The IRMA Organic Farming Club is a PRM initiative. It was launched with the idea of raising student awareness in the area of sustainable agriculture while encouraging the application of management techniques to gain insights into the intricacies of the organic farming business.
Through the Club students are able to gain hands-on experience engaging as farmers overseeing a small plot of half acre land. They cultivate their produce without the aid of pesticides or fertilizers. Compost is prepared out of green vegetable skin waste collected from the mess. This compost is mixed with cow dung at a later stage.
The onset of winter is ideal for preparing the field for growing rabi crops. This involves removing the grass, weeding, tilling, ploughing, levelling, and bed preparation. The entire process lasts up to 15-30 days. In the meantime, club members meet on a regular basis both onsite and at other locations. Procurement of seeds and tools is accomplished through membership fees collected students. Activities like sowing, checking for weeds, and ensuring water availability in all the beds are conducted right up to the harvesting period. Groups comprising 4-6 members work on designated days in a coordinated way.
A variety of crops including spinach, brinjals, cabbage onions, chilli, fenugreek, coriander, and bottle gourds have been sown and successfully harvested in the past. The harvested crop is collected washed, packed, and sold at the Faculty Block and IRMA Cooperative Mess. Other points of sale include locations outside the campus including the NDDB colony and adjacent areas. The pricing mechanism is decided by the students via intense participative interaction. Other than the practical exposure to farming, Club members learn key management skills like marketing, planning, scheduling, and working within a cooperative framework.
What, then, is the rationale behind setting up the IRMA Organic Club? The rationale has several strands. To begin with, it is a great platform for students to implement in a real world situation theories learnt in the classroom. Apart from being a good team building exercise it stimulates multi-tasking abilities, leadership skills, and responsible behaviour. Students also get to practice optimization in the face of limited resources while learning about environmental conservation.
Like all good things, the Club members are confronted with challenges like insect and animal attacks, especially of the simian variety. Another major constraint is limited time availability.
Undeterred and determined, the students are looking forward to the future. Plans are already underway with regard to starting horticultural activities, sowing underground crops, and tapping a larger number of markets in Anand.
Watch this space for more exciting projects cropping up afield!