GITAM University has established the Centre for Integrated Rural Development (CIRD) to bring about the development of the farmer community through active dissemination of available knowledge, data, technology and know-how to them. Though the focus of the centre is on human and community development, yet it also aims towards technology transfer to the farmers for the improvement in agricultural production and quality of life.
The following are some of the extension services offered by the centre.
Development of village knowledge centers:
The village knowledge centers, which will be developed, will utilize the services and help scientists and extension workers with a view to providing accurate, consistent and quick response to the queries of the farmers. Farmers from nearby areas will be encouraged to approach the knowledge centre for any problem or doubt they might have regarding agricultural practice or any other matter. The questions and answers or suggestions will be maintained as a database with continuous updation open for use by general public.
Provision of extension support:
The centre will provide extension support in the form of seeds, rented equipment or supply information to the farmers in collaboration with NGOs and village coordinators for working out joint plans using scientific knowledge.
Medicinal and Aromatic plants:
Several medicinal and aromatic plants have been identified and known to be present in the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh. Cultivation and processing of these plants could bring about economic development of tribal families. One of the aims of the centre is to disseminate knowledge, create awareness and help tribal families in the cultivation, processing and value addition of economically important plants in these areas.
The centre will inculcate eco-conservation approach in agriculture among farmers by developing overall competence and motivation to adopt scientific approach towards agriculture. This involves creating awareness among the farmers about sustainable agriculture and improvement of regional environment. The strategy includes exploring the facts that underlie farmers’ conservation attitudes, including farm characteristics and create awareness of and concern for environmental problems associated with agriculture. The centre will take up attitude surveys, farmer awareness programmes, interactive sessions on rain water harvesting, efficient use of water etc. Such activities will help in protection and development of village common property resources.
Enhancement of food security :
Food security involves physical, economic, social and environmental access to balanced diet, and clean drinking water to every child, woman and man. The centre aims at promoting health and food for all by spreading awareness of methods of food preservation and preparation for better utilization of available food. Information will also be provided about the food requirement of different age and work groups and the importance of easily available and cheaper food items to meet the same.
Nearly half the available human resources in India, as in other countries, is women. Women perform multiple roles in society. The centre aims at creating awareness among rural women about entrepreneurship technologies, knowledge empowerment technologies and value addition technologies.
Bio-pesticides which are derived from plants, microbes or other natural materials have proven to be safer for humans and the environment. The demand for bio-pesticides is rising steadily in all parts of the world.
Bio-pesticides provide greater margins of safety for applicators, farm workers and rural neighbors and have much shorter field Restricted Entry Intervals (REIs) which makes it easier for farmers to complete essential agronomic practices on a timely basis and schedule harvest operations.
The centre’s objective is to develop novel bio-pesticides keeping the following in mind :
- Enumeration of foods that act as bio-pesticides.
- Different combinations of foods that act as bio-pesticides.
- Development of different food combinations in different concentrations and dilutions as bio-pesticides.
- Studying effect of formulated bio-pesticides on different plants.
Development of seed banks:
Our seed bank project is aimed at identifying important traditional seed varieties and orienting the agricultural community towards conserving and cultivating them. The main aim is to enhance the livelihood security of small and marginal farmers through conservation of indigenous genetic resources and empower them with organic farming technologies. Setting up farmer’s community seed banks for seed exchange, distribution and utilization is one of the objectives of the centre.
The other objectives include:
- Survey, collection and documentation of indigenous grain varieties in the study area.
- Encouraging farmers to grow these indigenous varieties organically.
- Creation of awareness in the community.
- Farmers who are interested in cultivating these varieties will be given the technical know-how of manuring their field organically, treating pests by natural control methods etc.,
The other R & D issues which need attention are seed resource assessment, collection and their preservation, increasing availability of seed, seedsetting, inter-cropping, selection of high yielding crops, developing agro-technologies for different agroclimatic regions and utilization of byproducts of various industries such as bio-diesel.
The centre aims at developing and popularizing the know-how on cultivation practices under organic farming through alternate eco-friendly technologies like bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides, neem formulations,etc.
An organic formulation made up of five products of cow viz., cow dung, urine, milk, curd and ghee is known to induce systemic resistance in plants and hence is a wonderful biological pesticide. The molecular mechanism underlying the disease resistance in plants is being unraveled at the centre. Research carried out at the Department of Bio-technology, GITAM Institute of Technology has proved that the formulation upregulated certain genes of the pathogenesis pathway in plants bestowing disease resistance on the plants. Use of panchagavya can be a sustainable alternative to chemical pesticides.
Bio-fertilizers are ready to use live formulates of such beneficial micro-organisms which on application to seed, root or soil mobilize the availability of nutrients by their biological activity in particular, and help build up the microflora and in turn the soil health in general. Various bacterial and fungal bio-fertilizers are easy to cultivate and the farmers or rural women can be trained to produce these biofertilizers at minimum cost thus increasing the self-sufficiency of the group. The bio-fertilizers to be produced could be mixers or Rhizobacteria or Cyanobacteria. GITAM Centre for Integrated Rural Development aims at training the target groups about the ways and means of bio-fertilizer production as also spreading the awareness for better utilization of available bio-fertilizers in their agricultural field.
The centre will also look towards spirulina cultivation as one of the strategies of rural empowerment. Spirulina is the common name for human and animal food supplements produced primarily from two species of cyanobacteria: Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima. Spirulina is cultivated around the world and is used as a human dietary supplement as well as a whole food and is available in tablet, flake, and powder form. It is also used as a feed supplement in the aquaculture, aquarium, and poultry industries. Spirulina has been effectively promoted as a natural health and slimming food in the market. Studies show that spirulina at a particular level indicated immense progress in anemia, diabetes, healing of wounds and lowering of cholesterol. Spirulina is used as
- Protein supplement: In diets for malnourished children and adults.
- Protein supplement: In feeds for poultry, cattle, pig and aquaculture health food.
- Food colourant: In therapeutic preparation of medicines.
- Enriching the feed in sericulture.
Use of waste and marginal land:
There is enormous waste and marginal land available and technologies for utilizing the land effectively are required to be standardized for different potential crops to be grown in various ecosystems. The centre aims at reclamation of various types of fallow or wastelands through treatment with chemical methods, organic manuring or microbialization. Proper scientific data will be developed for planting density, fertilization practices, planting procedure etc. Research will be conducted for developing complete agro-technologies for potential crops for different agro-ecosystems. Demonstrations will be laid out and pilot scale data will be collected. Complete technology packages will be prepared and made available to the farmers for adoption at grass root level.
Training of farmers:
The centre will undertake the following training programmes for farmers:
Integrated Rural Energy Programme (IREP) Bio-fuel production-Farmers will be trained in:
i) Cultivation of fuel producing plants.
ii) Solar energy utilization.
iii) Bio-diesel production and utilization.
Use of the available resources in more productive ways-Farmers will be trained in:
i) Production of organic products.
ii) Growing medicinal herbs and plants.
iii) Undertaking characterization and classification of forest flora and fauna (traditional knowledge) and codifying them to build a TKDL (Traditional Knowledge Digital Library).
iv) Finding more uses for waste products.
v) Developing apiaries to produce honey
Waste land restoration:
Farmers will be trained :
i) To bring arid lands under the domain of cultivation to mitigate adverse effects of drought or desertification.
ii) To restore ecological balance and to promote economic development of villages.
GITAM Centre for Integrated Rural Development will implement all its extension activities in collaboration with organizations such as M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation, Shirdi Foundation and other reputed NGOs. The centre will also be in regular touch with central and state government agencies that look after rural development programmes for possible linkages, participation and collaboration. In particular, regular liaison will be maintained with the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, to weld the framework of programmes of the centre with those of the government.
The primary approach of the centre is based on strategic and participatory research, capacity building, networking and partnership building, which is in turn based on the principles of social inclusion in access to technologies which help to enhance income and environment. Research and outreach strategies are devised to bring economic prosperity to village masses.
The centre for integrated rural development plays a proactive role in the process of India becoming a developed nation with a focus on the holistic developement of villages by helping them participate in developmental activities.
GITAM University is working with a three-pronged commitment to teaching, research and extension and has grown to be a consulting/ referral point for both the government and industry that are in perennial search for solutions to varied problems.