Principal Investigators: Dr. Avishek Datta and Dr. Anil K. Anal
Area of activity: Community gardening and sustainability
Background and rationale (maximum 200 words): Home gardening is one of the world’s most ancient food production practices (Landauer and Brazil, 1990). Home gardens are often referred to as backyard, kitchen, rooftop, or homestead gardens. The home garden benefits family nutrition, increases household income, provides a buffer to food insecurity during lean period, habitat protection, and soil conservation (Landauer and Brazil 1990; Marsh 1996).
A typical home garden occupies a small space adjacent to the house within the farmstead compound. It is intensively cultivated to grow different plants utilizing primarily household female and child labor. The primary goal is to meet household consumption demand, although farmers often sell surplus to meet social needs. The vegetables produced from the farmers homestead can meet up the demand of nutrition of a marginal farm family round the year. Hence, promoting the production and consumption of comparatively inexpensive and chemical-residue free vegetables is an important strategy for combating nutritional deficiency. Under this project, vegetable cultivation in the allocated land of AIT will be undertaken for the promotion of community supported agricultural production. In-house availability of fresh and safe vegetables will encourage the community people towards more consumption of vegetables, which certainly a better option for healthy lifestyle and green economy.
Objective (maximum 150 words): The objectives of the project are to: (i) promote the utilization of unused AIT land for vegetable production through community involvement, (ii) generate interest among the AIT community to grow safe and healthy vegetables/food without any chemical inputs for home consumption and sale to community in the Campus.
Detailed Methodology (maximum 400 words): The demonstration plots will be set up at the Research Farm of AIT. A total of 10 plots will be established: five plots will be maintained under organic and the rest of five plots will be maintained under IPM techniques. The individual plot size will be 2 m × 5 m resulting in a total of 100 m2 area for the total demonstration plots. A total of five vegetables (e.g. Chinese kale, leaf mustard, water convolvulus, okra, and tomato) will be grown on the 10 demonstration plots. Each vegetable crop will be grown under two separate plots maintained under organic ways and IPM techniques. Moreover, an additional 10 plots with an individual plot size of 2 m × 2.5 m will be provided to the AIT Community to cultivate vegetables on their own. The project will provide land preparation and irrigation free of cost. The project will also supply planting materials such as seeds, fertilizers, etc., to the interested AIT Community at a minimum price. A Field Day/Demonstration Day will be organized by the project team to demonstrate the project outcomes to the AIT Community including the AITIS students for ensuring the community participation.
Twenty plants of each vegetable crop will be randomly selected from each plot to measure growth, yield, and yield contributing characters. At the harvest of each crop, number of branches or leaf per plant, length of leaf or fruit, diameter of fruit, number of fruits per plant, fruit weight per plant, and yield will be recorded from both the plots (organic and IPM) for comparison.
Time schedule: March–August 2014
Expected outputs and impacts (maximum 200 words): Vegetables can make a significant contribution to sustainable livelihoods. Vegetable production needs only a small area of land, with minimal capital outlay and can provide access to a valuable food under subsistence conditions, but also has the potential to provide an initial step towards establishing an income base for households. The expected outputs and impacts of the project will be as follows:
How this project will contribute to “AIT: A living sustainability laboratory” (maximum 400 words): AIT has a significant area of fallow lands scattered around the campus which is not used for any agricultural production. These unused lands can be easily put under organic vegetable production with the involvement and participation of the AIT Community. This community vegetable cultivation model will make AIT green and sustainable if properly practiced in the unused AIT lands and successfully managed. Vegetables play a major role in supplying the essential minerals, vitamins, and fiber that are not present in significant quantities in staple starchy foods (Nichols and Hilmi, 2009). Although they are consumed because they are tasty, healthy, and supply both proteins and carbohydrates, vegetables are most important as a source of nutraceuticals (vitamins and minerals) and as protective nutrients for human health. By producing organic vegetables on their own, the AIT Community can reduce their reliance on vegetables grown with pesticides and at the same time can get greater access to the safe and chemical-free healthy food. As AIT is a type of small village, success of this model will influence other villages and farmers (small to medium) towards sustainable and chemical-free vegetable production.