Happy New Year to everyone! It is 2013 and Grampari is looking good! I (Anandi) joined Grampari as Sustainability Program Co-ordinator in September, 2012. In the last 5 months several changes have taken place at Grampari that I wanted to share with all of you.
Currently we are a team of three who are managing the grounds and farm at Grampari; Shashikant, Sujata, and Anandi. We were unfortunate to lose one of our garden staff, Trupti. However we were fortunate enough to have a wonderful new lady Sujata from Dandeghar to take her place and more. Another new employee who we have gladly welcomed is Dhananjay a resident of Panchgani who is currently working mostly with the livelihoods program and partly with the garden. He has become an important part of Grampari with his driving skills being in great demand.
Management of the Grounds:
Post-monsoon days are 8 hours of weeding! This time we also tried to plant long-term, low nutrient and water requiring, flowering, native medicinal plants and shrubs. Over 150 seedlings were planted of plants such as Adulsa, Mehendi, Tulsi, Citronella, Ticoma, Peppermint, Chitrak, Tagar, Vetiver etc. Landscaping the grounds with these plants will ensure lower weeding after the following monsoon.
Another major change that has taken place is the removal of a lot of metal junk lying around on the Grampari campus. We manage to get rid of Rs. 10,000 worth of metal. It was a great feeling to watch this cleaning take place and make money from it.
The lemon/lime orchard below the organic garden was cleared of its tall grass by 4 women employed from Godavali. It was a huge change that gave us access to endless limes and lemons. The most productive part of Grampari is definitely the citrus orchard. Dead lemon trees were replaced by new ones and 4 Amla trees have also been planted in empty spaces. The next steps involve landscaping the orchard in order to have a ground cover going before the monsoon in order to prevent the return of the tall elephant grass
The Lemon Orchard being cleared
Organic Vegetable Garden:
Apart from organic lemons we had a wonderful harvest of 20 pumpkins that had grown over the monsoon.
After more than a month of weeding and re-creating our raised beds, we began our planting. We also began cultivating a small section on the upper part of the garden which is an experimental section for organic wheat. Including the upper and lower areas we have
planted about 25 different vegetables. On a regular basis we are harvesting lettuce, coriander, methi, spinach, bananas, mint, lemon grass and lemons. We have now started also harvesting radish, capsicum, cauliflower, cabbage and chillies.
(above) Sujata, Shashikant, and Anandi with the Pumpkins
(below) Sheila and Sujata typing bundles of Spinach
Some of the techniques being applied are composting, vermicomposting, mulching, intercropping, and water conservation through drip irrigation. For mulching we have managed to find rice husk after a long search. Our three compost pits are almost full and undergoing decomposition. We have re-done our vermicompost system to ensure it functions properly and to accommodate more food waste that will be produced from month-long residential training programs.
Re-organized Vermicompost pits
Drip Irrigation System:
Our newest project which has been a success is setting up of the drip irrigation system. After doing surveys, and calculations we projected a cost of about Rs.6500 for the drip irrigation material required in the organic vegetable garden. At one of our shramdaans (voluntary work) for the students of Symbiosis (SCIT) we put forward this quotation in the hopes of finding a source for this money. To our amazement the students amongst themselves contributed a bit of money each and provided us with Rs.9200! It was more that what we had asked for and we are tremendously grateful to them. The drip irrigation is now set up and the total cost was approximately Rs.7200. A big thank you to the students of SCIT!
In the last year several staggered couture trenches have been made to ensure ground water recharge. The last few months have seen the installation of another roof-top rainwater harvesting system done by Jared, Renie, Ankush, and Ankur. It includes a first-flush device to perform basic filtration of the rain water which is then directed into a water tank. The water tank which used to be an old and dysfunctional biogas plant can store up to 28 thousand litres of water. We hope to use the water collected next monsoon for the watering of the garden in the dry months.
Roof-top rainwater harvesting system with first flush device
Tool Shed Re-organization:
A dreadful flea infestation in the tool room ensured a swift and urgent cleaning. The cleaning was helpful in getting rid of the fleas. We also added shelves and other equipment for the organization of all the tools and hardware.
Grampari’s New Look:
Renie our geologist is now turned resident artist. He has painted several different Warli (tribal) paintings all over Grampari that have brought life to the buildings. While some of these paintings depict the different programs of livelihood, governance, WASH, and watershed, others illustrate the life of tribal people and their connection to nature.
The Asia Plateau interns are now regularly involved with Grampari activities. They visit Grampari once a week to help us and learn new activities. So far we have had an opportunity to do shramdaan (mulching and harvesting), learn how to make the tippy tap, a painting session, and preparing a stone wall for vetiver grass planting. Looking forward to many more!
Ongoing and Future Projects:
Our ongoing projects include watering and maintenance of the grounds. Landscaping and planning of the lemon orchard is a big part of our work. We now hope to also begin reaching out to farmers from nearby villages through short organic farming workshops. Meanwhile we are also working on a farm manual both in English and Marathi to be prepared for future farm managers.
Best wishes to everyone for 2013 and do come to Grampari for some fresh vegetables and black tea with lemon grass!