‘Cloudy with a Hint of Rain’


Images – Courtesy Google

The weatherman’s forecast seems to be going awry. It’s bright shiny warm weather at the start of the first week of August! The regional weather warning bulletin is very quiet with a blank ‘Nil’! Rainfall forecast spells out weakly for the districts of Vidarbha – ‘in isolated places’. No agro-met advisories either. Highway forecasts get a clean chit.

It is worrisome for HERD Organic Farms manager Anil Khare. ‘Nine day gone by and no rains…’ he murmurs over lunch at the office café. After a seemingly stable start after mid-June the South-West Monsoon has suddenly stalled. This is now triggering concerns among the farming communities in the region who are getting affected in this rain-fed sowing season. Work appears to be at a standstill.

Even though HERD Organic Farm has secure, established water resource, the worried countenance of marginal farmers around us facing the unexpected deficit, thus far, has us concerned. We hope this is a passing phase and that soon enough the water laden clouds will spurt forth making August drench the fields to make them ready for cultivation.

Understandably the rainfall deficit as it enters the second week since July, may just be an unsuspected gap in the normally heavy rainy season that goes on until September. But now we see that contiguous districts in Vidarbha have been facing a shortfall by varying margins. Worryingly Vidarbha traditionally remains a water shortage area and we have often suffered consecutive droughts in past years. This deficit gap therefore leaves us all apprehensive.

The erratic monsoon may affect the sowing of key field crops such as paddy, pulses and more staple varieties of the season. The lack of rains appears to be going on. Farmers ready with seeds and saplings are getting nervous as there is little rain water and even reservoirs and canals have diminished levels. And therefore the sowing is getting affected with roughly only about 30 percent being done as against the norm of 51 percent that ought to have happened in this period.

The erratic rains could impact yields. Rainfall deficit of 30-40 per cent being witnessed is definitely a cause for concern. Besides affecting ground-water recharge, it will also affect cultivation. One can only wait and watch how the weather turns up.  Very light to moderate rainfall has been occurring in few places over Vidarbha. Also there has been no large change in maximum temperatures over Vidarbha.

We are therefore dependent on the rain gods to be merciful and pray that contrary to the meteorological department forecast of deficit rainfall, hopefully deficit districts in Vidarbha region will receive heavy showers before the end of this month. This brings us back to the moot enquiry as to whether Indian agriculture will forever continue to be dependent on monsoons!

Monsoon Games


1200px-New_Mexico_Monsoon_2011Nagpur. Still humid, muggy and sultry. The rainy season was supposed to start already. But it’s been days now. And no rains! The hushed under song of the early dawn brings in cool breezy winds. You almost smell the moisture laden atmosphere and you are still waiting. And perhaps imagine the earthy scent that is produced when rains hit the parched dry soil. Your senses are yearning for the sweet, fresh, powerfully evocative smell of the first rains. Yet they tarry and linger and the clammy days move on from morning to night with nary a drop from the heavens!!

Each morning the weather projections get broadcast everywhere. Even Facebook informs – “It’s going to rain. Take care and stay dry!!” But the past three days since June 5 when the monsoons were predicted to start their annual deliverance, are going high and dry. Insat weather imagery is also going awry. The clouds keep getting all skewed and out of kilter. The high resolution Insat images too are unable to keep track of the wayward clouds. Yet, still we wait…

Nagpur has been gearing up for heavy rains as monsoons this year are expected to be really heavy. With the rains projected to hit soon the civic administration has been attending to issues related to water logging and need for maintaining hygiene, especially in vulnerable areas. The authorities are busy scrambling to complete the sludging and de-silting works of ditches, drains and nallahs. The experiences of last couple of years have not been good. Flooding of homes in low lying areas and swamping of roads and open spaces created severe problems.

As a prelude to the heavy downpours that are expected the city has been ascertaining that garbage disposal is efficaciously carried out. With new norms of garbage collection citizens are being roped in to become accountable for cleanliness around them. This is very important especially in view of ensuing health issues and epidemics like dengue and malaria that must be overcome. Thus while rains are a natural phenomena, flooding and epidemics are certainly preventable. This is why everybody needs to pitch in to make the season safe and healthy.

So even as we wait for the rain gods to bestow their bounty, it has certainly been beneficial to have had city precincts undergo deep-cleaning and sprucing-up to face up to the anticipated monsoon onslaught. In the meantime we stay pinned with our hopes on the skymetweather.com prediction that the Monsoon 2017 will make its onset over North Maharashtra and that rains will increase gradually by June 10-12.

HERD Foundation wishes everyone a safe and enjoyable monsoon season. Here are a few tips to remember to stay healthy while weathering it out for the next few months:

  • Avoid street food.
  • Keep insect repellent handy.
  • Avoid walking about in the rain.
  • Keep umbrella, rain coat, and cap handy.
  • As far as possible eat hot food and drinks.
  • Children should not be allowed to play in the rain.
  • Dry feet immediately if they get wet.
  • Avoid colds and coughs by keeping your body dry.
  • Drink herbal teas often.

Monsoon Plans – HERD Organic Farms


June to September, when hopefully the monsoons would be in full vigor, HERD Organic Farms will make certain activities a priority work-area for the team working on it. This is going to be important if we are to take full advantage of nature’s bountiful downpours. Along with the rest of the farming fraternity we will be welcoming the annual rainy season that makes the land lush and allows natural underground waterways to get replenished thereby raising the water levels. This is why we have drawn up an action plan to be followed and implemented for the immediate future.

Soon heavy showers will be inundating the 42 acres of land located close to the periphery of the Pench National Park. The aim this season is two-fold: one to make the land commercially more viable, and two, to make the landscape attractive and beautiful. Even though we are working with progressive farming methodologies that include drip irrigation, protective farming, and other innovative farm management techniques, Indian farming will always be dependent on the Monsoons to revive the land.

We were already working on a water management system with an eye towards the leaner months when during dry summertime water can be in critical short supply. This is why the mission earlier had been to construct a dug well, that would channelize water wherever needed, through pipe ways to distribute it for irrigating crops. Hopefully the well would be recharged and brimming for the months to come as would the natural aquifers underground making the land good for cultivation.

This crucial quarter will have us undertaking a plantation drive alongside the peripheries of the farmland and also take on avenue plantation to make the inner walkways comfortable to go about.  The plan is to plant trees and shrubs that will demarcate the boundaries of the land. So plants of Teakwood, Neem, and Gulmohar will be spaced out to mark the defining edge. Saplings of Bougainvillea, Karwanda or cranberries and plants needed for Dashparni would be planted along the boundary hedge.

Avenue plantation will make use of trees like Ashoka, Bottle-brush, and Glyricedia to make the pathways look eye-catching and attractive. Also the lakeside will be having a multitude of Bamboo varieties around it making it beautiful and useful at the same time. We will see the saplings taking root and flourishing this monsoon season and by the end of the monsoons the landscape would have changed for the better.

For farm cultivation the plan is to grow vegetables like brinjals, tomatoes and cucumbers. In time we will also start experimenting with English vegetables like red capsicum, yellow capsicum, broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Importantly this season we will also start sweet lime and orange trees plantations with assistance from Regional Citrus Center in Nagpur. We would be implanting mother-plants of these citrus species to create orchards for long term cultivation.

We look forward to this time of the year when nature assists in facilitating the growth and development of foliage, turning the entire rural side into a riot of colors in various shades of green. HERD Organic Farm too will flourish and grow under careful supervision to create a prearranged and well- thought landscape that goes hand in hand with organic farming and cultivation.  We look ahead to a propitious monsoon that will augur well for the purposes.

It’s the Season for New Beginnings


Two things happen with perennial certainty each year in our country. It’s that time of the year again when countless students wait with bated breath for the much anticipated high school and twelfth board results to-be-announced. And it’s that time when meteorologists get busy predicting the advent of the south west monsoons spelling relief from a sultry summer. Both these phenomenon bespeak of new beginnings in terms of growth for the country.

A total of 14,29,478 students appeared for the Maharashtra Board class XII examinations of 2017. Of these 12,79,406 cleared this basic examination that sends them onward ahead for further studies in areas of their choice. Matriculates is the revered term used to refer to these final year high school students who are now ready to blaze forth in the new found world of higher learning.

Passing the matriculation examinations opens the portals to an academic world – Pure Sciences, Humanities, Commerce, Medicine, Engineering, and Computer Sciences and so on. The avenues are open-ended and really endless in today’s modern world. Matriculation is the formal process that allows one to enter a university with students getting enrolled in different fields of study. This rite of passage then sees the careful nurturance and paving of way for the development of human resources for the country at large. Education clearly plays a crucial role in creating the scientific temper of our land.

Scientific temper is a way of life and this is the time when the growing educated population is getting groomed for the social processes, to think and act with conviction, courage and knowledge. Scientific temper may also be described as an attitude which involves the application of reasoning, logic and good sense. Herein are sown the seeds of fairness, equality and democracy.

It was Jawaharlal Nehru who first used the phrase in 1946 in this sense. He goes on to give a detailed explanation in his famous book ‘Discovery of India”: “What is needed is the scientific approach, the adventurous and yet critical temper of science, the search for truth and new knowledge, the refusal to accept anything without testing and trial, the capacity to change previous conclusions in the face of new evidence, the reliance on observed fact and not on pre-conceived theory, the hard discipline of the mind—all this is necessary, not merely for the application of science but for life itself and the solution of its many problems.”

And so, just as we implant knowledge in the young minds of our pubescent citizenry, it is also the time to sow the seeds in the ground for them to grow, flourish, and bear fruit. Monsoons are a boon for this, our land of tillers and the very foundation of our economy, contrary to what one may imagine. Our food security really rests on the monsoons. The Indian monsoon is the most prominent of the world’s monsoon systems, and one on which is based the entire agricultural economy of the country.

Because the land and its cultivation depend entirely on monsoon rains it becomes absolutely necessary to invest in quantitative long-range weather forecasts. It’s an area of operations that we still need to perfect. We need to be on top of the situation and move on from fathoming predictions through clues that appear prior to the months leading up to the big rains. We need to have a weather perfect forecast that ought to be released to the farmers. Forecasts need to be clearly refined so that agriculturists can positively correlate them for cultivation.

Truly, this last day of May 2017 has us believing that June is the month for new beginnings for us in India. The billowing clouds and stirring wind speeds already give indications of the onset of the great monsoons. Smiling graduating matriculates splashed on newspapers augur the scientific temper Nehru bespoke, long years back. We stand on the verge of an academic universe of our making and an agricultural revival that will spell rural development.

“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark”- Rabindranath Tagore

Life in Monsoon in Rural India – HERD of the Matter

Our rural areas are full of scenic lakes and hills that come alive especially in monsoons. One cannot but reflect on the misty, cloudy terrain that unfortunately affects the fate of rural people who must live through the messiness of the Great Indian Monsoons. Even as the farmers rely heavily for their crops and soil on monsoon’s benevolence, yet the cascading sheets of heavy downpours wreak havoc on ordinary mortals.

Nearly 70% of the annual precipitation comes down between June and September and while it bodes well for farmers for their harvest and monetary safety, yet an excessive amount brings out woeful suffering, disease and disaster. Just as the heat of the stifling summer ends with the first torrid showers, the earth gets ready for the rainy season that transforms the landscape in a riot of greens. But for the people living out there, there is nothing romantic about the monsoons.

Common sicknesses – cold, cough, flu and diarrhea become major causes for physical discomfort and majority of the rural people additionally suffer through neglect or non-availability of proper medical care. What is worse is that such conditions can be readily contained through efficacious healthcare delivery, at low-cost too. But the plight of rural citizenry continues to suffer every year from this annual seasonal change.

Rains become breeding grounds for diseases – Malaria, Dengue, Encephalitis, Chikungunya and more. Add to this the dilemmas of pot-holes, open-tanks, clogged drains, flooded roads/fields and stagnant water bodies. This is the mosquito season. Flooding and leakage of sewage/drains add to hazards like contamination of food causing Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis A or even food poisoning during this season.

The season also sees people suffering from fatalities resulting from accidents and injuries while working in fields. Road accidents, electrocution due to water dripping or live electric wire contact, fall due to slipping, are all common occurrences.  Farmers just cannot afford to be sick during monsoon or else there will be no harvest. They actually work through sickness and pain all through the monsoons with no thought of health centers or hospitals.

HERD Foundation’s Monsoon Medical Camps are an attempt at providing relief and healthcare to the disadvantaged remote villagers living in the countryside, tilling the lands for us. We can all give a moment’s thought to their struggle for existence to live through it all. HERD Foundation continues diligently in offering healthcare services through its committed team of doctors, nurses, specialists, para-medics and interns to take care of the far-flung villagers carrying on valiantly in an intimidating season.