The simplest refrigerator — please come to India

Using some of the more basic principles of physics, a grassroots inventor in Nigeria named Mohammed Bah Abba developed a way to refrigerate items simply by using two different sized clay pots. Malapati Sekhar on the Rural Development of India blog explains how this invention, called the Zeer, works:

The pot-in-pot consists of two earthenware pots of different diameters, one placed inside the other. The space between the two pots is filled with wet sand that is kept constantly moist, thereby keeping both pots damp (slightly wet). Fruit, vegetables and other items such as soft drinks are put in the smaller inner pot, which is covered with a damp cloth. The phenomenon that occurs is based on a simple principle of physics: the water contained in the sand between the two pots evaporates towards the outer surface of the larger pot where the drier outside air is circulating. By virtue of the laws of thermodynamics, the evaporation process automatically causes a drop in temperature of several degrees, cooling the inner container, destroying harmful micro-organisms and preserving the perishable foods inside.

Sekhar continues on to highlight how such a simple innovation like this could have a significant impact on farmers’ current behaviors, as it would enable them to preserve their produce long enough to sell at urban markets where prices are much more amenable to them. Utilizing this simple refrigeration mechanism would mean that such food could be stored and sold in areas with the greatest demand.

Digital Green: ICT and a Participatory Framework

SciDev.Net brings attention to Digital Green, a project that uses digital video to disseminate information to small and marginal farmers in India. Recently, Digital Green won the culture category in the Stockholm Challenge Awards. According to its website, the project originated from Microsoft’s research team in India. Working with GREEN Foundation, the project is explained by the following:

The system includes a digital video database, which is produced by farmers and experts. The content within this repository is of various types, and sequencing enables farmers to progressively become better farmers. Content is produced and distributed over a hub and spokes-based architecture in which farmers are motivated and trained by the recorded experiences of local peers and extension staff. In contrast to traditional extension systems, we follow two important principles: (1) cost realism, essential if we are to scale the system up to a significant number of villages and farmers; and (2) building systems that solve end-to-end agricultural issues with interactivity that develops relationships between people and content.

Essentially, the project is a way to spread useful information to even illiterate farmers, using networks that they can trust (i.e. other villages, farmers in similar situations). The short documentary below further explains Digital Green’s work.

Thumbs up, thumbs down

A thoroughly inspiring story reminding us that the most important examples of innovation occur where we least expect them to.

Farmers who visit Amai Mahalinga Naik’s two-acre plot on the hilltop near Adyanadka in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka return spellbound. Irrigated farming at this height is very surprising. This 58-year-old illiterate farm labourer has developed this with his own labour. His hard work, vision and never-say-die attitude have turned around destiny in his favour.

You can read the entire article here.

On the other side, the state of Punjab must finally come to terms with its production focused approach to agriculture and how it has wreaked havoc on the once fertile ecosystem.

Punjab’s grand narrative, a success story of bumper harvests, conceals dangerous sub-plots of pesticide poisoning, water shortages, soil salinity, fertilizer runoff, skyrocketing cancer rates, farmer indebtedness and drug addiction.

The full article is here.

Pragati April 2008: Give them their freedom

In March we wrote on this magazine’s March issue on the Gujurati Model. Well, the April version of Pragati has been released with a focus on farmers in India. Click on the image below to download the issue in .pdf format.

Pragathi April 2008

[Source: Atanu Dey]

Late Night Edition


Mumbai based investment firm Quantum Equity Advisors has launched a $500 million private equity fund focused on infrastructure in India. The fund christened – Q India Fund – will focus on investments in infrastructure projects and companies in India. The country needs about $500 billion up to fiscal year 2011-12 to upgrade its infrastructure, and a 30 per cent of the total spending is expected to come from private firms.

Tata BP Solar today announced that they had signed an agreement with Calyon Bank (Credit Agricole CIB) and BNP Paribas and among others, to raise 78 million dollar to fund its 128MW Solar Cell Expansion Project, which is in the advanced stages of implementation, eventually totaling 180MW solar cell manufacturing capacity.

Indicating how deep illegal kidney trade has penetrated into the country, Amritsar police on Monday claimed to have busted another racket with the arrest of six people.

The situation in Kuttanad where thousands of acres of paddy fields were submerged by summer rain over the last few days is turning out to be worse than expected. While initial estimates by the district administration pegged the loss at around Rs.5 crore, unofficial estimates point towards a loss of at least Rs.10 crore.

Midday Newsfeed: Government focus

Here are some stories on government efforts to help stimulate positive change:

The health ministry is planning to open standalone dialysis centres across the country, much like pathological labs, where patients can undergo the life-saving procedure at a minimal rate.

Khonoma, a Naga village and a site for Tragopan sanctuary in north-east India, has set an example for eco-friendly tourism. If the Centre for Environmental Education’s awareness programme was a catalyst, the real thrust came from the village council, which played a crucial role in the nature conservation effort.

A modernisation programme by the Ministry of Earth Sciences will warn farmers about weather changes well in advance. The agro meteorological service centres of Indian Meteorological Department will be responsible for translating weather forecasts into farm advisories

SAARC countries have recently launched the South Asia Food Security Programme with an estimated cost of US$ 25 million. Together Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will strive to improve crop production and nutrition in the region by pooling together scientific and natural resources.

Infosys to help farmers with supply chain management


The solution, basically a supply chain management system (SCM), streamlines the supply of primarily fruits and vegetables from the farmers to the retailers, known in India as Mandis. The application takes care of a lot of aspects ranging from profiling of farmer clusters, scheduling, tracking, and traceability.