Agriculture and Allied Areas

Preparation of a blueprint for decentralised agriculture development was attempted through Group approach for locally adapted and sustainable Agriculture (GALASA) (1989-1991). Based on a status study and the problems faced by the farmers, possible/required intervention plans were prepared in the form of projects for each Padasekharam for improving the paddy production.

Sericulture was attempted at IRTC campus during 1991-94. Training was given to farmers in rearing of silk worms for silk production. Assessment of quality of cocoons produced indicated that climatic conditions in Palakkad, Kerala were not favourable for good quality silk.

A new tapping technique called Inclined Upward Tapping was tested for getting increased latex yield in rubber (1999-2001). Up to 40% increase in latex yield was reported. A handbook on the method has also been published.

 

Fisharries

A centre for imparting training in scientific fish farming and spawn rearing was started at IRTC in 1999. A Chinese hatchery has been established and farmers were given training in spawn production. Aquaculture service support system was developed through farmers network (co-operative society) in two Panchayaths, Puduppariyaram and Polpully in Palakkad (1999-2003). This facility is being used to breed edible fish and distribute fish fingerlings to farmers every monsoon season.

 

Mushroom (Oyster)

Cultivation and spawn production facilities were created in 2000. Training is given in mushroom cultivation and spawn is being distributed to mushroom growers. Over the years it has been proved that small-scale oyster mushroom cultivation is an economically viable income generating activity.

Cost Effective Construction Techniques

With a starting core grant from DST in the late eighties (1987-1989) a number of training programmes were conducted for engineers, technicians and masons, on various low-cost construction techniques. With STEC, Govt of Kerala grants in the year 1991 masons were given training in cost effective methods of building construction. These were ferro-cement slabs, rat- trap bonding, filler slab roofing, arches, brick jaaly, corbelling and pre-casting of handrails etc.

An innovative technique to provide a LDPE sheet layer wrapped in between soil bags to check seepage loss was tried to renovate a pond at Ambalappara Panchayath Ottappalam. (1997) This helped to reduce water loss. Similarly, use of LDPE sheets inserted in soil between buildings and trees to prevent damage from roots of trees is also tried out on experimental basis.

Rainwater harvesting and storage structures were constructed at many Panchayaths (1999-2004) as part of creating community awareness for managing water harvest and storage.

Education

Preschool education can be more scientific and child friendly. Activities in preschools need to be based on modules, where learning strategies are implemented by teachers and parents. A handbook for Preschool teachers has been prepared (2000-2003).

Learning problems in children were studied with a tool developed for the same (2000-2003). The problem encountered could be remedied through parental and teacher education, once awareness is created and appropriate approach in ensured.

On the basis of integrated cognitive approaches a learning module was developed for learning English in school children (2000-2002). Two-day children’s language comps conducted in 8 centres at Vellanad and Nedumangad Panchayath, where 225 teachers and 450 students participated.

Wastage in engineering collages in Kerala was investigated (2002-2003). In a study involving three engineering colleges; one government, one aided and one self financed, many students had several papers to pass when they complete the four-year course. Almost all these wasted students (15% of total admissions) have secured admission under various quotas ie. Management quota and SC/ST quota. Out of these 15% about 10% students did not clear the course. The problem was traced to admitting students with no aptitude for engineering or proficiency in Mathematics and in being forced into the engineering course by peer pressure or parental compulsion.

The campaign of awareness on science (2004-2005) was done through a series of science lectures to school, college students and general public in the three districts of Malappuram, Palakkad and Thrissur. An expert team trained the resource persons who subsequently handled the awareness classes. Demonstrations on water quality, handmade soap making, mushroom farming, vermi composting, rainwater harvesting were arranged at IRTC premises. These were attended by groups of school children, women and farmers. Students of selected schools were encouraged to form a theatre troupe of 10-12 under a teacher of the school. Scripts were prepared and finalized at a workshop at Thrissur. A five-day rehearsal camp was held at IRTC, where two students and two teachers from each district participated. This was followed by school level rehearsal camps at every district, where a troupe of 10-14 students were trained. In each district this troupe made ten performances within 25 km radius of the host school. Articles on science in Malayalam were published in a book entitled science and scientific awareness.

Energy

Electronic Ballasts, meeting BIS specifications, were developed (1998) for tube lights and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Production and marketing was effected through Parishad Production Centre (PPC), a sister concern of IRTC. A full-fledged laboratory for testing quality attributes of energy efficient lighting systems is now functional at IRTC.

Developed a Hotbox out of Polystyrene (thermocol) in 1997. This is used for completing the cooking of rice by transferring and storing the vessel containing partially cooked rice inside the hotbox (improved version of Kachipetty). 50% energy saving and savings in firewood is achieved when hotbox is used.

The performance analysis of a Biomass Gasifier was done using coconut fronds (1999-2002). The gas produced can be used in domestic gas burners for cooking purpose. The gas can be used in a diesel power generator to produce electricity. It would be possible to supply gas for cooking and electricity for household lighting using the same amount of biomass presently using for cooking.

Powerline Mapping and assessment of the efficiency of rural electricity distribution system was carried out in a few Panchayaths (1997-1998). It would be possible to suggest changes such as re-location of transformers, conversion from single to three phases etc for reducing distribution losses, to improve power factor and help economic utilisation of electricity.

Selected sites in the Western Ghats were assessed for the potential for economic generation of Small Hydel Power (1997-2001). Detailed project reports for all the sites were prepared and a methodology for cost reduction through the standardisation of unit sizes has been suggested. A micro hydel station using pump as turbine at Kavarakundu, Malampuzha was conceived (1998-2003). Also an induction motor was selected for use as a generator. Using a load controller (developed at IIT, Delhi) it would be possible to generate electricity with better efficiency and economy in micro hydel stations. Though the system would work as shown by the results of tests under lab conditions, the project has not been field tested so far.

CFLs are energy efficient devices but extensive use of the low quality CFLs are suspected to cause high harmonics in electrical distribution system. In a simulation study, the introduction of low quality CFLS alone or along with other domestic electric appliances, no harmonic distortion was observed because of CFLs (2002-2004). Greater harmonic distortion were produced by appliances such as TV.

The Parishad Aduppu was developed in 1987. This smokeless Chulha has three times higher fuel efficiency than conventional wood burning stove, reduces indoor pollution and helps improve cleanliness in the kitchen. Through ANERT, this chulha has been extensively popularised in Kerala.

Environment and Solid Waste Management

Agro forestry alternatives for soil conservation were investigated in three districts, i.e., Idukki, Ernakulam and Thrissur in gentle, medium and steep slope lands (1988-1991). Vegetable barriers, especially pineapple, were found to be effective in reducing soil erosion. A farm-refined technique named vegetally guarded trenches and ridges (VGCTR) was found to be most effective.

Biodiversity assessment was conducted in the Meenvallom area of Western Ghats (1994-1996) through field mapping, random sampling of flora and fauna and interviews with local people. Reckless exploitation of forest was evident. In the less disturbed areas a number of endemic and rare species of flora and fauna are present. Monoculture in human habited areas is threatening bio diversity.

Suitable and appropriate Processing of Solid Wastes in Municipality has been extensively studied to avoid environmental pollution and to manufacture compost, useful as organic manure for agricultural purposes (1998 onwards). Detailed project reports have been given to many Panchayaths and Municipalities on how to manage market and house hold waste. A system of aerobic windrow composting has been installed, operated for one year and transferred at Chalakudy (1999-2001). At present IRTC is helping Palakkad Municipality to create a facility and to manage the Solid Waste through aerobic windrow composting. A handbook on appropriate methods for solid waste management has been prepared (2004).

In water logged areas faecal contamination of surface and ground water is a serious health hazard. A new closet for dry compost latrine with facility for diverting urine and wash water to facilitate dry composting of human excreta was designed and developed at IRTC (2000-2003). This has been field tested in Kumarakom and was found to totally prevent contamination of ground water.

Gender

Women freedom fighters of north Kerala were interviewed to document their role in freedom movement (1999-2001).

Pokkali Krishi is a method of agriculture in wetlands. Both rice and shrimp are grown in an eco-friendly agriculture. Shifting from this to only shrimp growing may adversely affect the economy of farmwomen. However the study indicated that women were employed for export oriented shrimp pealing. The Male labourers are the one who do not get year round employment. Ecological sustainability in Pokkali fields is possible only through rice/fish cultivation schedule (2000-2003)

In Kodumbu panchayath when the health status of women agriculture workers was examined, morbidity was found to be very high (2000-2002). Under employment, poor housing, illiteracy and other related factors contributed to increased health problems among women agricultural workers.

For building capacities of women’s group on health of women, training modules were prepared, and trainings and awareness programmes at state, district and village levels were conducted (1999-2002). A handbook has been prepared on health and women empowerment.

A gender profile of Kerala was prepared (2002-2003). Gender disparity is less in most of the human development indices like education, life expectancy etc. However the work participation ratio was lowest among women. Crime against women has increased in last decade.

Health

The study of the health status in Rural Kerala (1990-1991) confirmed that Kerala has made remarkable advances in basic indicators of health status, like low birth and death rate, low infant mortality, lower rate of disability, higher female sex ratio and female life expectancy and reduced gap between rural and urban population, despite comparatively low economic development.

A comparative study between ICDS and non-ICDS (Integrated Child Development Service) blocks (1991) showed that investment in special programmes like ICDS seems to bring in only marginal returns in the areas of immunisation, and such investments are not justifiable, unless it should be able to show better impact.

An investigation into the sickle cell disease among the tribals of Attappadi (2002-2004) showed that the sickle cell gene has high prevalence (565 patients) among all the tribal communities here. But others. i.e., hemoglobinopathies or thalassaemias are not prevalent to any significant extent. It also showed that sickle cell anaemia in Attappadi is relatively mild when compared to that seen in Africans and the survival of sickle cell anaemia patient is more in Kerala than in any other place in India.

Land and Water Management

In 27 Panchayaths identified in different districts of Kerala, integrated resource survey and map preparation were carried out with the active participation of volunteers, earth scientists and Panchayath functionaries (1991-1993). Kalajathas, meetings, door to door visits for fieldwork, ward wise meetings were held to discuss details of land and water resources. A handbook on how to conduct Participatory Resource Mapping was also prepared. The state government has extended the resource map preparation to all the Panchayaths in Kerala through Land Use Board.

The development plan for any Panchayath needs to be based on the status of the watersheds in the Panchayath. The development plan for primary sector like agricultural production and animal husbandry needs to take into account the land and water resources. In a DRDA funded project during 1998-2000 development master plans were prepared for micro watersheds in Mundur, Puduparirayam and Akethathara Panchayaths in Palakkad. Subsequently recognizing the utility of such master plans for their five-year plans many Block and Grama Panchayaths approached IRTC. So far, for nine Block and five Grama Panchayaths, IRTC has helped in preparation watershed based developmental master plans with participation from people of the respective Panchayaths (2002 onwards). Now IRTC is helping three Block panchayaths and one District Panchayath in the implementation of these plans.

Eco-restoration plan for Attappadi was prepared based on extensive field survey using local volunteers (1998). Micro level action plans were made for agriculture, agro forestry and animal husbandry in conformity with eco restoration and sustainable land use.

A subsurface check dam using impervious bentonite clay was constructed across Bharathapuzha at Trangali, Palakkad by the Panchayath. Hydrological data of near by wells was collected, Socio Economic Survey was conducted and resource map of project area were prepared (1999-2003). The failure of the dike due to damage to a vital portion of the structure prevented completion of the studies on the influence of sub surface dam on ground water table to understand river water management issues and conflict resolution between up and down stream riparian communities.

Local level planning experiments

The attempt to prepare long-term developmental action plan for resource based sustainable development with peoples’ participation in Kalliassery Panchayath, Kannur, was a unique one (1993-1995). To form Mahajana Sabha one member for every 25 households in each ward were nominated by consensus. This Mahajana sabha then, by a process of election, formed the Panchayath vikasana samithi. Around 1200 volunteers from the village and 20 specialists form outside were involved in collecting data on natural and human resource status of the village. They held discussions at various levels and drew up an integrated village development plan.

As part of Panchayath Level Development Planning (1997-1999) in five Panchayaths, namely Mayyil (Kannur), Ochiyam (Kozhikode), Madakkathara (Thrissur) Kumarakom (Kottayam) and Mezhuveli (Pathanamathitta), micro level institutions were formed to strengthen people’s participation. These were (1) Panchayath Development Societies (PDS) (2) Ward Development Committees (WDC) (3) Neighbourhood Groups (NHG) for every 25-50 household (4) Sub committees at all above three levels and (5) Self help groups for women. Technical Support groups (TSGS) consisting of 30-40 local activists who have technical and organizational skills in managing participatory action plans were also formed. A system was developed for data gathering and processing with maximum peoples participation. Reports on natural resources, socio economic status, education, health etc were complied.

In the second phase of the PLDP project (1999-2001), specific areas were identified for human capability development. These were land and water management, education, health, documentation, building organization structures, preparation of perspective plan etc. Formation of NHGs and TSGs had significant impact. State level and Panchayath level training demonstrated that peoples’ participation (men and women) was meaningful and effective. The handbook prepared became very handy for the state planning Board for the peoples’ planning campaign programme. Natural resources (up-gradation and simplification of thematic Maps) and social resources (land records, Irrigation, energy, education, health, economy etc) data compiled into reports came handy for preparing master plan for Panchayath development. Collective dreaming of common people must lead to development plan to create sustainable, productive employment based on natural resources and human resources. The survival and effective functioning of Neighbourhood groups (NHGS), Panchayath development society (PDS), Technical Support Group (TSG) and women’s core group (WCG) will be key to participatory local development programmes.

The possibility of improving the fish marketing system of Palakkad District (1998-1999) was examined through surveys of markets and interaction with various people working in the related area.

The study to analyse the changing trend in urban ecology of Thiruvananthapuram city during the last century (1998-2000) shows that after the city was retained as the capital of the Kerala State, the land use pattern has become highly oriented towards residential use. The heavy migration and increase in population has resulted in encroachment of natural areas and ultimately led to other problems like urban flood.

A critical evaluation of various developmental activities in Attappadi so far was done (1998) and a comprehensive report was prepared, analysing the relevance of objectives of these activities, implementation techniques used, present status, the impact, etc.

The possibilities of evolving a locally appropriate and integrated credit plan for banks in Akathethara Panchayath were analysed and proposed some methodologies for the integration of credit plan with the Panchayath development plan (1999-2002).

A study on the banking sector shows that the service area approach failed to produce any positive result in credit utilisation and it has inherent limitation in procedure and implementation. (1999-2001) 

For improving the quality and functional scope of Grama-sahbas, orientation classes through NHGs, and seminars were conducted in five selected Panchayaths (1999-2001)

A study on the impact of democratic decentralisation and peoples plan campaign on the Integrated Child Development Service (CDS) has indicated a positive impact of the involvement of LSGI in the management of Anganawadis in Kerala (2002-2003).

Rural Technologies

The Socio economic condition of potter community was surveyed. (1999-2000) Among the 2483 households engaged in Pottery work in 199 Panchayaths the average family income per month is Rs 1000. Traditional products (pans and pots) show a declining trend in demand. Using pugged clay, using motorised wheel, product diversification, value addition through decorative work, decoupage and above all sustainable marketing practices are the needs to improve the socio economic status of potters. 

Value addition to pottery products has been initiated. Pug mill installed at IRTC is used to supply pugged clay (Rs.0.50/kg). Training in motorised wheel use and decoration of pots has been started. Marketing strategies are being planned.

Developed technologies for production of toilet and washing soap (cold process) detergent powder and liquid blue (1999-2005). A low cost mould has been designed and fabricated at IRTC for making hand made soaps. Samatha Production Centre was registered for making hand made soaps. Parishad Production Centre is marketing the soaps and soap kits. IRTC conducts training to make hand made soaps.

A directory of Keracraft workers (Artisans), products and tools was made and institutions working for development of coconut shell based artefacts were listed. An association of artisans was formed. Need for developing machineries and techniques to make value added products and to reduce drudgery of work is to be addressed (2000-2001)

Non-wood forest product based micro enterprise (2002-2004) to generate income for the forest dweller is feasible in Peechi-Vazhani wild life sanctuary, Thrissur. Herbs and shrubs are potential products for further value addition before marketing. A list of about 109 forest products were prepared. Society was formed for extracting essence from plants and also for cultivation of the most wanted species of plants.

IRTC has recently established a Rural Engineering Centre for facilitating the rural technology inventors for technology inventions.

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