About ACF

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Pashu Sakhi Awarded for Goat Excellence


ACF’s Pashu Sakhi, Chaya Mondal received the Krishak Samman Award during the Mati Utsab Function in Murshidabad where she was awarded with Rs25,000 for her efforts in the Goat Based Livelihood Programme in Farakka, West Bengal.
Chaya was recognised for her work treating over 164 goats in her village and for actively creating awareness on goat health in her community.  It all began in 2017 when Chaya joined ACF’s Goat Based Livelihood Group, where she learned how to rear goats - currently she owns 17 goats and a trade license to operate her business. 
With access to veterinary services being a challenge, local women are selected and trained as para veterinarians called Pashu Sakhis. Having shown promise in Goat rearing, ACF approached Chaya to train as a Pashu Sakhi – to help optimise the health of women’s goats in the community. 
Certified to measure temperature and prescribe medicines for cold and other diseases, she also recently learnt how to make mineral food for goats and sell it in the community – with her work fetching accolades from community, media and government.
ACF mobilises Self-Help Group women across a variety of locations and encourages the practice of goat based livelihoods in groups - so that women can share challenges and implement solutions together. To date, 726 women participate in this program, and Chaya is a role model to all of them!


Krishi Vigyan Kendra: Educating Farmers for Increased Prosperity!


With a strength in mobilizing and building the capacity of farmers, it was a natural fit when the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) was on the lookout for an NGO partner to operate the Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Kodinar, Gujarat, and approached Ambuja Cement Foundation .
The purpose of KVK is to build capacities of farming communities through training, demonstrations and on farm testing so as to reduce time lag in technology transfer. But farmers in the Kodinar region were unable to access this training, as the closest Agricultural University was in Junagadh, which is about 110km from the Kodinar and around 150 Km from remotely located Una taluka.
It was in 2007-08, that ICAR sanctioned the KVK, to be operated by ACF for the district of Junagadh, after conducting a rigorous process and assessment of ACF, by the committee formed by Government. Ambuja Cements Ltd agreed to provide 20 ha land for the establishment of KVK at Ambujanagar.
ACF’s KVK team, follows a participatory approach to plan interventions after careful consultation with farming communities. They selected 18 villages in  six blocks, Kodinar, Sutrapada, Talala, Girgadhada, Veraval and Una, to  conduct a Participatory Rural Appraisal to understand the agriculture situation and identify the gaps in knowledge, skills and adoption of technologies. Based on this, baseline information was generated and inputs were planned to plug the gap by organizing training, demonstrations and activity.
So far KVK inputs are reaching 313 villages of Junagadh and Gir Somnath districts, and in the last 11 years, ACF has been able to reach and educate farmers, via a number of interventions:

Activities
Number Held
Participants Reached
Remarks
Capacity Building through Trainings
1416
42062
Farmer/ Farm women / Extension functionaries / Rural youth
Front Line Demonstration
1151.84Hectares
3830
Introduced new variety of five crops in the area. Also demonstrated IPM/IDM/INM & animal husbandry.
On Farm Testing
24
176
Assessed/ refined the research technologies at farmers field as per identified problems in the district
Other events – Field Day / Technology Week / krishi Mahotsav etc 
28071
18,528
For farmers scientist interaction/visit on specific agricultural issues/problems and display of different technologies for betterment the cost of cultivation of farming community
Extension Literature / Articles
69
74,500 copies
For agri knowledge updating by reading material of farmers

A number of key achievements and innovations are taking place at KVK to optimise the impact on farmers in Gir Somnath district.  These include:
  • FM Community Radio Station -  in November 2013, an FM community radio station was started to bridge the information-knowledge gaps of farming community of the locality with latest and relevant cost effective information. This Lokvani Radio is covering 54 villages surrounding 12-15 Km radius of KVK premises.
  • Promotion of Organic Inputs: KVK has promoted to use more organic fertilizer as well as bio fertilizers. KVK gave information about use and benefit of organic inputs in each and every activities of KVK. KVK provides training on how to prepare organic fertilizer like vermi compost as well as NADEP Method of composting from farm waste. KVK provided Bio-fertilizer, bio fungicides and bio-pesticides to farmers;
  • Museum (Display of Different Agricultural Technologies): KVK has developed one techno museum to display all agricultural technologies in the district.
  • Crop Cafeteria: KVK initiated a crop cafeteria for demonstrating all crop varieties those can grow in this agroclimatic situation for farmers in the concept of learning by seeing
  • Soil, Water & Leaf Testing laboratory: A Soil and Water Testing Laboratory was established at KVK for providing the knowledge about soil and water condition at farmer’s fields, by analyzing of different soil & water parameters and making recommendations accordingly to the farmers. Additionally, a laboratory to establish the different macro nutrient deficiencies in standing crops was established – enabling them to recommend according to the deficiency.
  • Model Nursery unit: The district has enough potential for growing fruit plants and vegetables. To meet the demand of improved vegetable seedling/sampling the KVK initiated a horticulture nursery with poly house and Net and are providing 80,000 improved quality vegetable sapling/ seedlings annually.
  • Fish Pond Unit: For fisherman community, the KVK started this unit to promote fresh water fishing like Rohu, Catla, Mrigal and Prawn farming.
  • Farm Machinery Unit: KVK is also very much focusing on mechanization of agriculture. That’s why we developed the same for farming community to know about new farm implements as well as tools.
  • Organic Mango Orchard: The district is well known for Kesar Mango orchard. That’s why KVK initiated with about 1000 Kesar Mango plantation on KVK land without any use of chemicals to learning the same by the farmers at their field / orchard for better quality production.  
  • Nutritional Kitchen Garden Unit: KVK also developed one nutritional kitchen garden unit for demonstration cum advertisement of different seasonal major vegetables in rural farm women due to their better health.
  • Medicinal Plants Unit: 70 medicinal plants were introduced in a demonstration unit for providing the medicinal value for health of farming community as well as animals. 
  • Agriculture Inputs Mall: As per the need of the farming community to insure better, cheaper agricultural inputs including bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides and other bio-agents.
  • Technology Information Unit: KVK started this unit in the form of “voice message service” to short out the different agricultural issues as per season & crop like ICM, INM, IPM, IDM and also on animal husbandry etc. to about 8000 farmers of annually about 40-50 massages. A “touch screen kiosk” was also established for knowledge building of farmers.
  • Azolla Unit: KVK also started a demonstration unit on Azolla to use as rich protein cattle feed for farmer of district.
  • Bio-Digester Unit: This unit is started to develop the bio pesticides from locally available weeds with low cost technology
  • Cattle Feed Unit: This unit is started since January 2018 through FPO, promoted by KVK-ACF to provide the qualitative cattle feed for about 300 livestock keepers monthly of this area with per day capacity of production of 2 Ton and consumption of 1.6 Ton.
 As results of efforts by KVK, farmers have adopted new technologies, become entrepreneurs and have increased their income, with many farmers receiving awards from University, district and state levels. 

New ACL MD & CEO attends Women’s Day Celebration


New ACL CEO, Mr Bhilmendra Jha in Rajasthan for Women's Day
Ambuja Cement Foundation was honored to have the new Managing Director and CEO of Ambuja Cement Limited Mr. Bhilmendra Jha as the guest of honor during a Community Interaction in celebration of  ‘International Women’s Day’ at  Rabriyawas, Rajasthan.
Addressing the crowd, Mr Jha outlined how one educated women in a household can bring advancements to the family as a whole.
 “It is only with Women Empowerment that our communities will be able to develop and move forward. Thus the amount of work that Ambuja Cement Foundation has been doing in the Women’s Empowerment Programme should definitely be celebrated on this women’s day.” said Mr. Jha
In Rabriyawas alone, ACF is working with 100 Self-Help Groups, five village level organizations along with a women federation Kasturbha Mahila Vikas Samiti.’ 
In fact, members of the Women’s Federation have been a part of every initiative conducted by ACF, be it Health Initiatives, agriculture activities like Goat Based Livelihoods or Vegetable Cultivation. Additionally, various training has taken place on income generation activities to help foster financial independence and prosperity.
Tara Sharma, President of Kasturbha Mahila Vikas Samiti Federation was recently nominated for the Woman Exemplar Program by CII Foundation for her contribution towards the betterment of women through Health and SHG Programs.
 “The presence of all of us here proves the great work that we are doing towards women empowerment and how we are all connected to it.” Mr Jha concluded.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Maximising Returns on MCX


For the first time in India, Farmers are selling Cotton Direct on MCX and profiting!
Cotton farmers in Somnath, Kodinar, are moving up the value chain.  In 2018, for the first time ever in India, their farmer producer company value-added their cotton, bypassed middlemen, sold cotton bales and delivered the produce (Lint) directly on the Multi Commodities Exchange – resulting in an extra Rs 5.2 profit, per kilo, for every farmer.
Just 7 short years ago, Somnath farmers were each working in isolation, struggling to make farming profitable thanks to overpriced inputs, outdated practices and both market and climate vagaries.
But in 2012, Ambuja Cement Foundation organised them into a Farmer Producer Organisation to create an easy learning environment, collectively solve problems and jointly procure seeds and fertilisers.
ACF invested in training and capacity building of the members, in accounting and governance to help the company become independent and take firm steps towards sustainability.
Up until 2017 SFPCL members were individually selling raw seed cotton to local ginners or middlemen, who would process it in bales to sell in the larger market.
So when the Multi Commodities Exchange reached out to Ambuja Cement Foundation to explore the possibility of farmers bypassing middlemen and selling directly on the platform – Somnath Farmer Producer Company Ltd (SFPCL) jumped at the opportunity to collectively sell their produce. 
The Multi Commodity Exchange of India Ltd (MCX) is an independent commodity exchange that offers options trading in gold, and futures trading in non-ferrous metals, bullion, energy, and a number of agricultural commodities.
The Farmers value-added the cotton themselves by investing in processing – resulting in two commodities for sale - both the cotton seed and raw cotton lint. And soon felt confident to play in the larger market by themselves.
In December 2018, 63 farmers from the SFPCL sold and delivered 100 bales of cotton on the MCX, as a pilot project, with the transaction yielding an extra Rs 2,59,000 more in profit – over and above what they would have got from selling on the traditional market.  Additionally, farmers were able to fix and hedge their prices which helps to protect the farmer against market fluctuations.
The pilot spells big things for the future – not only for SFPCL farmers, but for cotton farmers across ACF locations.  SFPCL cotton farmers produce approximately 6000 metric tonnes of cotton every year, and so this initiative has the potential to generate an additional 3.12crores of profit for farmers in similar market conditions.  ACF is currently engaged with over 1.2lakh Cotton Farmers across India, so this initiative could be a ‘game changer’ when scaled up.

Filling India's Rice Bowls

Once a part of subsistence farming, rice is now helping farmers in West Bengal prosper!  
India is one of the largest producers of rice in the world. And West Bengal is the top rice producing state. But in 2007, farmers around Farakka and Sankrail were subsistence farming.  The land was fertile, but outdated practices meant their efforts put rice on their plate, but no money in their pockets.
Surely farmers would walk away?  But they couldn't leave the land fallow for threat of encroachment. ACF stepped in to help, and adopted the System of Rice Intensification approach. But farmers were skeptical.  In the first meeting, 75 farmers attended, but half of them left midway - rubbishing the information as 'useless.'
Farmers had their minds fixed.  If the land had seed, water and manure then the crop would grow. If it didn't, it was their own bad luck!  Starting small in Sankrail in 2009 with just 10 farmers, ACF began to teach a different way to till and tend the land.  SRI helps farmers reduce agri-inputs, lower costs, reduce pests and disease, cut water use and methane emissions.  Most importantly - to increase yields by 20-25%.
One such farmer was Asit Kanji. Despite coming from a farming background he worked at a local jute mill to make ends meet.  But in 2009, he retired and turned back to farming.  With ACF’s SRI support, his income doubled.
Since inception, ACF's SRI initiative has increased outreach from 174 farmers in 2009 to over 10,000 farmers in 2019. And farmer profits have increased 30%. Today, some of these farmers are sending their children to agricultural universities - to take family farming to an all new level.

Cow Based Farming Boosts Crops & Profits


927 farmers are embracing the use of cow dung and urine to replace costly chemical inputs which impact soil health, and to increase their yield and profitability – thanks to a series of trainings and exposure visits facilitated by ACF. 
Being an agrarian country, cows used to be the backbone of agriculture in India – before the introduction of machinery and chemical products. With the introduction of new forms of chemical fertilizers and pesticides produce has increased, however the chemicals have damaged soil health and the whole system of farming.
Today farmers are turning back the clock, and reverting to the use of cow based farming for better yield. This method harnesses cow manure as a fertilizer, which is rich with very high nutrients, along with fermented cow urine which enhances soil fertility and can be turned into a liquid fertilizer used as a pesticide for crops.
In fact, the Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) has proven the value of cow urine in supplementing the soil’s nutrients and helping in managing insects, pests and diseases. This drastically helps farmers as they are able to reduce the cost of cultivation, increase soil moisture capacity, reduce irrigation and increase soil fertility.
ICAR put a stamp on the use of cow urine and cow dung for organic farming following a high level decision made at the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Ayog in October 2017, to conduct a study on the use of cow dung/urine and bio-waste for organic farming. Today in India, nine states – Karnataka, Mizoram, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat have an organic farming policy and law.
When Farmer Gopal Vashrambhai Charaniya joined one of ACF’s farmer groups, who knew he would bear fruit with his cows and bullocks?
Gopal belongs to the Kajardi district of the Gir Somnath region, Gujarat and is the only breadwinner of his family, owning only 10 bigha land. Previously, he used the traditional methods of farming with chemical fertilizers and pesticides – using two cows, two bullocks and a buffalo to help him plough the field.
ACF personnel held a training to educate farmers on the techniques of ‘cow based farming’, and Gopal could not believe that his existing herd of cattle could help cut his costs and support more sustainable farming.  Farmers received 3-days training on how to use 1 cow for a 20 bigha land without pesticides and fertilizers.  They were trained on the importance of mixing cow urine, cow dung and buttermilk for farming. Reference books were also prepared for them to utilize while practicing.
‘It has been over a year where I have not used pesticides on any crop and only used cow based farming. It has benefited me as I have gained produce in 1620 kgs of cotton and groundnut in 0.6 acres with 1500 rupees saved by avoiding the purchase of chemical pesticides.’ Says Gopal contented with his produce.
Today, Gopal trains 15 farmers from his village on cow based farming and has also generated a whatsapp group, adding farmers from nearby villages providing information and benefits of using this type of fertilization.
“I will convince all farmers to use cow-based farming and tell them my story on how I have benefited environmentally and financially. This will help them reduce costs of farming and produce good quality crop too.”  Says Gopal proudly.
JP Tripathi, Senior Manager-Programs, ACF states, “Cow based farming maintains an economical balance in a household as it is not only used as a farming mechanism but can also be used in diary, soil fertility, composting and dietary element.”
The government is promoting organic farming in the country through a cluster approach and dedicated schemes namely Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKY) under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture. With good results in their produce, many farmer are now moving to 100% cow-based farming in villages.

Monday, March 18, 2019

ACF Wins 'Best NGO' in Cotton - Punjab




The Indian Council for Agricultural Research KVK (Krishi Vigyan Kendra) Mansa, Punjab honored ACF as the Best NGO working in the cotton sector. It is a tribute to the countless farmers who are now reaping the benefits of sustainable cotton production through the efforts of ACF and its partner, Better Cotton Initiative.
The Better Cotton Initiative focuses on minimizing the harmful impact of crop protection practices and encourages farmers to use water efficiently and with care. Currently in its seventh year of operation, this project has made giant strides in expansion - especially over the last two years where farmer participation in Punjab increased to 32,000 farmers across 7 districts. This growth is unprecedented and takes place post ACF taking a seat on the Better Cotton Initiative Global Council.
Recently, ACF participated in the BCI Annual Meet in Udaipur where all personnel reflected on the year gone by and outlined plans for the next year – including the increased capacity building of Field Facilitators and Project Unit Managers, and expansion into more communities.