be better than the best.

And this is what Adharshila Learning Centre is all about. To bring out the best in humanity


Wanted

……a GPRS enabled mobile to access internet in Adharshila.
Anybody discarding his/her old one is free to give it to Adharshila.
You can even loan it for some time, say six months or an year and have it back.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Math Vaato Insaan ko

We in Adharshila sing songs every day morning when we assemble for the school to start & also when we disperse. This is one of them. This song was composed about 18 years back by Vinay Mahajan. In the spirit & the hope for a secular future for our children..........

Math vaato Insaan ko


mandir masjid, girjadhar ne, vaat liya bhagwan ko
dharti vaati, sagar vaata, mat vaato Insaan ko

Hindu kehta mandir mera, mandir mera dhaam hai
Muslim kehta mecca mera, Allah ka imaan hai
dono ladte, lad lad marte, ladte ladte khatham huye
dono' ne ek duje pe na jane kya kya julam kiye
kiska he yeh maksad, kiski chaal chaal hai yeh jaan lo
dhart vaati.....

Neta ne satta ki khatir, komvaad se kaam liya
dharam ke thekedar se milkar logon ko nakaam kiya
bhai bante thukade-thukade mai neta ka hai imaan bada
vote mile aur neta jeeta shoshan ko adhaar mila
vakth naahi beeta hai ab bhi vakth ki kimat jaan lo
dhart vaati......

Prajatantre me praja ko loote, kaisi yeh sarkar hai
laati, goli, ishwar, allah yeh saare hathiyar hai
milke raho aur inse lado tum, inse ladna sheek lo
hakk hai tumhara chaiin se jeena, apne hakk ko jeeth lo
agar ho thang shaitani se tho, khatam karo shaitan ko
dharti vaati.......

desh ki janata bhook se marti dekho brastachar yeh
berojgari, tekedari, mahagai ki maar yeh
dharam, dharam chilane vaale, khoon bahayi desh me
shaitanano dere dale insaanonoko besh me
kaise kahenge saare jahan se accha hindustan ko
dharti vaati......

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Invisible support cast

A member of the invisible support cast working really hard & helping us with this blog, installing the "read more code". Infact i met him through blogosphere, some similar musical interests. But it was just great for him to come over & help us, Thank you Manu.

He can be seen at http://www.codepencil.com/ & http://www.knowyourraga.com/


Mahalaxmi has a few things to share

Mahalaxmi from Chennai was a Management Graduate from Symbiosis, Pune. Unlike others of her age and background she chose to work for the education of children who were not fortunate to get good schooling, through Akanksha, an NGO working in Pune and Mumbai. She stayed in Adharshila for One and a half month and put her heart and soul in teaching children. She also helped in developing the math curriculum for the 1st level.

Here is what she has to say..........

All characters and events mentioned here are real and any resemblance to fiction is purely coincidental and unintentional. This village looks like a beautiful dream and it feels good to stop somewhere and look around you. And the people as we call them- are kamaal ke bande- for you hardly expect to ever meet people who seem to have it all figured out in their head- who have so much clarity and then you chance upon people here and you wish you would reach that stage soon too.

I heard of Adharshila through a friend who was also planning to visit this organisation. I looked up their website and was quite interested in experiencing this place for it promised a chance to see alternative education.

When I spoke to Amit from Pune to ask him what to get with us- his answer interested me. He said - bas tum khudi aa jao- just bring yourself. I understand that better now - this is a place where all you need to do is to allow yourself to experience, learn new things and question and challenge your persepctive and view on things. You immerse yourself completely and allow yourself to learn from everthing and everyone around you. Be ready to question and challenge your beliefs and ideas on what is good education, what is the real issue for the problems that we see and many things that you thought defined you.

One of the first things Jayshree and Amit asked us was what were we passionate about- what could we teach and what did we want to learn? There is this huge writing on a wall that says – seekhne ki jagah-place for learning- in Bareli- and that is the most appropriate description of this place.

I think staying in Adharshila is a must for anybody who is thinking about education – alternative or mainstream or any other.

Things that I have learnt:

Learning is not restricted by time or space

The fascinating part about real learning is that you are never either just a teacher or just a student- there are no fixed roles that you need to fit into for you shall be both and there is value in both

Waking up early may/may not be a virtue but staying up late is- for that is when you can have the most interesting conversations with Amit and Jayshree- and if you do nothing else but just this you may still leave richer in your thinking process.

The kids will accept you into their fold very easily and make you feel really comfortable

That I love feeling I am cared for and people are concerned about my well being when they are worried about whether or not I eat enough, make me some nice hot tea when I am ill

It is not too hard to laugh at yourself and your ideologies and I may be very beneficial

Family feeling is not defined by blood relations and you feel you are in the midst of family when you have a group of people that you eat, cook, chat and share with

Picking every grain of urad that’s fallen on the ground made me realise what it means to have a bowl of dal on my plate

Beautiful sunrise and sunset is not to be found just in paintings and romantic movies but also in real life.

You can see a full sun and a beautiful moon both at the same time.

A mirror is a non necessity- it only creates self obsession

Running water, attached toilet bath , 24- hour electricity are all a privilege and we must be able to appreciate it.

Even though in some ways this seems very unlike the world I have known but in many ways it does not seem too different and I feel like I could fit in.

The difference between jowar and bajra

That khatpuliya – a red flowering plant has a nice sour/tangy taste

Many types of weaving and other craft Jaya & my teachers were extremely patient with me even though I made many mistakes and asked a thousand questions- for the first time I felt like I could learn craft work

How to turn the soil with a phawda and gheti

What mulching means and how it is done

Simplicity does not mean compromising on great learning resources like a well stocked library, a great craft room, a TV and DVD player, a telescope, a variety of games and a few computers.

The main role of a teacher here is that of a facilitator for learning here is a process of experiencing and experimenting.

This school is almost a true representation of life- as in how differen people enter our lives for different time durations and we learn from each one of them somthiing that is important and they learn from us what they need to

About nitrogen fixing and how it can be done

Jute pods make an amazing muscial instrument for they sound like ghungroo

Being with kids and playing games with them and telling and listening stories is what I enjoy the most

3 Bareli songs

2 Hindi songs

How to sow garlic

Many new games

That palak and onion too have seeds to be sown

That I actually enjoy cooking and trying out new things if I have someone to cook with and talk to while cooking

Healthy food, Shramdaan and Sunday walks make for the best way to gain good weight.

Note: This list is not comprehensive.

Life at Adharshila

The full post with more intricate details & more snaps can be read at http://sameersampat.blogspot.com/

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Been at Adharshila for 6 weeks and they have already started poking fun of my pensiveness here (they also sell these pretty cool greeting cards as a fundraiser that you can see and read about here) There is a lot to write about and not much time on the net, so I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

My Daily Schedule (though schedules at Adharshila can be changed at any minute for a variety of reasons)

5:00am-7:00am Yoga and meditation in a most serene environment. Its worth being here just for these 2 hours everday, starting meditation under a blanket full of stars and ending yoga as the sun rises. Some of the kids who have the motivation to wake-up early do so. Oddly enough, its a different group of 3 or 4 everyday.


7:00am-8:00am Teach a math class to kids studying for the 10th standard exams.

8:00am-10:00am Farming time! I can't say that I have mastered anything, but I have dabbled in a few aspects of farming. I've been involved in mulching, planting, adding fertilizer (made of plants, i.e. natural) and picking vegetables. I've taken to the ghethi (pick axe - pictured below) as it feels like productive work that also helps build muscles (which I need). Much of my gethi work is towards some pretty interesting experiments we are trying to level our plots and run-off areas to maximize soil and water retention.





10:00am-11:00am Teach a math class for kids in the 6th or 7th to boost their confidence with numbers. I play alot of math games with the kids, it makes for a nice "rest" after the work in the farm.



11:00am-1:00pm Cook and eat lunch. I have the option of eating in the mess with the kids, but I am keen on learning how to cook, so Amit and Jayshree suggested that the best way to learn is just jump straight into it and cook your own meals. Having to sustain on what what Mahalaxmi and I cook has been great motivation to improve our cooking skills. Our lunch consists of daal and rice. Dinner of roti and shubjzi. I've gotten decent at making those 4 items, although part of the reason that our food tastes good to us is that we usually end up pretty hungry by meal times. The biggest kick for me is being able to go out to our farm and pick some fresh palak (spinach) to put into our daal!


1:00pm-2:15pm Teach the whole 6th and 7th standard math. Over this past week this group has been put into self-learning mode. Basically each student was asked what they wanted to learn and they individually came up with a list of things like juggling, about America, music, organic farming, etc. Later they were guided to create a timetable for their da so that they can learn what the set out to learn. Eventually they are to check-in with one of the adults update us on their progress.

A few things we have kept "compulsory" for these kids, one of which is my math class, with is now shortened to 1:00-1:45p. But most kids had math on their list and I think they enjoy the class. Somedays after my class, Jayshree teaches a class on the basics of organic farming to the kids interested which I sit in on.



2:25pm-3:30pm Break, shower, wash clothes, clean room, etc.


3:30p-4:30p Teach math to the student teachers. The older kids at Adharshila have a lot of responsibility and really do a good job taking leadership of this place. Most older kids are teaching the younger while also independantly studying (i.e. self-stuyding) for their own exams. They also look over much of the day-to-day maintainence of the ashram. I'm pretty impressed by much of this group.

4:30pm-5:30pm Play time for the students. I've used this time to play cricket, read, talk with folks or learn some Bareli songs from the kids. With cricket, the kids have my weakness. I can't hit the "low ball", a ball that bounces in a patch of dirt and thus doesn't come high off the ground. Def. a speciality ball only used on our pitch. Last week I taugt the kids a modified version of baseball which they thought was odd but enjoyed.



5:30p-6:30p Shramdaan - all the kids at ashram are involved in some sort of physical work, generally cleaning or farming. I usually join in on work based on how tired I am. If I am looking for a workout, I try to pick axe. Otherwise its usually picking leaves for mulching.

6:30p - onwards Cook and eat dinner. A few nights we have used this time to have meetings to discuss math curriculum that we hope to build over the next year. Otherwise, if I have energy, I'll engage in conversations with people at the ashram, Jayshree, Amit, Mahalaxmi, Badri Bhai, Devika Ben, Yatin, the kids. Sometimes these conversations take pretty philisophcial turns and end past midnight, usually because I end up questioning the heck out of the people here, esp. Amit and Jayshree, mainly for my own clarity on the direction of my life. Luckily the seem to not mind me keeping them up. At least they haven't said anything yet ;-)

And to end it, I hadn't shaved for the past 6 weeks (out of laziness) and grew a pretty gnarely beard.









Sunday, November 11, 2007

Greeting Cards






Dear friends

Zindabad and a very Happy Diwali.

Once again, New Year and Christmas are approaching. The children are gearing up to make new greeting cards as part of their craft activities. Many of you who have been buying cards will say, "Not again" but we persist :-)

Craft is vital to the Adharshila learning curriculum as we strongly believe that working with our hands and prdoucing something is a very satisfying and creative learning experience. This satisfaction and creativity is the central idea which we would like to promote in our learning programme. Besides this is also a very important educational activity and important for the development of the brain. (remember the hand played a very big role in the evolutionary development of the brain).

It is this belief in working with the hand that keeps us at these little activities like making cards, weaving, craft, farming etc.

We know and have been told by many that in the age of email and sms greeting cards have become redundant.

The funds raised through the sale of cards are used for educational tours. The children just love travelling. In 2006, we visited an organic farm and an NGO working in the health field in Gujarat. Both these places were very inspiring. The children also had fun in the sea in Dandi.They went to Pavagarh and Toran maal - two hill very old hill top shrines in the Satpuras. We saw how hand made paper is made and also a leprosy patients hospital. We also visited our sister school in Kakrana on the banks of the Narmada. This village was submerged partially in the Narmada Dam.

So once again we appeal to you, not just to help raise resources for the children's educational tour but to promote this thought and save the hand from becoming redundant. If you or anyone you know would like to wish to buy the greeting cards that our children have made, then please let us know at the earliest.

We hope to receive your support irrespective of mainstream trends.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Monthly update from Adharshila

A Traveller


Narendra Patil, going on his bike from Leh to Bangalore, dropped in. He’s an old friend from the Attha days. The children were more interested in his heavy Royal Enfeild bike rather than his talk. He stayed with us for 4 days. Most of the time we were discussing our lives in the past 18 years. We met after 18 years – or so !!! He also showed children how to juggle with three balls.

And Two Volunteers

Mahalaxmi and MBA from Symbiosis, Pune and Sameer and Electrical Engineer from the USA reached the same day. While Laxmi is a teaching enthusiast, Sameer seems to be looking for answers to deeper questions related to education and life in general. Right now they are helping in teaching English, Math, teacher training and curriculum development. Sameer is learning to cook and works on the organic farm. Laxmi is learning weaving and also works on the farm.

A Trip to an Organic Farm

Jayashree with 8 children, and Badri bhai, went to see the farm of Mr. Sharma in Maharashtra, who has recently received the President’s Award for high yield through organic farming techniques. The team came back inspired and immediately set to work on the farm. We learnt to see levels and make contours. Sharma produces about 3 tonne vegetables on an acre, in the full year – which is a lot, to say the least. We will be happy if we get a ton.

Watering the Trees

The whole Centre is busy watering the trees and vegetable plots. Remember our resolve of planting and nurturing trees to make our mess fuel self reliant.

Electricity


The fun days are over. As soon as people have started threshing and preparing their fields for the winter crop, the voltage has dropped to candlelight levels. Those who remember their school physics can appreciate the measurement of light in candles only when they have visited Adharshila in this season. We are desperately running after people to get a DP installed. We realised that inspite of thousands of hits that one gets of searching ‘alternative energy’ and Govt. depts. And NGO’s and elite institutions like IITs there is no viable alternative as yet to the State Electricity Board which relies on Dams, Nuclear Plants and the like. So what is to be done –Alternative Life style lovers ? Any body who has great ideas except saying why do you need electricity, is welcome to help.

Science
The children are busy preparing for an Astronomy Olympiad held at the district level.
One group is doing a project to find out the ill effects of the loss of bio diversity, in agriculture.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Natueco farming

Energy, Water and Natueco Farming-an interesting relationship

This is a hypothesis that Natueco Farming has a strong correlation with how we use energy and water as a resource rather than how we do farming. We believe that the present day conventional farming may be productive and high yielding in the short run but in terms of water and energy use, it is highly inefficient and it is this inefficiency that is the root cause of all problems associated with farming in the long run. Example of Punjab is the most relevant.
Background

We define productivity of a farm (called ‘Visible Productivity’) as drymass/ per hectare which is a combined effect of ‘Primary Productivity’ and ‘Secondary Productivity’.‘Primary Productivity’ by definition is the productive efficiency of land without any external input while ‘Secondary Productivity’ is defined as the incremental productivity achieved over and above the primary because of external inputs like water(brought in from outside), fertilizers, pesticides, transportation etc. Secondary therefore is a multiplier of the primary.

The Metrics

‘Primary Productivity’ is measured in terms of output efficiency (drymass/ per hectare/KL of water consumed) while ‘Visible Productivity’ is measured in terms of gross output.(drymass/per hectare). Hence it is very much possible that while ‘Visible Productivity’ seems to be going up, the underlying ‘Primary Productivity’ is going down sharply.

Today’s Scenario

So far all our efforts have been to increase the ‘Visible Productivity’ by enhancing the ‘Secondary Productivity’ which in itself is perfectly sensible thing to do. We have so far got phenomenal results indeed. In fact the so called ‘Green Revolution’ has been all about increasing our ‘Visible Productivity’ through enhancing ‘Secondary Productivity’. Example of Punjab is the most glaring case of what we are talking. The enhanced ‘Secondary Productivity’ has given us a false sense of pride that ‘Visible Productivity’ is up. However, the reality was that the ‘Primary Productivity’ had been steadily going down all these years and we were unaware because our focus was just measuring the ‘Visible Productivity’.

The Problem

In the beginning the total ‘Visible Productivity’ can be easily increased by external inputs and all seems to be going good. However, over time an effort to increase ‘Secondary Productivity’ impairs our farm’s ‘Primary Productivity’ and we start seeing a decline in the ‘Visible Productivity’ even though external inputs are the same.

Our Hypothesis

Natueco methodology is a way to enhance the ‘Primary Productivity’ of a given land. In other words, it is a way to increase the drymass output per hectare per kilolitre of water consumed.

We believe this is a very subtle but an extremely important point because the Sun’s energy can only be harvested optimally if the drymass output is maximized while minimizing the water consumption.

We believe that sustainable farming is all about the ‘Primary Productivity’ never ever being allowed to decline.

We also believe that if land is harvested at its most optimal levels of ‘Primary Productivity’, it WILL give maximum yield per hectare FOR EVER at the least input cost! So even financially and business wise it makes sense to protect the ‘Primary Productivity’. This has not been happening because to increase “Primary Productivity’, the multinationals don’t sell anything and therefore there is very little money made by the traders, politicians and businessmen!
To increase ‘Primary Productivity’ we just need an aware and alert farmer-called Natueco Farmer.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Productive, Fertile & Living Soil

1. Nature’s Soil Building.

1.1) Nature has built, various types of soil, for various types of plants, our farm soil is one of it. Mangrove plants grow even in salty seawater, near the seashore. Even dirty gutter & pond soil, has wild mixed greenery, growing in it.

1.2) The green patches on both sides of the tarred city roads, or the greenery that appears, on vast waste lands, after the first rains, or the wild weeds growing in our farms, or on the untilled land on, both the compound sides, of our farm, all invite us to observe, to understand, & to follow these nature’s schemes of building soils.

1.3) The first step in nature’s soil building is greening, with whatever mix of seeds, or spores of algae’s, mosses & weeds that germinate and get hold of the soil and create a cover by holding the soil beneath & creating micro climate near its spread as well as preventing rain water erosion & run off flow.

1.4) If we begin to observe the whole process, the growth of these patches of new soil on the road side, is season wise, when weeds, grasses, bushes etc, grow, mature, produce seeds & die. Some parts of these are from fibrous stems, when they are fully mature. Some have shallow rooting, whereas some have deep roots. In the next rains, these organic things that are trampled get decomposed & semi powdered.

More over it is interesting to observe, when rains comes out of seasons, occasionally some seeds germinate & grow for some time & as these rains cannot provide water for full growth, the plants of different stages of growth die, & gradually, a new type of soil mix, of well composted organic material, grows above the original layer of soil. If we scrape such soil or pull out some half dead grassy clumps, when the soil is wet, we can see this, above & under ground a layer of newly formed soil, as well as the soil crumbs selected by the roots of the grasses and other weeds growing at that place.

1.5) The other way, nature builds the soil is to carry by rain water topsoil from the hills & grounds to riverbeds & deposit it there.

1.6) All types of animal wastes, that gets decomposed (in full oxygen supply) or rotten (in
In-complete oxygen supply) ultimately adds to the composition of the new soil.

1.7) Winds, rains, temperature, light, constant water flow etc create very small mineral particles from various rocks that we call dust, or clayey components & these particles have a very high surface, so even a handful of such soil can have thousands of sq. ft. of area. We can show mathematically that even one cubic feet of soil of such micro, micro size can have more than six acres of area between the particles. More over many rocks also gets decomposed & in the end break into powder.

1.8) Though, there are plants that can grow in salty soils, or in soils having very low level of moisture in it, as also in stagnant waters, or even in polluted pond waters, most of the green vegetation prefer soil that we call farm soil, or garden soil, or better still nursery soil.

Let us study next, what are the components of a good nursery soil, we will then study, how to build such soils, from our neighbourhood resources, only by following nature’s schemes of building new soils.

2. Components of good nursery soil.

2.1) A good nursery soil has a structure, or the body of the soil, that gives it, its form, tilth, texture, air holding & water holding capacity at best (optimum level).

2.2) The body of the soils, decides the root flush in it. It is the root flush in the soil, in the first phase of plants growth that decides its health & vigour. Unless, we build the body of the soil, properly, the growth of the plant will be affected badly, in its early stage of growth. So by observing, the growth of the plant, in its early stage of growth, we can help the plant, by providing good nursery soil. The name nursery soil has come mostly because of this characteristic of the soil. We call this component, as the productivity of the nursery soil. In such soil, if a plant is growing in a small size bag of ½ to 1 litre, we can only see roots & roots every where in that soil, if we remove the bag after 15 to 20 days of the plants growth.

So, to test the productivity of our soil, take a sample of such soil, fill a ½ to 1 litre size plastic bag (open at both ends) by that soil. The soil should be wet, but not sticking to our palm. Press the soil well and sow one or two seeds of Groundnut & observe the flush of roots in it after 15 days of germination of the seed. Remember only fresh seeds of Groundnut germinate, otherwise sow one or two seeds of Red Pumpkin or Cucumber or any legume seed.

2.3) The measure of soil is made in volume (buckets, baskets etc) & not by weight. Good nursery soil has equal part by volume, one the mineral part of the soil & two the organic part of the soil.

The mineral part comes from the rock particles, while the organic part comes from well composted fibres of any plant material (grain covers, pod covers, stem fibres, dried thick leaves, petioles, straw, veins in leaves, fibrous mature roots of all plants, especially of grasses & grain plants, bagasse of sugar canes, rasped wood flakes, leaflets of Coconut & other similar trees, all types of straws, Jowar & Maize stalks etc, fibres of Coconut fruits, husks of tender Coconut fruits etc).

2.4) The fibres of plant materials, are made of lignin. And when these are soaked in water & have 90% humidity these are decomposed by the micro flora in the air & their dead bodies that remain afterwards is called lignoprotiens. When the fibres in animal dung get fully decomposed it is called humus. These are also the dead bodies of the micro flora that consume the dung. The dead bodies of micro flora are made up mostly of their cell walls. These are semi-celluletic & protenious compound called “Chiten” & and are semi-mucous in material.

2.5) Humus & Lignoprotiens is the part of the nursery soil that builds stable productivity of any soil. Different types of fibres require different treatments, to get them decomposed. Some get decomposed in a short span of 3 to 6 weeks, while others take even years to get fully decomposed. But these give a longer stable form, to the nursery soil, than those materials, which get easily decomposed.

To build good nursery soil, one must get well acquainted with all this insight, as well with proper skill, to achieve the desired productivity in the soil.

2.6) The second component of nursery soil is its fertility level or the plant nutrient status. One must understand first, that most of the plant parts are made up of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are made of Carbon & Water molecules.

This carbon comes from the Carbon dioxide in the air & the Water comes from the soil water. Thus most of the dry weight, of any plant material has very little of the nutrient parts of the soil. If we burn any plant material completely, the white ash that remains contains compounds of various nutrients taken from the soil (except nitrogen taken from the soil). Generally this white ash is only 6% to 10% of the dry weight burnt. Moreover half of this weight is of Silica & Calcium. So, to grow healthy vigorous plants in any nursery soil, only a very small fraction of these active nutrients are needed. These come from the activated mineral parts of the soil.

2.7) The Humus & the Ligno-protein part of nursery soil helps to preserve these nutrients readily available to plant roots by buffer action. So that these are not leached or get fixed.

There are about 20 nutrient elements the plant needs of which some are taken from air & water molecules & the rest from the soil, by ion exchange method. We will learn these details in our venture notes on nutrient needs of the plants.

2.8) It is known that the tender parts of any growing plant contains Boron, Zinc & Phosphorous, while green mature leaves provide Nitrogen, Magnesium, Copper, Iron, Sulphur & large amounts of Potash, while dried & then fallen leaves of any plant gives Calcium, Silica, Boron & Manganese. Thus by making ligno-protein of dried leaves & dried other parts of plants, we can give these nutrients to the soil. But if we compost the tender, mature & old parts of any green vegetation, we will be providing proper nutrient levels to our nursery soil, by greening the soil repeatedly & returning these parts, by composting or by making slurry, or by making dry powder, or by steaming these and adding these for early composting etc.

2.9) One interesting thing to note is most of the seeds contain all the nutrients including such as Molybdenum, Cobalt etc that are needed only in very small quantities. This is the reason why oil cakes from oil seeds as also poultry dropping from grain mash etc contain all nutrients in very concentrated proportions.

2.10) Above all the top layer of any soil crushed under heavy traffic as also top soil kept open to high temperature of the sun in Summer time is activated mineral soil. The sweepings from our house hold and from animal sheds contain all our daily wear & tear of our enormous skin area, even our hair are also very good sources of nutrients for nursery soils.

It can be shown that in one tier system of plant growth, very good nursery soil can produce at the most 2 kg of dry matter in 10 sq. ft. (one sq. metre) area in 100 hundred days for C3 group of plants & 3kg for C4 group of plants. So accordingly 10 sq. ft area of soil will need nutrient level of about the ash component of this matter. We can provided these by various means of greening & ashing methods from various types of plants growing in the compound or near by, or by various processes of mixed greening & recycling of the wastes of the biomass actually growing in the soil.

But the real source of such constant nutrient level maintenance is to make the soil living soil.

2.11) The third important component of good nursery soil is that it should be: living soil.

In that soil various types of micro flora must get established. This can be done by having a mixed sowing of grain seeds, oil seeds, pulse seeds as well as weeds and seeds of such plants as marigold etc. Even Parthenium weed is a great asset to provide a proper living space/place for the micro flora, near the root zone of these plants or on the nodules growing on the roots etc. They then extract other nutrients for their growth from the mineral soil in the root zone. In one day many colonies grow & die & release enough nutrients.

2.12) One more point which one will learn is what we call pH or the type of soil pH tells us whether the soil is acidic, neutral, alkaline or salty. If we build our soil with care & proper mix-up & processes of greening the pH will always be near neutral or slightly acidic or alkaline. We can shift this pH by adding humus of lignoprotein towards the acidic side & by adding ash towards alkaline side.

Review

After following the above notes, let us now see how we can build our nursery soil from our neighbourhood resources & keep it living so that it will go on increasing in quality & quantity day by day.

A living fertile productive soil, if at all we want to build is to be build once & then not only maintained but gradually increase as is done y nature on our road sides or since nature has started building Garden soils or Nursery soils four hundred crores of years back. We can build the necessary volume per area of cultivation within 2 to 6 months period.


3. The Organic part of Nursery Soil & how to built it.

3.1) The well composted organic part of the nursery soil is called Humus of ligno-protein. It is black, light, easily friable material that can be easily broken into small fragments or crumbs. It has a very good water holding capacity, twice its own weight. Generally the weight of such material per litre of its volume in fine crumb form is about 400 gms. It has a peculiar black lustre & we can see the dead colonies of the micro flora one over the other especially in the well-composted (humified) animal dung. We call this grade the best grade or A grade lignoprotein or humus made from the fibrous organic part. The B grade or good material can be easily broken into crumbs, but it has not got the lustre & lightness of A grade. The C grade or average lignoprotein material is that that can absorb & hold water but it is not easy to break it into crumbs. D grade is the fibrous material that can keep some water& has given up the fresh yellow & waxy colour of the material. The E grade is the worst stage material that has kept its polish etc. intact & cannot hold water even after soaking for one night. It needs trampling/ beating after wetting it 4 or 5 times and then it changes to D grade, then to C grade, then to B grade & ultimately to A grade organic part of nursery soil.

3.2) It is very interesting to see how E grade biomass gets converted by stages to grade D, C, B, A. In early monsoon rains where these organic E grade materials get fully wet & when the moisture level in the air is about 90%, within a fortnight we can see tender dried leaves & straws rapidly converted to A grade type lignoprotein. But these will vanish in the next one month & therefore should be sown with some growing grass cover or grain seeds to get these established & preserved till the roots and the above part of these seeds or grasses build new fibrous materials again in it.

3.3) The best parts that decomposed to A grade type slowly in one & a half months are the petioles, the veins of leaves, dried leaves with tough structures (mango/ banyan leaves) or stalks of Jowar/ Maize plants, if they are slightly trampled & made ivose & soft. Sugar cane bagasse or the husk of tender coconut cover or banana plant wastes, papaya plant wastes, various types of small sticks & twigs, the dried waste of various types of fast growing vines also come under this group.

3.4) It is very interesting to go & collect the trampled well softened remains of last year grasses on fallow waste lands in the very first week of monsoon rain, which rapidly changes into humus. It is easy to collect these by scrapping & sweeping the top 1 to 2 cms of soil mix.

3.5) Similarly by looking for green patches that grow by the road sides or both sides of the compound or under a big tree near its root collar area in early rains, we can easily collect a lot of good soil mix in equal proportion of its organic part & mineral part too. But one must not dig the soil, but scrape it & collect it by sweeping.

3.6) The real job for lignoprotein & humus formation starts with straws of wheat, or covers of paddy seeds. These have good covers that do not yield to change (golden yellow shining covers as well as some oil coating on it). Most of the dried organic matter has covers of brown or matty nature. But these covers easily yield & the materials can become wet by one or two tramplings or beatings. For wheat grass or similar organic matter, unless the cover is repeatedly beaten & trampled these cannot get easily decomposed. So people use these things for thatching the roofs, as these last for 3 or 4 years also in heavy rains. So to convert E Grade material of this type, the initial process of making these materials absorb & retain water for some days requires careful planning when the organic fibre type material can absorb & retain it, the E Grade material becomes D Grade material & when the fibres begin to soften & break it becomes C Grade, then the colour changes towards black, it becomes B Grade and in the end the fine black lustre in full crumb form is A Grade lignoprotein & humus form.

3.7) It is usual practice to use organic dried wastes for mulching to prevent water transpiration from the soil. But E Grade biomass for mulching is harmful to good flush of roots under the mulch. The covering material on most organic mulching material is of the Phenol group, that prevents the micro flora to attack the mulch, but along side these phenols also prevent root flush.

But if the mulch is half way from C Grade to A Grade, the mulch not only stops transpiration but also absorb moisture from the air in the cool hours of the night, so if one puts one’s hand under such A or B Grade mulch we can feel the heaviness & moisture content in it. These C to A Grade mulch also helps to build new root flushes under it, as the micro flora that is rapidly decaying the material to humus & lignoprotein produce hormones of Indol group that give a good flush of roots.

3.8) It is to be well observed & understood that generally such organic materials in E Grade are of very light weight. Generally a bucket or basketful (size 10 litres) of such material if fully dry is of the weight of ½ kg to 1 kg at the most. When it changes to C Grade the volume generally becomes half & at the end when it is converted to A Grade the volume gets reduced to 1 litre, weighing 400 grams or 2 litres weighing 800 grams as against the original weight of ½ kg to 1 kg of E Grade material.

3.9) To build good nursery soil from within neighbourhood resources one must make second habit of reading any biomass as E Grade, D Grade, C Grade, B Grade or A Grade also how to help these grades to accelerate their conversion from C to A Grade as well as how to stabilise these products & use these for optimum root growth & moisture provision to roots from the increase in relative humidity of the atmospheric moisture at night time.

3.10) Some fibres as coconut husk fibres of jute fibres are tough to change to A Grade materials. Cotton waste fibres are also better type of fibres that also take average good time to change to A Grade material. The A Grade lignoprotein & humus material ultimately gets fully degraded back to CO2 in about the same time as the time it takes to get converted to A Grade from E Grade. Naturally if the process of humification is slow as in coconut husk, wood, dust, thin wood strips or paddy seed coats, leaflets of coconut leaf, wheat straw or any such slow decomposing fibres. These lignoproteins provide more stable body to nursery sol than easily degraded leaf mould type lignoproteins. The humus component in the compost of animal dung has a three-year stability in the soil. It gets reduced to 33 % each year. One additional care that should be observered is that humus & lignoprotein get burned in hot sun so these should never be turned up & exposed to the heat of the sun.

3.11) In any good type of nursery soil different grades of A type lignoproteins of different life spans from 2 months to 3 years etc must be present simultaneously.

4. The Mineral Part of Nursery Soil.

4.1) Never collect, the mineral part of the soil, by digging the soil, but by scrapping the layers of any unturned soil on the wasteland. Even 1 cm. of soil from 1 sq. ft. is of volume of 1 litre. If the soil is loose as dust on the countryside roads that dust too is good activated soil.

4.2) In the early rains thin layers of clay soil collects at various points at various nooks & corners of the path of flowing run off water. When this soil is semi dry or dry we can collect it.

4.3) It is usual practice, to bring soil from riverbed soil, or from dried pond beds, or even from some near by farmlands. But this is possible at high transport and other costs. More over it is impossible, to take soil from one farm land to another farmland as it is the natural wealth of that farm. So one must learn that, the mineral part, of our farm soil must be maintained, by as little turnings as also if practiced by very shallow turnings, than deep turnings.

4.4) If at all, one has to collect mineral soil from our own farm, one must collect it only from the 1-cm. topsoil. In turning the farm soil, we allow the top mineral soil to get activated by the summer heat of the sun. But in that process, the organic component of the soil gets destroyed. If we will observe the turned up soil closely, we will observe that the crumbs of turned of turned soil, get slowly turned to powder form as the binding organic material gets burned by the heat of the sun.

4.5) One should also remember, while digging & filling any pit traditionally it is advised to keep the top soil layer, separate to use again to fill in the pit. This is the only fertile, nursery, (organic + mineral) soil part of the farm soil.

4.6) One must also understand, that the fragments of any hard or soft stones, (except Calcium stones) or small size stones or rocks are also assets in providing mineral nutrients to the plant, through the activation of these, by the secretions of the roots of the plant.

4.7) Some crops & plants grow well in sandy soils. The size of the particles of such sand must be smaller than mustard seeds. One can get as much sand as one needs by stirring up the topsoils in water. The heavy particles of the sand collect at the bottom while, light organic clay soil rests on the top, when water evaporates, we get these parts, layer by layer, the heaviest remains at the bottom & the lightest at the top.

4.8) To build the body, or total volume of the soil, we must have half the volume of the soil of organic part (lignoprotein & humus) & the other half of the volume of top soil collected or a mix up made up of clay light soil, with sandy particles in 3 to 1 parts. So that the weight 1 litre of dry soil, of this type is about 700 to 750 gms. The average weight of 1 litre of dry topsoil is about 1 kg, while the weight of a litre of dry crumb form of lingo protein or humus is about 400 gms.

Naturally when these are mixed in equal proportion by volume so the weight of good nursery dry soil is about 700 gms per litre.

5. The root – soil relation.

5.1) One can easily see, how much soil a plant uses in the prime of its growth, by properly lifting it at this stage from the soil, it its semi – dry condition. Such soil generally remains fully attached to the root zone without falling. We can then relate the volume of the soil with the area of the plant leaves. It is generally about one half to one litre of soil, per sq. ft. of leaves.

5.2) Secondly most of the vegetable crops have their feeder roots in about the 9 inches zone, while other crops too have their feeder roots mostly in this depth & anchoring roots in this or below this zone.

5.3) Naturally one can use pits, pots or containers of any type (plastic bags, polythene bags) or heaps of soil in brick pits or only open heaps can serve the same purpose to establish the root – soil volume ratio. The only considerations are the mobility of the plants or the ease of soil operations or the problem of protecting soil from heavy rains or winds etc.

5.4) The traditional way, of deciding the pit size & the plantation distance amongst the plants in lines & rows also gives us the wisdom of ages. Thus to have a banana plantation spacing 5” x 5” the pit size recommended is about 2’ x 2’ 1’ i.e. is 4 Cu. Ft. (one cubic feet is about 27 litres) or we can take for the simplicity of calculations as 25 litres, so per sq. ft. area of banana plant the soil provided is 4 x 25 by 25 Sq. Ft. = 4 litres by 1 Sq. Ft.

If the plantation distance of guava or pomegranate is 14’ x 14’ the size of the pit selected is 3’ x 3’ x 2’, i.e. about 18 cubic feet. It comes approximately to about 2.5 litres/ per Sq. ft spread of these plants. So one can reduce the volume as spacing per plants increases.

For Coconut plantation with spacing of 20’ x 20’ the fully, grown coconut tree will need soil of about 1,600 litres. That is a size of 64 cubic feet, i.e. 4’x 4’ x 4’ size, but even the size of 4’ x 4’ x 3’ is also good.

One should note, while growing plants like lemon, mangoes or coconut, the soil need in their early years of growth is less. Thus the mango plants can grow only in 1 sq. ft in the first year, 10 sq. ft. in the second year, 60 sq. ft in the third year & 240 sq. ft in the fourth year, then for the spacing of 15’ x 15’ of mango plant, in the first year, only 4 litres of nursery soil is optimum & accordingly lastly 960 litres in the last year.

5.5) So, by knowing the root – soil relation perfectly well, we can plan mobile plantation techniques, one year advance ring systems, of soil building, in circular pit methods, of fruit & other tree plantations.

5.6) This insight into root – soil relation is very important. By calculating the present canopy of the tree, we can decide how much nursery soil; the plant must get replaced, to have its good fruitful growth. (One litre soil per Sq. area of the plant or 4 litres of soil) By judging the spread in length & breadth of the plant. (By standing in front & by the side of the plant we can decide its length & breadth by spreading our hands on both sides & taking that measure in feet & multiplying length & breadth, to note its present spread.

5.7) If the plant is allowed to continue its growth in spread, in early period of its full growth, that much nursery soil must be provided in advance to the plant.

5.8) The calculation for the spread of the plant are per sq. ft. 4 litre, while for leaf area it is above 1 litre per sq. ft. i.e. a good plant must have at least 4 sq. ft. area of leaves. Strictly, these should be 5 to 9 sq. ft. of leaf area per sq. ft. of area of the spread of the plant.

5.9) Let us take some examples to understand what we have noted in 5.8. A good Sugarcane plant grows in an area of 1 sq. ft. But the leaf area of all the fifteen leaves of the plant, if calculated is about 8 sq. ft. So Sugarcane plant grows in 4 litres of nursery soil, but this soil if calculated from the leaf area will be about ½ kg of soil per sq. foot growth of its area.

In sprawling vines, like Bottle gourd or Red pumpkin, we easily judge the growth rate of the canopy, in the next 10 days. If it is about sat 3 sq. ft. then we must see that the spreading vine gets at least 1½ or at the most 3 litres of nursery soil, 10 days earlier to help the proper growth of the vine.

5.10) We will learn more details, about the root – soil relation in our studies of various crops. Vegetable crops, root crops, vine crops as well as various horticultural fruit crops.


6. To make & keep the soil fertile.

6.1) The easiest way to make the soil fertile is to build a heap, layer by layer of three components of the soil. (The mineral component, the lignoprotein component of the body of the soil & the fertility component through the cuttings of the greens).

6.2) Any green biomass, such as the entire green plant of flowering weeds or any tree, or any tree or bush top, tender growth of all types of green leaves of all age groups (tender, young, mature, old living leaves) from any green vegetation, all of these will provide various fertility (nutrient) components needed by the that will later grow in that soil. One must understand the definition of leaf. It is that part of the plant that is attached to the shoot or the stem of the plant. Many leaves are made up of small leaflets (Drumstick, Groundnut, Tamarind, Subabul, Gyricidia). So the leaflets should not be confused with the leaves. Some leaves need cutting (Mango leaves, Banyan leaves, Banana leaves, Papaya leaves) to make them into a cut of one half to one cm size in length & breadth.

6.3) Generally make a heap, by spreading the moist mineral part paper thick. Then on it put the green cuttings of fresh material paper thick. Then, again on it layer the moist lignoprotein material paper thick. Never make the heap more than 9” to 12” high.

6.4) After making the heap, sow thickly on it a mixture of small seeds; Grain group – Bajra, Jowar, Wheat, Pulses group – Black gram, Green gram etc, some Oil seeds like Sun Flower, Ground nut seeds, Mustard seeds, some weed seeds & other group like Marigold seeds that are generally present in the mineral part of the soil.

6.5) When these seeds germinate & grow for 3 to 4 weeks, pull out one half of the growth to allow spacing for the rest & turn these plants back in soil. Now sow more seeds to grow in it, while the other growing plants are competing with the new growth. Again pull out ¼ of the plants which are growing, when these are 6 to 8 weeks old & turn it back to the soil & sow the seeds in it, next pull out all the growth, when the original growth is about to flower & turn it back into the soil. This is what we may call imitating nature’s way of building fertility in the soil.

6.6) The other way is to sow the heap as above & pull all the plants & return to the soil after 3 to 4 weeks of germination, then sow again & pull out all the plants after 6 to 8 weeks of growth & return back to the soil. Finally allow the plants to grow till flowering stage & pull & return these back to the soil.

6.7) Really speaking, this process is a new method of green manuring. In the usual method, we sow some leguminous plants (bean) only to increase the nutrient level of the soil, after turning it back when it is in the flowering stage, because at this stage, the fibrous part of the stems also begins to form. But if we add to this group grain crops, then the fibrous part is more in quantity, at the time of its flowering. So the lignoprotein & humus raw material part is also added. Thus the new process of green manuring, by a mixture of all types of plants together is a better way of improving any soil, stage by stage, by repeated sowing & returning the greens till optimum fertility, as well as the productivity is established.

6.8) So, it is very easy to improve our farm soil, by keeping one tenth of its area for repeated biomass, mix production & using it to improve the soil, in that area as well as in other areas It is found that in green manuring generally the biomass produced by the plants in about 60 to 80 days, when it comes to flowering is about 1½ kg. So repeated sowing & heap method of producing ample reproductive fertile soil for any size of farmland is a sure way to make the soil of A Grade in 6 months to 1-year time.

6.9) We must always have in our mind a clear estimation of the volume of the soil, that will be required to build on our totally unfertile land or to improve & recharge the original farm soil, if it has some level of productivity & fertility in it. The maximum time duration after proper planning should not be more than 6 months & 2 months minimum.

6.10) In our early discussions, we have seen that an area of 1 sq. ft. spacing in plants at the most needs 4 litres of fully productive fertile soil and more over even 2 litre soil per sq. ft. is enough when the spacing between plants is more than 100 sq. ft. So for 1 Guntha (one fortieth of an acre) it is about 4,000 litres or about 400 basket full (one basket of 10 litres) of soil that has an equal proportion of organic & mineral components in it as discussed earlier.

We shall see later why we will be required to build this much soil, only once for all in the entire lifetime of our farmland. So if at all, one has to improve the soil, it mostly from the biomass component fresh or dead. We have to balance it & one can do it in less than a period of 6 months starting from whatever grade of farmland soil or garden soil that one has.

7) To read & improve the soil.

7.1) The whole success of biomass growth of any plant depends on the productivity & fertility of the soil. The soil that will be productive & fertile for weeds such as Parthenium, or grasses may not be at all productive & fertile to other types of plants. We must remember that the fertility of any land is first built by nature, through marshy plants, algae mosses, weeds, grasses & bushes that grow there first. We must respect & use this ecological heritage of our neighbourhood flora to build up our soil.

7.2) The easiest way, is to see the weeds, grasses, bushes, small trees, big trees, that flourish in the neighbourhood under high water & weather stress & even in long drought conditions.

7.3) So, when you build some soil as explained earlier or bring some soil scratching it from under the tree, or from the fallow grass land, or from nearby farm soil.

7.4) When we build or bring some soil, we can test its productivity, by sowing some big seeds, such as Ground nuts, or Bean seeds or some seeds, or Red pumpkin or Cucumber, or Bottle gourd, as well as some seeds of Maize or Jowar seeds. Maize & Jowar seeds take more time to have its root flush about 30 days, but Groundnuts & Bean seeds can give us a full flush of roots in about 15 after germination. So if we have a plastic bag of 1 ½ litre or the 1 litre milk bags (breadth about 14 cms & height about 15 to 24 cms) & fill it tightly with the soil making it open both ways, we will see that in fully lignoprotein/ humus type soil, the spread of roots will be such that, if we by gently pressing the bag, pull the bag out, we will see roots & roots & the network of roots, in the whole ball of soil.

Thus one can easily test, the productivity or the form, structure & texture of the soil. We have already seen that such soils are always light in weight when dry or moist & this is another way to decide, whether we must mix again enough A or B Grade lignoprotein in the soil.

7.5) It must be noted that the soil may have vigorous root growth even in sandy moist soil, for a time being. As the seed we sow will have all the necessary nutrients (fertility factors) already provided by the parent plant, to help it to grow & get established. The seeds grow even over rocks or on heaps of small stones in moist condition, till half of its period of its first phase of growth. The plant begins to use, the fertility of the soil, from its second or third true leaf. The size of the leaves especially in vine crops (Cucumber, Red pumpkin) generally doubles at each successive leaf growth & the 5th or 6th leaf is of the usual full size of the mature leaf. It must be observed that the leaf takes about 5 days to achieve its full growth after it starts spreading. Then the spread of the leaf remains the same till it dies.

So, observing the size of each successive leaf growth, one can see if the soil is taking nutrients, or if the soil is fertile, but lacking root growth, due to water stress, or the soil is not suitable to give a good flush of root growth. Because of various conditions for e.g. like half composted material in the soil, excess fertility, unbalanced fertility, less aeration, cold temperature, or pH of the soil not suitable to the plant.

7.6) If the soil has a fair root growth, then we can read the plants growth as lacking nutrient balance. Then we can again take the soil for greening & returning these & other greens from other plants & weeds to the soil, stage by stage. Or we can add a spoonful of ash of dried tender parts of the trees & bushes or the ash of burnt animal dung.

7.7) Many times the trees grow, but not in full vigour. Then by comparing the actual vigour & growth to the vigour & growth of any standard average plant, we decide the comparative grades E, D, C, B, A.

7.8) The other way to judge the productivity & fertility of the soil is to make a heap of 2 baskets (20 litres) to 4 baskets (40 litres) of soil & sow all type of mixed seeds, mostly grain seeds, spreading beans or pulses & spreading vines (Cucumber, Red Pumpkin) or vines of Sweet potato or planting some Marigold or Parthenium weed type of plants.

The heaps should be sloping, circular and to the height of 9” to 12” & before the heap gets settled, by the roots of growing plants, stone mulch, or any other cover may be used, or a polythene bag of the size of 18” may be suited to hold 20 litres of soil.

If in this soil one can get a yield of 1 kg of dry mass in 100 days, in thick canopy growth, then we can say that the soil is A Grade soil.

8. Making our soil living soil.

The details of making our soil a living soil is not difficult to understand or grasp, but unless we make & keep our soil living we will be required to add each new season, new productivity & fertility building components as external inputs. Living soil goes on maintaining & also increasing its volume & grade in each successive season.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This week in Adharshila

Mirchi Week

This was mirchi week in Adharshila. After Jaya ordered a drastic cut in the red chilly in the daal and vegetable everybody was talking just about chilies or the lack of it. Chilly is the main spice and a favourite. So Jaya’s action couldn’t havee been taken lying down.
The older girls initiated a children’s meeting to canvass for more gun powder.
In the meeting Jaya put her point. She used all her persuation skills, and the facts that came out in the malnutrition survey conducted by the amazon group children last year. The survey, had shocked us when we found that even households with irrigation had malnutritioned children. The food habit survey had brought out the fact that very little veges or fruits were consumed. Mainly daal and in the lean season chilies were the favourite food.
More than half the children surveyed were found to be malnourished. Children were found to be eating mainly carbohydrates with chilies.

The older children understood the logic but chilly was part of a strong habit. Most of them agreed after she took the responsibility to get tasty food made without chilies. Finally they also made Jaya concede to put ten more chilies.

Well it’s five days now and every thing is fine. New things have happened in the mess. Like the fuel efficient, Sarai cooker, bought from AARTI, Pune was reactivated. Some other spices were added and Jaya took cooking classes of the older children who help in cooking.
As of now the matter seems to have ended.

Volunteers

Veena Lakra, doing her Masters in elementary education from Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai, is here for her placement. She is trying to understand the teaching methodology used in Adharshila for social science related topics.
Shailaja, an organic farmer stayed here fo about ten days and showed the children many new techniques of growing vegetables. Most of her time was spent in planting seed to develop a fence around the farm and the campus.

Bhutta Break

The fact that the children are leaving tomorrow for home for a short break has overshadowed everything else. This break is unique to Adharshila. The corn in the fields is ready to be eat. children are given a break at this time so that they can go home and have their fills of corn and other fruits mainly traditional varieties of cucumber and watermelons.

……so long.
Meet you after the break.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

An Appeal for Organic Farmers

Aazadi of a different kind……….
@adharshila.learningcentre
@sakad_in_badwanidistrict_madhyapradesh.ind
Flag hoisting on a barren piece of land on 15th August..
Part I

In the Kaveri group everybody is laughing at Mangala’s drawing of the flag.
Why are you laughing? A woman is unfurling the flag in Divya’s drawing! They exclaimed and started laughing again. So what? Why do you think a woman cannot do the flag hoisting?
This set the teacher thinking and it was decided that this year the flag hoisting would be done by a woman. So it was that Sumli Bai, an activist of the Adivasi Mukti Sangathan hoisted the flag this year and told the children about the various freedom fighters and adivasi leaders who laid their lives fighting for justice for their people.

Part II

Hey, where are we? Why are we in this field rather than being near the school building ?
And what’s this ? No flowers or decoration around the flag ? Five six types of leaves are placed at the base. Something in a bucket nearby is stinking.

It has started to drizzle and no shelter around. Mukesh Bhai is talking about the problems of farmers and the crises of agriculture in general. The children are getting restless and Mukesh Bhai cuts short his speech. The children run for shelter. Many elders also follow suite.
But a small band remains in the rain. The teachers and elder students of Adharshila are there. So are some villagers and parents of children staying with us in Adharshila. They are digging the field and putting hemp plants in the shallow pits and covering it with soil. The hemp was grown on the field and cut just before flowering. Cow urine and pesticide created from various leaves are sprayed on the plot where the hemp is buried.

It is a small ceremony. Every body is drenched in the rain. Someone breaks a coconut and says – today we are starting a new experiment in organic farming to save farmers from the clutches of money lenders and companies and also to provide food security to the poor.

Children are shouting slogans –

(Desi beej rakhna hai kisan ko bachaana hai.
Jaivik Kheti karna hai, Gulami se bachana hai –
We have to protect traditional seeds, and save the farmer.
We have to do organic farming and free ourselves from bondage).

The rain is there to bless us. If you believe in omens it’s a good start.

It is a beautiful sight. The flag furling with all its glory amidst a dark sky and green fields all around. People drenched in the rain. Digging the field and shouting slogans. There is a romance about the whole scene. A small but significant event. If we pursue what we have started then this 15th August will become a historic date.

Part III
After the children’s performances and sweets we got to serious talk with the parents - all farmers. The mood had been set by the ceremony. There were long sermons on the ills of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides by all the parents inspite of the fact that all of them use these chemicals and are heavily into market propoganda. Jayashree explained the main themes of organic farming. Most of the farmers were able to grasp this because they have seen chemical free farming themselves. Some of them still practice it in parts. She also told them some examples of Maharashtra where some farmers have taken yeilds to the tune of 3 tonnes in one acre. Or about 20 quintals jowar and toovar in one acre. Most people didn’t believe this. We said that we don’t believe this but want to try it on our land. Six other farmers and parents of children studying here volunteered to try this experiment on ½ of ¼ acre land. A small start..

Background……

We have been doing organic farming at the Adharshila Learning Centre for the past 6 years. Farming is one of the main themes of our educational programme. This is so because we think that our educational programme should address the needs of the surrounding area. About 100 adivasi children stay here and are growing up with organic farming. Learning by working on the farm and eating its fruits. Our target is to make this hostel for 100 students self sufficient in veges, pulses and fuelwood. We have about five acres of farm land to work on. Friends keep coming to help us out and guide us. We are looking for more of our types to come and stay with us and help us in farming.
Any takers ?

You can ask for more information on Adharshila by contacting Jayashree and Amit at –
09425981606

Or
Email at-
adharshila.learningcentre@gmail.com

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Report 2006-2007

Dear friends,

We are happy to present the 9th Annual Report of Adharshila Learning Centre, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Thanks to your support and belief in us and our work Adharshila is one of the leading examples of alternative education in the country.
A brief outline of ideas practiced in Adharshila is presented here. Hope you enjoy reading. It will be a great help if you share this report with other friends interested in children, education and those who want to join hands for a good cause. We will send the report to your friends if you can just mail their id to adharshila.learningcentre@gmail.com
Your suggestions will be very useful for us.

Annual Report
Adharshila Shikshan Kendra
2006 – 07
Veer Khajiya Naik Manav Vikas Pratishthan
Village : Sakad, PO : Chatli, District Badwani
Madhya Pradesh
Phone : 07281 283221
adharshila.learningcentre@gmail.com


The Cast

155 children at the opening and about 135 on the farewell.
80 residents and 75 day scholars
Girls – 40
Adivasis – 150



Badri Lal Solanki – Mess, Agriculture and Miscellaneous tasks
Devika Solanki – Craft, agriculture
Shobharam Kanouje,- Middle classes, Administration, Accounts
Shanta Kirade – Sports, library
Nemichand, Vadarsingh Pawara – Middle classes

Student Teachers

- Senior girls and boys who will give the 10th exam from the open school next year, worked really hard to make the primary school a success -
Kamal, Majali , Suresh, Shakuntala, Suresh Chota, Prakash,
Savita, Anita, Anita, Sunita, Bhagiram, Gyarsilal, Seetaram, Dinesh

And

The Amazon and Nile group children helped by taking classes in their free time –
Dharmalata, Manisha, Jamuna, Vijay, Shersingh, Anil, Kashiram, Pushpendra, Chetaram,

Volunteers

Karuna, Shashank, Sumit and Vijendar

Direction

Jayashree and Amit

Introduction

The mandate we had set for ourselves was against the common perception of people. We started work in an area where in the name of education people have only seen non functioning govt. schools. There expectation is to simply have a good school, ie. where every body passes with good marks. As opposed to this we have been trying to make Adharshila a place where children can live freely and creatively and not be bogged down with the drudgery of school.

Secondly, there is no link between schooling and the life around us. The only link that people see is - schooling leads to job leads to money leads to better life. For some years this link worked for a few individuals. How many individuals benefited from this can be gauged by the fact that about 98% children who join school never compete school. Even the national average for this is 96%. Also the jobs found through schooling are usually outside the local economy. So schooling has not led to any societal change – nor in terms of strengthening the local economy nor awareness about problems and solutions. It has not contributed to finding solutions to people’s problems – economic or social. In this sense schooling has not educated children. They only make a few of them capable to serve at the lower end of the job market.

Our mandate was to change this linkage. To make education more relevant in the local and broader context. To help the child realize his talents, potential and dreams while growing up. To help him bloom in his own special way, rather than mould him in a particular way.

Thirdly people see schooling as a way to ‘discipline’ the child through a strong authority.
Where as we are against hierarchy and authoritarianism. We see Adharshila as a place to nurture freedom.

People see education as a gateway to the mainstream world. We see Adharshila as a foundation for a new world.

Adharshila is not just about teaching children. It is about educating society through these children. Success or failure, we are not sure but definitely there are lots of lessons to be learnt for people interested in education for change.
…………………………………………………………….
It is difficult to write an annual report after a decade. One is constantly reminded of all the dreams, struggles, successes and failures. The immense effort of so many people and on the other hand, extreme frustrations and loneliness at times, Lot of ideas have been tested and challenged, new ideas born, in the past ten years. We started on a clean slate. Now we are ready to write a book. In this report we are presenting some of the themes (very briefly) that have engaged us during the last ten years..

Democracy in Adharshila

The criticism of regular schools is manifold. The regulars are that they promote rote methodologies, stifling of children’s creativity, the culture that the school promotes, curriculum and cramming facts, cut throat competition – thus individualism. One more which is not so popular, even in alternative education circles, is the structure of the school it self.
Some of these are also seen as problems by mainstream schools. But some like competition are actually seen as strengths of the school. Some people send their kids to schools for the elite culture that they breed. They know where they belong!

While starting Adharshila we had all this in mind and more. Let me share our experiences in democracy in Adharshila. We started very radically like all new converts do. In the first year we took student feedback on teachers. Not just this we shared it with teachers also, though after much briefing – this was a big mistake. They just didn’t want to take it. We also realized that the power it gave to children was too much for them to handle. They started behaving rudely with the elders.

We were amazed at the possibilities of this bombshell method of giving power to children but also cautioned. We were also scared that the already scarce commodity, the teacher, will vanish.
But this experiment definitely set the tone for the children and adults for things to come.
One of the complaints of adults to date is that children speak in front of adults, don’t respect elders and the usual cribs. But no one can deny that they do a lot of great things.

When we got hold of the book about Summerhill, we knew that we were in the company of greats – in thinking about democracy in schools. We were greatly impessed and immediately set out to apply Summerhill to Adharshila. It was called swashasan. The rules had to be made by the children and they had to adhere to it and see to it that they were followed. Swashasan meetings were a hit. They lasted till 10 -11.00in the night, without us of course. Rules were made, changed, punishments and warnings – the works started happening. Gradually the seniors or vocal people started earning the ire of the junta.

But democracy half way is very dangerous and damaging to democracy itself. Though lot of decision making was happening, it was more of a implementation committee. And we were still there to veto or the children knew what was right by us. It came to an end on its own due to lethargy. It demanded a lot of energy on children’s part.

Right now there is a group of about 12 senior students who are very actively involved in running the school. They have Sunday meetings to decide the week’s program and fix responsibilities. Thursdays are review days. The farm, student mess, primary classes - all come under the purview of these meetings. The annual function was done completely under the guidance of this group.

Next year the group will be involved in more key decisions.

The senior children, who are not giving board exams, are free to choose their topics of study/activities, based on their interest. They make their weekly schedule, daily schedules and follow it on their own. Some times weekly targets are given to them and they are asked to complete on their own and get the work checked. Many days they are working for ten hours. Classes are taken to introduce new topics.

Progressive School

We try to follow a questioning approach. Many contemporary issues are debated and different viewpoints are brought forth. Some of the central themes are - Gender sensitization, people’s view of environmental problems, importance of organic farming,
Self respect – through language, culture, history.

Many projects and activities are undertaken to discuss these ideas. Special workshops are also held on specific subjects.

Innovative education

Some examples

Natak India Company recognized & Theatre in Education

1st January 2007. 45 children and teachers are packed in a small truck. They are singing songs and shouting slogans. Spirits are high. They are off to Ankush Vihir, a small village in Maharashtra.

This year the Natak India Company, Adharshila’s theatre group was honoured. It was invited to perform in an Adivasi Sammelan in Maharashtra in front of a 10,000 strong crowd. Darbar Singh had seen the Company’s performance 5 years ago in another sammelan and had liked it. He came to invite us saying he wanted the same play. Reason – people remembered the dialogues of the play even now and all the bhashans of big netas were not even heard attentively. We were flaterred. He payed for our travel and hospitality. We earned a good friend.

He is also ready to start a school on the Adharshila pattern. Last we heard was that he had identified a piece land and one or two persons to run the school. Theatre is regular feature in Adharshila. The children love to enact stories. The elder children enact plays on Independence Day depicting the full story of the independence struggle in the local context. Besides being an excellent educational medium theatre helps children in confidence building and opening their personalities.

Theatre was also used in a workshop with the adolescents, about the state of children in villages. During the workshop a play evolved which was shown on the annual day. Two teachers also participated in a 4 day theatre workshop, held in Adharshila.

Indigenous Urea factory urf Organic Farming

Do you know every house has a urea factory! Yes, even your’s. Well urea – urine – sounds similar, is similar. Adharshila has at least 80 residents and 3 animals. This makes it a very big urea production centre. Production is high but collection and use is less.

As far as the cow urine is concerned it acts as a pesticide and enriches the soil and we spray it regularly in our field. It is really a substitute for urea which farmers have to buy in increasing quantities every year and which surely destroys the fertility of the soil.

Some farmers in our neighbourhood and some parents also picked up the practice. Coming back to the urea factory – we saturated heaps of soil with piss and put it in the farm. Visitors were very amused when shown the urea factories.

While we are in the farm ……….

Like last year this year too we were deeply involved in louki, torai, baingan and tamatar and kaddoo. This year’s highlights were the 4 ft. long loukis. In spite of excessive rains we were able to get about 5 quintals of vegies and 1 quintal daal. We used cow urine extensively. Pesticide was made from leaves of local plants and trees. Milk products were also used to fertilize the field. And of course organic matter was put around the plants as mulch. We tried a new idea of not weeding the brinjal and tomato plot for quite some time. When the weed became as big as the plants we cleared the area around our plants. Later the weed was not uprooted but cut and spread. In some parts, where it was very thick, it was uprooted. This gave us the much needed organic matter of which we are very short. We were also able to establish a green fence around one vegetable plot, comprising mainly of Adulsa and Aloe.

The children went around the village to collect waste organic matter. There were three school plots. The responsibility of looking after these plots was given to different groups. The children worked on these plots during school time and also in the evenings. Each group had it’s own plot also where they planted whatever they wanted to. Some children made their own groups and cultivated. These were also very successful. This year’s bhindi kings were Shobharam(10yrs.) and Ganesh (12yrs.) of Brahmputra group.

Another highlight was that the growth of brinjal plants was extremely vigorous, although it was planted on very poor quality land. They withered due to lack of water. We tried a lot, but could not put a drip irrigation system in place.

On our educational tour this year we went to see the organic farm of Dhirendra and Smita Soni. They are electronic engineers who dropped their jobs to do organic farming. The best thing is they work on the farm themselves the whole day. The farm is their main source of income. The children were inspired a lot and so were we.

This year we can try to actually propogate the use of cow urine in place of urea by printing pamphlets and wall writing and talking to farmers. A team of children who are interested in organic farming can go to villages to propogate this. This has long term implications for making agriculture sustainable – one step to reduce dependency on the market.

Organic Farming is a part of the curriculum. It is one of the main ideas that we want to transfer to children. We believe it can become a part of their thinking only by doing it with full involvement and enjoying it.We are also trying to convince parents to adopt organic farming techniques on at least 1 acre land.

Working for the community

- Baal Melas in 15 villages

The team of student teachers and the Amazon and Nile group children went around govt. schools, talked to the principals and convinced them to conduct a Baal Melas in their schools. In this way theyorganised Baal Melas in 15 schools. In some places, on seeing the mela other teachers and Sarpanchs invited them to their villages. The travel of about 15 children was paid by the school teachers or Sarpanch. They also got donations. In the end they netted Rs 2000/-
In each school/village the Melas were attented by 100 – 200 children and adults. The main activities in the Mela were – group games, songs, science experiments, drawing, origami, story telling and looking at nails and lice through a microscope.

This is an activity which children can manage on their own and is also useful educationally. It helps raise the confidence of children and makes them more responsible. This is a very nice exercise in team management, leadership skills and group dynamics.They tried to identify youth in these villages who could be trained to do these activities on their own. But this could not happen.

Malnutrition Survey in 5 villages

Every year a health survey is done by children. This year the focus was malnutrition. We also had the advantage of Dr. Varma who guided the children. About 85 -90 children were found with severe malnutrition. The children learnt to identify malnutrition. The survey report prepared by the children was published by local newspapers. Dr. Varma also participated in a press conference in Bhopal, about the status of health in Madhya Pradesh. Due to Dr.Varma’s campaigning the district health administration held a health camp at a nearby village and AMS – a local people’s organization also took up the issue.

In the discussions that followed the survey, many chapters from the biology book, related to disease, primary health, food, protein, vitamins etc. were covered. The children discovered the power of campaigning and speaking out.The children also prepared health supplements and sold about 50 kg of it at cost price.

The children also learn about medicinal plants and ways of preparing ayurvedic medicine. This year children prepared balms for headache and cold, syrup for anemia and cough syrup with Dr. Varma’s help

School Health Programme

This is a new programme that we started this year with Dr. Varma. The idea was to interact with school children and make them aware about seasonal health problems and malnutrition, healthy diet etc. He visited about 10 govt. schools, once a month and gave talks. The teachers reacted quite positively to this.


Books and Newspaper by children

This is a regular feature of Adharshila. Children make their own books based on folk stories that they have heard from their elders. They also illustrate these books. They also make books on topics of their interest after consulting the library and talking to people who know the topic.
A weekly newspaper is taken out by a new group every week. The group is made by taking two children from each class. This is presented in the morning assembly. Interesting news items are also read out from the newspapers.

This exercise helps children develop their writing and comprehension skills in a creative manner. A Rough draft has to made before the final product. Other creative exercises are also taken to develop writing skills like taking interviews, writing songs and stories, essays, summaries etc.

Observations and science teaching

Recording observations forms an important part of science education. Children are encouraged to observe from a very early age. In the beginning they record observations through drawing and later in words and a numbers and by making tables. The kind of observations varies for different age groups. They observe just about anything – the food they eat, colour of clothes, things in the classroom, things in soil, growth of plants, changes in seasons, temperature, humidity, crops, seasonal disease, water levels … just about anything that catches the fancy of children or the teacher. The elder children undertake village level surveys and prepare tables to classify their observations. Results are discussed and conclusions are drawn from these observations.

Children are encouraged to ask what they want to know about things around them. Then their questions are taken up as topics and studied rather than doing chapters from the book. The children consult books from the library and write about their questions and later discuss in class.

Another aspect of science teaching is the social aspect of science. The older children are engaged in debates about so called achievements of science. The merits and demerits of dams, earth cutting machines, harvesters from the view point of tribals and labourers are discussed.

History

Children go around villages in groups to talk to elders and from these conversations piece together stories of the past. Some stories that they have been able to find are –

How people survived in droughts –stories of chapniya akaal;
How did Reechada Boyeda get it’s name?
Story of deforestation around Sakad Village.
History of the school land.
History of the local stream.
Story of a school run by Gandhians in the 1950’s
Besides these projects children make time lines, do historical plays and read books too.

Art Craft

The craft room was one of the most active places this year. Many children made woven jute bags and belts. The smaller children made mats and hand bands for themselves. Some knitted mufflers and caps for their fathers and small children at home. Some of the craft pieces were sold at the People Tree shop in Delhi.

Craft work provides dexterity to the hands. It helps in developing coordination in children. The satisfaction of making something with ones own hands is immense. To inculcate respect for people working with the hand is one of the important values that Adharshila wants it’s children, to imbibe. Like last year this year also children made greeting cards in the art classes. A poster competition was held to depict the plight of migrant labourers hit by silicosis, in Gujarat.

Tours and travels

This year too the children went on various tours. The major tour was to Rajpipla, Gujarat to see the hospital run by ARCH Vahini. The great thing about this is that it is being run by people who have got on he job traning with Dr. Pate.. We also saw a workshop for making farm machines through appropriate technology. We visted the Soni organic farm and were greatly impressed and motivated by it.

The sea at Dandi is a hit spot every year. this year we added Toran Maal to our list. This is the hghest point of the satpuras in this region. The place is of religious importance and famous for its vast store of herbal plant. The children also visited our sister school – Rani Kajal Jeevan Shala, Jhabua. The smaller children went to Baewani to see the hand made paper factory, Bavangaja, and the Narmada river.

Primary Teacher Training Programme
A hope for the failures

This programme started last year. There were two-three reasons for starting this programme.
One was that schools produce 97% more drop-outs than pass. The programme is an extension of the original idea of older children helping younger children to teach. Thirdly economically this is a very viable for non funded organizations like us. 12 youngsters aged 16 – 18 years formed the student teacher group. For 4 of these it was the second year of teaching.

Some are Adharshila students who opt for 10th exam through open school. But others are 8th – 10th failures. When they join their academic level and self confidence is very low. In the first three months basic language (Hindi and English) and math skills are imparted to the student trainees. They are asked to learn nursery rhymes and do all the activities themselves. Mock classes are held with them. Discussions about the education system and general topics are held twice a week. Basically after the first year they start getting out of the failure mode and realise that they too can do something.

In the second year they start taking responsibilities independently. The pressure of giving the 10th board exam fast is a big detriment to their learning. Weekly meetings are held with each of them to plan the weekly programme and review the previous weeks work. We are in the process of finalising a curriculum of sorts for this group. They sit with senior teachers and assist them in various activities. After three months they were given independent charge for doing activities with primary classes.

This group of 12 students managed the nursery school almost independently. Besides teaching they also looked after craft, mess and general management. We had to hear a lot from the parents for this, though, who said that there are no proper teachers here. How can failures teach? To answer there questions the annual function was held in Chatli from where, lot of day scholars come. The function was conducted by these youngsters and was full of English poems and conversation as an advertising point.

We are looking for a co-ordinator for this programme.

New trades learnt

Plumbing - four children helped in setting up the plumbing lines in the campus. Two children have gone to Hyderabad for a two mont course on plumbing and electric fittings.

Masonary – Six children constructed a water tank base I the masonary project.

Computers – three senior students learnt MSExel and helped in entering accounts and listing of library books. Others helped in data entry of reading materialprepared in the school.

Weaving – the children and one staff member learnt weaving jute bags hand bands and belts. We are also trying to sell them.

Natural dyeing – A team of two teachers and three students went to Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya, Vedchi, to learn natural dyeing techniques.

Tailoring – We supplied about 100 bags to Elements, a shop in Kerala. One boy went to Manthan, Rajasthan to attend a two month tailoring course.

Solar Lamp Repair – one boy went to Samparkgram, Jhabua to learn to repair solar lamps. He was already repairing the solar lamps on the campus.

Participated in …………..

· Activist Trainings organized by SRUTI.
· A.M..S protest march against electricity shortage and Blocking NH3.
· AMS dharna against irregularities in EGS.
· Staged a play in the Adivasi Sammelan, Nandurbaar, Maharashtra.
· District Health Sammelan organized by CEHAT,Badwani.
· India Social Forum in Delhi.
· Social Science Training for middle School organised by Eklavya in Bhopal.
· Delivered the Jaya Prakash Memorial Lecture, Gandhi Vidyapeeth, Vedchi, Gujarat.
· SRUTI Mitra Milan at Dehradoon.
· Press Conference on Right to Food
· India Health Forum, Bhopal
· Health Camp, Chatli.
· Cycle Yatra in Badwani District to find out the status of EGS works.


Support to New Initiatives

Initially we had thought that many Learning Centres will be established in the AMS area and with the help of other people’s organizations. Due to lack of people in Adharshila we could not give much time to this process. Though we contacted many people but nothing much came out of it. Many organizations showed interest, including some SRUTI fellows too. Every year people come and take ideas from Adharshila and start schools in their area but are not interested in keeping links in the future.

· Last year a new school was started in Mardai, a remote village of Badwani district, with Adharshila’s support in teacher training and educational support. This year with the help of other young people, the school has been transformed into a full fledged residential school with about 50 children.

· An NGO in Sheopuri, MP, started a residential school taking initiative from Adharshila. By chance this school is also called Adharshila. 5 teachers and a coordinator stayed with us for 3 days to study the ideas and method being practiced in the school.

· Training - Six boys, sent by AMS, a local people’s organisation, were given teacher training. They stayed in Adharshila for one month. They initiated the process of starting three schools in their respective villages. Out of these one was alive at the end of the year. They are trying to start a residential school next year. It was envisaged that the trainees will come to Adharshila once a month for two days to review, discuss problems and take the next month’s programme. But this did not happen.

Board Exam Results 2007

10th exams

Total students 2
Passed 2

8th exams

Total Students 11
Passed 8
Re appear 3

5th exam
Total students 14
Passed 14
Re appear none

We are richer by

Dr. G.D. Varma, an Ayurvedic doctor who has 10 years experience of working in NGOs He is looking after the health programme and health education of Adharshla and surrounding schools.

A generator. Due to the pathetic electricity situation in our part of MP our 3 phase tubewell just refused to pump water. Children had to treck daily. The task was done in a very organized manner but the sheer drudgery was too much. And when this went on for months we decided to buy a generator. Hope fully this will help on our farm too, though we will have to work out the economics properly.

A shed outside the kitchen. Due to Jaya’s ingenuity we got a big semi covered space outside the kitchen. This is used for eating, relaxing, sleeping and studying.

Teachers. Vadar Singh joined us with the usual promises of spending his lifetime teaching children in Adharshila. He lasted about 4 months. Was good, while he was around. Reason for leaving – govt. job.

Computers. Thanks to SRUTI we got computers, not one or two but full ten. The children started using at least three of them. We are looking for independent power options for these.

Bullocks. The two calves that we had have grown up and started working – on the farm and carting grain to the flour mill. Children had a nice time training them.

Morale Boosters – those who visited us…

· Dr. PV Bhalerao, Veterinary doctor, Maharashtra.
· Members of an NGO from Chhindwara
· Rohit and Praveen, film makers from Delhi.
· Pundalik and Alok, film Director, Mumbai.
· Student group from Manzil, Delhi, for 5 days
· Sushil Joshi, Eklavya
· Sunil and teachers from Adharshila, Sheopuri NGO, MP
· Ashok, Ekta Parishad, Gwalior.
· Students of Social Work College, Pune
· Students and teachers of Daily College, Indore and Appleby College, Canada.
· Shri Padawi, Akalkua, Maharashtra
· Shri Gajanand Brahmane, Mukesh Dudve, Sumli Bai, Bijoy, Rajesh and others from AMS
· Dinesh Solanki, Rajendra Sharma and Rajesh Dinge, Motiram Barde – trustees.
· Khemla and Bhuvan, KMCS, Jhabua, MP.
· Kemat, Ninga, Kisram and Bhagat from Rani Kajal Shikshan Kendra, Kakrana, Jhabua, MP.
· Shri Keniyalal, Ashagram, Badwani.
· Shri Nikunj Bhutiya, Orissa
· Payal and Karishma –student volunteers from the US
· Sumit and Vijendar, volunteered for 1 month and taught English
· Arundhati Roy, Writer and Critic
· Shreepad and Nandini, Manthan Documentation Centre., Badwani
· Harish Deshmukh, Dilip Solanki and Hri Pthode from Andhshradhdha Unmoolan Samiti
· Hartosh Bal, Journalist, Tehelka and Freelance writer
· Team from Bhasha, Gujarat.
· A British couple who came to India from England by land route.

Those who helped us, financially…..

This year too we managed the school without any institutional grants. Fees, grain and donations from friends kept us afloat. We even managed to build two covered areas with these donations.
Next year we will have to increase our fund raising exercise as we want to get more qualified teachers and it is becoming very difficult to retain people at the pittance that we are able to give. This we hope to achieve mainly through friends and students art work. But we are being forced to think about writing proposals to trusts with similar interests.

Mr. Mahesh and Ms. Madhulika Aggarwal
Mr Ramesh Kacholiya
Mrs.Bagchi
Ms. Pushpa Nagpal
Mr. Umesh and Ms. Shachi Atree
Shri Vibhash Sureka through the Krutagyata Nidhi
RS Bhatnagar Trust
Mrs. Chitra Kumar
Indu and Mr. Manoj Mathur
Mrs. Sneh Raj
Ms. Meenu Tewari
Dr. Pankaj Kr. Bhatnagar
Mr. Rahul, Mr. Pratyoosh and Ms. Mamata Kumar
Ms. Natasha Badwaar
Dr. Ms. Amita Baviskar
Mr. Ravindra and Ms. Pomilla Shroff.
Mr. Ranjan Mohanty
Mr. U.K. Varma
Ms. Urvashi Prasad
Ms. Kaushalya Gupta
Mr.Avinash and Ms. Sharma
Shri Shashank Kela and Ms. Karuna
Mr. Sanjay Paul
Mr. Arjun

Plan for next year – 2007 – 08

This year Adharshila will complete 10 years. We have many plans besides taking stock of achievements and failures. What was our agenda and what could we achieve?

Some plans for the next year are –

Fuel wood from the campus – Plant 500 trees in Adharshila.
One Tonne Organic Vegetables and pulses from farm.
Baal Melas in 25 villages / schools.
Complete teaching material for primary groups.
Dialogue with other alternative schools.
Teachers for middle section and a coordinator for primary section.
Help in setting up other schools/educational programmes.
Visit other schools
Explore the possibilities of making student committees and a people’s committee to moniter Govt. schools.