Small-scale farmers in the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu, India are kind and hospitable people who enjoy life and have a strong sense of community. Every day, they work hard to grow vegetables of high quality to provide for their families and secure a better future for their children. To allow for harvesting the whole year round in the green and mountainous Nilgiris, farmers need good soil and sufficient water and need to remain healthy to stay productive.
Instead of the usual monsoon season which they have come to expect, it hardly rains at all.
Right now, the Nilgiris should be experiencing heavy and constant rains. Instead of the usual monsoon season which they have come to expect, it hardly rains at all. While the lack of water for irrigation is already a problem during the monsoon season, the scarcity is even harsher during the dry season. The use of chemical fertilizers is also widespread. In the long term, these chemicals deplete the soil of the essential nutrients for the growth of a good crop.
Finally, for small scale farmers it is often difficult to access markets for their produce and access financing opportunities, such as loans and subsidies to make long-term investments.
With the Securing Water for Food Program (SWFF), WASTE together with Borda and RDO Trust, are implementing a project which offers technical and business innovations that will help farmers overcoming these challenges. Greywater from households will be filtered and stored in farm ponds. This way the wastewater is recycled and farmers have more water available for irrigation of their farmland. Locally-trained people will produce good quality compost from fecal sludge and organic waste, which will improve the quality of the soil and allow for better crop growth. Finally, by grouping farmers together into producer companies, WASTE makes them stronger and helps them with accessing markets and financial opportunities.
At the beginning of July, WASTE celebrated the official kick off of the project in Nilgiris. We invited partners and farmers to Nilgiris and presented the project to them. The atmosphere was jovial and festive, and everyone was energized by the positive impact the project will have for the region. We are now in the starting phase grouping together the first women farmers into producer companies. The next steps will be to install filters, build farm ponds, and improve the current compost production through better solid waste management and the addition of fecal sludge.
The project already enjoys the support of many local partners, including a wholesaler, banks and government departments. Securing Water for Food (SWFF) is a program financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (MFA-NL), and the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST).