Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Red Hills in Blue Mountains

Emerald Lake - as seen from Red Hills

I’ve always wondered about the origin of the name Nilgiris, which doesn’t sound like a typical Tamil name. For the matter of fact it doesn’t even have any similarity with the names of any of the forests or hills like Madumalai, Wayanad, Makurti, Bandipur etc. in the surrounding areas. In my recent trip to the Red Hills in the Blue Mountains, Nilgiris, my confusion was clarified. There’s a story behind the name ‘Red Hills’ too. Just wait a few moments for that. Let me start with the story of Nilgiris first.

Legend says that long long ago a group of people migrated from the present Rajasthan towards the south. Having stayed in and around the present Mysore in Karnataka for quite some time they started moving further south and finally settled in the present Nilgiris. The first group of people migrated from Mysore some seven hundred years ago and the last phase of migration happened some two hundred years back, during the reign of Tipu Sultan. This group of people, known as the Badagas, is the majority community in Nilgiris. They have been thriving mainly on agriculture. They established an understanding with the Todas, a much older community in the Nilgiris and believed to be the descendants of the Romans who came to India with Alexander in the first century BC but stayed back and eventually migrated to the south and settled in the Nilgiris. The Badagas coexisted peacefully with the Todas for centuries, not trespassing into the latter’s territories and entering into a barter system with them – providing grains and other agricultural products in exchange of milk, butter and other dairy products. Today Badagas have a population of eight lakhs spread across four hundred village. The other tribes which also coexisted along with the Todas and the Badagas are Irulas – the weavers, Kurumbas and the Kothas – the blacksmiths.

Well, enough of the Badagas and the other tribes of the Nilgiris. But how do I know all these and what’s the story behind the name 'Nilgiri'? I learnt all these from Mr. Vijay Kumar, a Badaga, who has, among many other things, a wealth of interesting information about the tribes of Nilgiris. It’s from him that I learned that the Badagas named their new habitat aptly Nilgiris - mesmerized by the blue tinge of the hills when soaked in fog and cloud. They have been speaking a language which is closer to Kannada than Tamil, due to their long association wit Karnataka. Also as they are originally from Rajasthan, their language does have many similarities with the northern languages. That explains the uniqueness of the name “Nil Giri”, or the Blue Mountains.

Well, that’s the story of Nilgiris. But how did I meet Mr. Vijay Kumar?

That’s the next story.

Willie Collins, a planter and hunter, popularly known as Huli Doray - meaning Tiger (Huli) Man (Doray is used to express reverence and respect), by the local Badagas, fell in love with the Nilgiris and started constructing a house near Ithlar, one of the Badaga villages close to a Toda village called Othe-Kal-Mund or the “One Stone Village” – popularly known as Ootacamund by the English people. By 1875 Willie’s house on top of a hill was complete. He named the hill Red Hills because he belonged to Red Hills in England. He stayed in the house for almost sixty years. After his death a Badaga by the name of Muthoor Pillai, a resident of Ithlar village and an affluent planter and potato trader with business interests in Bombay and Calcutta, bought the properties of Willie from his daughter in 1937. All his children were raised in the hosue built by Willie on Red Hills. Mr Vijay Kumar, from whom I’ve learnt so many things about Nilgiris, happens to be the youngest son of Muthoor Pillai. He has inherited this 130 years old house from his father. Over the years the landscape of the surrounding areas underwent huge change. A number of dams were erected in Nilgiris and Vijay’s house now overlooks the beautiful catchment area of the Emerald dam. Out of the 250 acres of tea estate belonging to Vijay’s family he owns about 70 acres. He became a professional tea planter. His tea gardens surround his house. After his mother passed away in 1990 and his children went abroad for studies Vijay and his wife Banu were getting bored at their huge house. That’s when they thought of an innovative idea. They decided to invite tourists to stay with them in their house. This way they would get to meet new people every time and also have some extra work to keep them busy. That’s how the first Home Stay in the Nilgiris started. It’s now called the Red Hills Nature Resort and that’s where I went for the third time during the Christmas of 2008. The undulating hills covered with tea gardens and draped in the clouds and fog, the calm and serene waters of the catchment areas of the dams idling through the curves and cracks all around creating fascinating shapes of water bodies, the cool weather and above all the hospitality of the Vijay Kumars create the perfect ambience and aura for a relaxed vacation. The 130 year old house, almost three fourth of which has been retained and maintained perfectly till now, adds to the excitement of the stay. The natural grandeur all around is so mesmerizing that it attracts me from time to time and that’s why I’ve been to the place already three times in the past four years.

We started from Bangalore on 25th morning, exactly at 5am. We created a perfect cozy bed for Prithu in the back of our Tavera, folding the back seat. We expected that Prithu would sleep for sometime. But he was as excited as we were and never slept in the car. Previously when we visited Red Hills he was just one year old and he barely remembers anything of that trip. We expected the traffic to be heavy, especially because of the long weekend and hence decided to reach Mysore as soon as possible. I zoomed through the Mysore Road and reached Mysore by 7:15am. We headed to our favorite Royal Orchid Metropole Hotel for a breakfast and the morning ablutions. We’re back on road by 8:30. The traffic was not much after Mysore and the NH212 between Mysore and Gundalpet is quite good. After Gundalpet the condition of the highway is quite bad for about 10KMs after which it improves considerably through the Bandipur National Park. The drive through the forest is really very scenic though you shouldn’t expect to see even a stray cow or dog, forget the tiger!! Little after crossing the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border we took the Kalahati Ghat Road through Madumalai National Park, a short cut to Ooty compared to the regular bus route via Gadalur. The Kalahati Ghat Road can be dangerous for novice drivers. It has around thirty six steep hair pin bends between Masinagudi and Ooty. The sorroundings are also quite barren compared to the lush green mountains along the longer route through Gadalur. We reached Ooty by 11:30am. Bypassing the main city we directly reached the Bus Station and turned right into the Avalanche Road just after the Bus Stand. Red Hill is about 25 KM from Ooty. The initial 10 KMs on this road is not good. Keeping the Fern Hill Palace to the right, the Good Shepherd International School to the left and crossing the Ithlar village, from where the Vijay Kumars hail, we reached Emerald, the last town and place to buy necessities before Red Hills. At Emerald we turned right towards Red Hills, which is roughly 7 KM from Emerald. The road skirts around the Emerald and Avalanche lakes through a few scarcely polulated villages and treks up gradually amidst lush green tea gardens. There’s a bridge over a narrow stretch that joins the Emerald and the Avalanche lakes. This spot has a magnificient view with sloping green banks of the reservoirs on both sides of the bridge. It’s a good picnic spot. You can drive your car to some extent on the slopes of the banks quite close to the water when the level is high. The condition of the road deteriorates gradually and you have to drive really carefully if you don’t want the suspension of your car to be damaged severely. When you really start feeling that you’re perhaps lost or the road is never ending you see the board of Red Hills on the left. The seven kilometer journery from Emerald can take near to half an hour. From the board it’s around ½ a kilometer on an untarred road before you finally reach Vijay’s 130 year old house overlooking the blue waters of Emerald Lake. It’s really tough to believe that the house is so old. Vijay Kumars have done a good job in maintaining it.

Lush Green sorroundings of Red Hills

We relaxed for the rest of the day after a sumptuous lunch. Though we’re the first to reach Red Hills on 25th, by afternoon all the eight rooms were full.

The next morning a total of eleven people, including two kids aged ten and six, started for the trek to the Red Hills peak, which shouldn’t take more than three hours to climb up and down. The trek is not very hard but it’s advisable to take a guide. We had Mohan, the manager of the resort and Mobby, the sweetest ever dog of the Vijay Kumars, guiding us. Some part of the trek is through jungle and it’s very easy to get lost because the trail is almost invisible for most part. The trek provides an awesome view of the Emerald and Avalanche lakes and the surrounding hills of the Silent Valley and Makurti National Parks. Vijay Kumar has arrangements for night-stay in tents for six people in the Red Hills Peak. We didn’t know about this but could very well feel the excitement of such an experience.

That same evening we visited the Parsons and the Parthimund Valley and Lake, quite close to Red Hills. We took Mohan with us because otherwise there's every possibility to get lost in the innumerable turns in the Mukurti National Park. Parthimund Valley Lake provides a very good place to watch the sun set. Both the valleys are picture perfect and the lakes serene and tranquil. Each and every place appears to be a picnic spot. The Parsons Valley Dam was the site for the last scene of the film Roja, filmed by Mani Ratnam. It’s a rare spectacle to see so many lakes languishing alongside the hills at a single place.

It’s interesting to learn about the background of all these manmade lakes or rather catchment areas in this part of Nilgiris. Mr. Vijay Kumar provided me with all the information. Many valleys around Ooty have been provided with a number of dams to reserve the waters of Nilgiris and drain all of them into the Bhavani Sagar Reservoir on the river Bhavani which finally drains into Cauvery. All these valleys and the associated catchment areas, at various altitudes, provide spectacular views. Each of these pristine valleys and lakes, surrounded by hills and forests are fantastic and unique tourist spots which are still not that infested with the insensitive and irresponsible tourists. That adds more to the charm of these places. The Western Catchment 1 flows into the Upper Bhavani Reservoir. The Western Catchment 2 & 3 flow into Porthe Mund Valley Lake, which in turn flows into Emerald & Parsons Valley Lakes. Parsons Valley also flows into Emerald which has a Hydel Power Plant. Emerald & Upper Bhavani flow into Avalanche where again there’s a Hydel Power Plant. Avalanche and Emerald Lakes are in same height. They flow into Kunda, where again there’s a Hydel Power Plant. Kunda flows into Piloor, then to Geddai and finally into Bhavani Sagar from the south eastern side. Beyond Porthe Mund is the Mukurti Lake which flows into Pykara Lake, which has Hydel Power Plant. The water from Pykara Lake, off the Ooty-Gadalur-Mysore NH67, flows till Singara, which has an underground turbine, and then into Moyar River, which finally flows into Bhavani Sagar from the western side. Thus almost all water of Nilgiris go into Bhavani Sagar and then finally to Cauvery!! If time permits each of these lakes and valleys is worth visiting. Upper Bhavani requires permission from Forest Department and Electricity Board of Tamil Nadu because it’s the gate-way to the Makurti National Park. Vijay Kumar can take care of the permissions with prior intimation. The trip to Upper Bhavani, which we did the next day, can be clubbed with a Jungle Safari of Mukurti National Park for a half day trip from Red Hills. The Upper Bhavani Lake is the most tranquil and serene out of all the lakes. It skirts the Makurti National Park and is visible for a long time along the Jungle trail. There are several interesting trekking routes in the Makurti National Park. All treks can be organized by Vijay.

The Upper Bhavani Lake is the most tranquil and serene out of all the lakes

I’d decided this time that I’d surely write about the trip in my blog. The last evening I sat with Vijay Kumar to take notes about the history of Red Hills and I ended up gathering a lot of information also about the people and culture of Nilgiris. I learnt some fascinating facts about the Badagas – like their tradition, which they follow still now, of collecting money for any fellow villager who’s ailing, their traditional ritual to make someone free to marry again in the event of death of his or her spouse or their tradition to not take any dowry – to mention a few.

The journey back to Bangalore was not that great, not because of the fact that the traffic was quite heavy, but because of the sadness that had engulfed all of us on leaving the serene Red Hills. No wonder that Red Hills has been featured in Outlook publications like 52 weekends from Bangalore/Madras, 100 Hill Stations of India and 50 Trekking Holidays, 50 Driving Destinations in Autocar India, Go Now, Rave and Lonely Planet!!

Useful Information

  • Distance from Bangalore: Around 300 KM
  • Distance from Ooty: 25 KM
  • Route from Bangalore: NH212 for Mysore-Gundalpet-Bandipur, Kalahati Ghat Road through Masinagudi-Ooty, Avalanche Road from Ooty through Ithlar till Emerald, Right towards Red Hills at Emerald
  • Number of Rooms: 8
  • Tariff: Peak Season 5K per couple and 4K in off season. Price includes accommodation and all meals
  • Places to see (Close by): Parsons Valley Dam/Lake, Parthi Mund Valley Dam/Lake, Avalanche Dam/Lake
  • Day trips: Upper Bhavani (30KM) & Makurti National Forest Jungle Safari and all other places around Ooty-Conoor
  • Treks: Red Hills Peak & multiple routes in Makurti National Park. Refer to this site for more information about Upper Bhavani and treks in Makurti Natinal Park: http://www.forests.tn.nic.in/WildBiodiversity/np_muknp.html
  • Contact: Vijay Kumar +919442254755, vijayredhill@yahoo.co.in

Red Hills
(Few snaps courtesy Tathagato)

Emerald Lake from Red Hills Peak, Parsons Valley Lake & Sunset from Parthi Mund Valley Lake

Direction to Red Hills

Saturday, December 20, 2008


By Amartya Sen, Address made at a public hearing on hunger and the right to food, Delhi University, 10 January 2003




When India achieved independence, more than fifty years ago, the people of the country were much afflicted by endemic hunger. They still are. Since India is often considered to be one of the great success stories in tackling the food problem, the belief in success has to be scrutinized in the light of the grim reality that we can observe.


The positive perception in not, however, entirely mistaken. Certain things have been achieved, and it is important to see what has been accomplished and what remains to be done. Some positive things have certainly occurred. First, pre-independence India had a stagnating agriculture, and this has been firmly replaced by an imposing expansion of the production possibilities in Indian agriculture, through innovative departures. The technological limits have been widely expanded. What holds up Indian food consumption today is not any operational inability to produce more food, but a far reaching failure to make the poor of the country able to afford enough food.


Second, substantial famines that so plagued India until independence has been effectively eliminated: the last sizeable famine occurred in 1943 – four years before independence. And yet this creditable record in famine prevention has not been matched by a similar success in eliminating the pervasive presence of endemic hunger that blights the lives of hundreds of millions of people in this country.


Indeed, India has not, it should be absolutely, clear, done well in tackling the pervasive presence of persistent hunger. Not only are there persistent recurrences of severe hunger and starvation in particular regions, but there is also a gigantic prevalence of endemic hunger across much of India. Indeed, India does much worse in this respect than even Sub-Saharan Africa. Estimates of general undernourishment - what is sometimes called “protein-energy malnutrition” - are nearly twice as high in India as in sub-Saharan Africa. It is astonishing that despite the intermittent occurrence of famine in Africa, it too manages to ensure a much higher level of regular nourishment than does India. About half of all Indian children are, it appears, chronically undernourished, and more than half of all adult women suffer from anaemia. In maternal undernourishment as well as the incidence of underweight babies, and also in the frequency of cardiovascular diseases in later life (to which adults are particularly prone if nutritionally deprived in the womb), India’s record is among the very worst in the world.




What, then, should we do, indeed what can we do? People have to go hungry if they do not have the means to buy enough food. Hunger is primarily a problem of general poverty, and thus overall economic growth and its distributional pattern cannot but be important in solving the hunger problem. It is particularly critical to pay attention to employment opportunities, other ways of acquiring economic means, and also food prices, which influence people’s ability to buy food, and thus affect the food entitlements they effectively enjoy. It is also crucial to use the means of specialized delivery of food that particularly helps poor children, such as more extensive use of feeding in the school.

This can not only increase the incentive of children to go to school, but also actually make them healthier and less undernourished. The Supreme Court has been judicious in emphasizing the importance of this right.


Further, since undernourishment is not only a cause of ill health, but can also result from it, attention has to be paid to health care, in general, and to the prevention of endemic diseases that prevent absorption of nutrients, in particular. There is also plenty of evidence to indicate that lack of basic education too contributes to undernourishment, partly because knowledge and communication are important, but also because the ability to secure jobs and incomes are influenced by the level of education.


Indeed, low incomes, relatively higher prices, bad health care and neglect of basic education are all influential in causing and sustaining the extraordinary levels of under nutrition in India. There are also more complex connections. Recent medical research has brought out the long-run effects of maternal undernourishment, which not only ruins the health of the mothers, but can also cause serious health problems for the children who are born with low birth weight, since they are more prone to children’s diseases and – later on in life – also to adult diseases. Indeed, low birth weight substantially increases the incidence of cardiovascular diseases later in life.




What about food policy, and in particular food prices policy? Why is it the case that the large expenditure on food subsidy in India does not achieve more in reducing undernourishment? Part of the answer lies in the fact that the subsidy is mainly geared to keep food prices high for the sellers of food - farmers in general – rather than to make food prices low for the buyers of food. The high incentive to produce more food while giving little help to the poorer people to buy food has produced the massive stocks of food grains that we find in India today.


In 1998, stocks of food grains in the central government’s reserve were around 18 million tons - close to the official “buffer stock” norms needed to take care of possible fluctuations of production and supply. Since then, it has climbed and climbed, firmly surpassing the 50 million mark, and while it has had some ups and some downs, the total stock is still extraordinarily large. To take Jean Dr├Ęze’s graphic description, if all the sacks of grain were laid up in a row, this would stretch more than one million kilometres, taking us to the moon and back.


The public expense of the programme of subsidies (estimated, not long ago, at a staggering Rs. 21,000 crores a year) is mainly used to add to the market food prices to raise the incomes of the farmers. We are evidently determined to maintain, at heavy cost, India’s unenviable combination of having the worst of undernourishment in the world and the largest of unused food stocks on the globe. Indeed, a regime of high prices in general (despite a gap between procurement prices and consumers retail prices) both expands procurement and depresses the affordability of food. The bonanza for food producers and sellers is matched by the privation of the consumers. Since the biological need for food is not the same thing as the economic entitlement to food (that is, what people can afford to buy given their economic circumstances and the prices), the large stocks procured are hard to get rid of, despite rampant undernourishment across the country. The very price system that generates a massive supply keeps the hands – and the mouths – of the poorer consumers away from food.

In fact, much of the subsidy goes into the cost of maintaining a massively large stock of food grains, with a mammoth and unwieldy food administration. Also, since the cutting edge of the price subsidy is to pay farmers to produce more and earn more, rather than to sell existing stocks to consumers at lower prices (that too happens, but only to a limited extent and to restricted groups), the overall effect of food subsidy is more spectacular in transferring money to farmers than in transferring food to the undernourished Indian consumers.

Of course, those who want high producer prices of food include some who are not affluent, in particular the small farmer or peasant who sells a part of the crop. The interest of this group is mixed up with those of big farmers, and this produces a lethal confounding of food politics. While the powerful lobby of privileged farmers presses for higher procurement prices and for public funds to be spent to keep these prices high, the interests of poorer farmers, who too benefit from the high prices, are championed by political groups that represent these non-affluent beneficiaries. Stories of hardship of these people play a powerful part not only in the rhetoric in favour of high food prices, but also in the genuine conviction of many equity-oriented activists that this would help some very badly off people. And so it would, but of course it would help the rich farmers much more, and cater to their pressure groups, while the vital interests of the much larger number of people who have to buy food rather than sell it are thoroughly sacrificed.




There is need for more explicit analysis of the effects of public policies on the different classes, and in particular on the extreme underdogs of society who, along with their other deprivations (particularly low income, bad health care, inadequate opportunities of schooling), are also remarkably underfed and undernourished. For casual labourers, slum dwellers, poor urban employees, migrant workers, rural artisans, rural non-farm workers, even farm workers who are paid cash wages, high food prices bite into what they can eat. The overall effect of the high food prices is to hit many of the worst off members of the society extremely hard. And while it does help some of the farm based poor, the net effect is quite regressive on distribution. There is, of course, relentless political pressure in the direction of high food prices coming from farmers’ lobbies, and the slightly muddied picture of benefitting some farm-based poor makes the policy issues sufficiently befuddled to encourage the confused belief that high food prices constitute a pro-poor stance, when in overall effect it is very far from that.


Given our democratic system, nothing is as important as clear-headed public discussions of the causes of deprivation and the possibility of successful public intervention. Public action includes not only what is done for the public by the state, but also what is done by the public for itself. It includes what people can do by demanding remedial action and through making governments accountable. That is exactly why we are gathered here today. The lives and well-being of hundreds of millions of people will depend on the extent to which our public discussion can be broadened and be made more informed. I hope we manage to have some impact.

Eradicating Indian Hunger

By Peggy Bradley, Executive Director, Institute of Simplified Hydroponics

"Poverty is the worst form of violence."
Mohandas Gandhi


Before his assassination in 1948, Gandhi prophesied that from each drop of his blood a new Gandhi would be born on earth. His dream has been realized in leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Corazon Aquino who follow Gandhi’s non-violent movement. Now we have an opportunity to follow his lead in working to end hunger and poverty in India.


Tremendous Need

According to UN estimates, India has the most hungry people. Over 200 million, or about one-fifth of India’s population, is chronically hungry. About half Indian children are classified as undernourished with a large percentage born with protein deficiency affecting brain development and learning capacity. 

Fuel costs have doubled the costs of some vegetables in the past year. This makes life more difficult for the 800 million people in India who live on less than $2 a day. 

In India 440 million people languish at the bottom of the economic pyramid and about 500,000 children are born deformed each year due to vitamin/mineral deficiencies.  (India Together website)

Twenty-two percent of childhood disease in India is caused by malnutrition. Half of the 2.3 million deaths of children is caused by lack of food and malnutrition. 

Potential for Simplified Hydroponics

From the point of view of a family in hunger, their labour is often the only thing of value to help obtain food. Yet over their heads, there is enough solar energy to grow some of the family food requirements. The labour involved is very little, the cost of set up and operation can be just pennies.

The 400 million people without enough food can be estimated to be about 100 million families. If a simplified hydroponic garden cost $100 to set up and operate, the total cost to the country would be 10 billion dollars.

In planning a food program for India utilizing Simplified Hydroponics, the cost can be borne by or supplied by the poor themselves through microcredit that helps families start their own gardens.

A Family Garden in India

For thousands of years, the human population provided for their own needs, often with the help of a vegetable garden. In recent times, with industrialization, more and more people no longer have gardens and rely on their labour to produce money to buy food.

Most daily foods in India include basic ingredients of ginger, garlic and onion. All three of these are very easy to grow in hydroponic culture. The onions can be grown in a bed grower and produce 120 full size onions in 90 days, or about one and a third onions a day.

 Ginger is grown as a bush plant in a root grower and pieces are cut off as needed. If it is used every day, perhaps two plants might be needed. 

Garlic grows more slowly in hydroponic culture. It can take 180 days to produce a full size bulb from a clove. So perhaps as much as 3 square meters may be needed to produce the family garlic needs.

Tomatoes are a standard in hydroponics, very easy to grow and eight plants should provide one or two tomatoes a day. Eggplant is another very easy plant to grow and six plants should provide one eggplant a day.

Potato and carrot are also easy to grow but should be grown in deeper tubs to provide root growing room.

While lettuce is not eaten very often, the people in India gather wild greens to eat as a vegetable. These greens can be grown in hydroponic culture.

There are advantages to creating and having a simplified hydroponic garden. Right now, in India the prices of food are going up rapidly due to higher costs of fertilizers and transportation. With your own garden many of these costs disappear. The fertilizer cost for 100 pounds of vegetables should only be about $1.50.

National Potential

If every hungry family is India had a home hydroponic garden, there would be 100 million gardens producing 300 million to 400 million pounds of food every day. The produced food would add 500 calories to each person's diet. With some planning these calories would be the vitamin rich and also improve the quality of life with a varied richer diet.

Some of the owners of simplified hydroponics will be likely to expand their gardens to produce foods for neighbours or nearby markets. It is possible that one out of ten can produce enough to provide the family with an extra five to ten dollars a day. This would mean that of the 400 million making less than $2.00 a day, perhaps as many as 40 million would at least double family income.

For each person now making $2.00 a day or less, most of the daily income is spent on food. With the hydroponic garden this need is reduced, and they can buy the rice, beans lentils and wheat in bulk, perhaps creating a small food supply. This increases national food security, a population more prepared for emergencies.

A reliable steady supply of fresh vegetables should improve overall health of the population. Children now suffering from malnourishment should be better developed and healthier.

As the simplified gardens become established in the country, more potential can be realized by people whose talent and ability is now under utilized. The people with gardens, and some food security, have an opportunity to increase their income and economic security.

A garden is a real joy for most families. It makes obtaining food much easier, and the quality of the food grown should match the best vegetables grown anywhere in the world. So the daily food becomes enjoyable and helps to improve overall quality of life. Favourite foods that were too expensive can now be grown for just pennies.


Family costs

A garden can be started for about $100 investment and labour of about one to two hours a day. It needs a space of 20 square meters, but smaller gardens can also be built on rooftops, balconies, sunny patios.

As the gardens become established technology they can easily be designed into new housing, and retrofitted into much of the existing housing.

A garden starts to be productive within 60 days and fully productive in 90 days. With a protective structure the garden can also be productive in difficult climates of too much rain or cold. This structure may cost $100 to $400 in India.


Table 1.  Expected daily vegetable production from a micro-garden average range ( 2 kilos per day)


Area in M2

Grams per Day

Ounces per Day



















































Green Bean
































Salad greens

































National Costs

In India, if a ten year plan was enacted to offer support for simplified gardens, with 40 million families supported each year, the cost would be about 4 billion dollars a year. This cost could be borne by the international NGOs, the federal and local governments, and the families themselves.

Training in how to set up and operate the gardens could be accomplished through national television programming. The organoponic gardens in Cuba, now credited with ending hunger in Cuba, were largely established through a national television show. The video programming exists and is being used in pilot projects around the world.

The dollars invested in the gardens should be returned by the families who have gardens in the form of a microcredit loan. Every effort should be made to help the families pay off the loan in extra fresh vegetables, or labour exchange in a national program. Established garden owners could repay part of the loan in training others.

The second year, to help another 40 million would cost another 4 billion dollars. Hopefully some income would have started from the first year families and reduce the cost of this investment.

How to Begin

The simplified hydroponic gardens need to be introduced to a country through a pilot project that sets up the first demonstration garden. This first garden would be set up by an international expert in the technology, along with local people who will carry the garden forward through its first year. This first garden would be a test garden to find a logical garden for India. Substrates available locally are tested with nutrients produced locally, and used with local seeds. This early garden evolves to be effective in the local conditions. This takes six months to a year.

In that first year, people can be transported to the demonstration garden and taught the technology in a three day training course. This training course is available on DVD in a nine lesson course so the DVD can help these trained people teach the technology to others.

In the 22 years since this technology first started in Colombia, tens of thousands of families have benefited from their gardens. It is proven technology that can help end hunger and poverty.

Establishing these gardens in India may be a pathway to Gandhi’s dream for his country, to end hunger, poverty and misery.

Demonstration Garden Requirements

For the demonstration gardens, the first requirement is adequate supplies to make the inorganic hydroponic nutrient. This nutrient is based on the Steiner formula developed in Holland, a standard recipe in the field of commercial hydroponics.

Cost for the components varies and for the purposes of this proposal are estimated at $900.00 for the requirements for 20 families for a year. This should provide enough fertilizer for 14.6 tons of food for the 20 families (730 kilograms of food per family per year).

This fertilizer requirement averages about 6 cents per kilo for food, or 12 cents a day for 2 kilos of food.


Table 2.  Fertilizer Requirements for Family’s 20m2 Micro-garden per Year



Single Family

20 Families

1000 Liters



Potassium nitrate




Monopotassium phosphate




Potassium sulfate








Manganese EDTA




Copper EDTA








Boric acid




Molybdic acid




Calcium nitrate




Magnesium sulfate








Tons of Food Produced:



1.      Table Grower Components

For the first demonstration garden, and training, two construction kits will be needed so that students have access to tools during the training. The kit as in Table 5 will cost $108.25 per family. In the case of the demonstration garden only two kits will be needed.


Table 3.  Table Style Micro-garden Construction Kit (20m2)



Single Family Cost

Black 6 mil plastic, 2m2 wide sheets



Plastic tubing 3/8" dia. (cm)



Recycled lumber for:



 Sides of Bed 1 m long, 12 cm wide

20 boards


 Ends of Bed 1.2 m long, 12 cm wide

20 boards


 Bottom slats 1.2 m long, 8 cm wide

70 boards


 Bed Legs 0.65 m long, 12 cm wide

40 boards


Nails 1.5", stainless steel



Staples 1/2", stainless steel



Substrate: lava rock cubic m3



Substrate: coir coconut fiber m3



Styrofoam sheets



Total Cost:




2.      Builders Kits for Tools

For the training course, eight builders tool kits are required so that a class of 20 students has adequate tools to complete the practical part of the training. In the training each student should participate in the building of two bed growers.


Table 4.  Table Style Micro-garden Builders Tool Kit



Hand Saw, 1 each


Measuring Tape, 1 each


Pry Bar, 1 each


Hammer, 1 each


Nails 1.5 inch, Stainless Steel, 1500 each


Staple Gun, 1 each


Staples, 1000 each


Small level, 1 each


Hand drill and bit, 1 each


Scissors, 1 each


Total Cost:



3.      Tub Growers for the Demonstration Garden

The demonstration garden will also have a tub garden area, with growers made from plastic containers. The garden sets up two of the plastic containers at $104.10 each or $208.20.


Table 5.  Tub Style Micro-garden Construction Kit



Plastic Tub 30 x 20 x 6, 20 each


Plastic fittings, 20 each


Plastic tubing 3/8" diameter, 150 each


Nylon netting for filter, 20 each


Sealant, 4 tubes


Substrate: coir coconut fiber, 1.28 cubic meters


Exacto knife with extra blades, 1 each


Total Cost:



4.      Pest Control in the Garden

Each garden owner needs to have supplies for handling insects in the garden. The Pest Control kit includes insect traps and sprays for the start up gardener. Five kits are needed for the garden classes.


Table 6.  Micro-garden Pest Control Kit


Single Kit Cost

Yellow plastic material (2 square meters, 6 ply) for white fly traps.


One quart (litre) of motor oil for spreading on the yellow plastic to trap white flies.


One plastic spray bottle, (1 litre) to use for organic sprays to prevent or kill insects.


Dr. Bonner’s peppermint soap (concentrate) to mix and spray on and kill soft insects such as aphids and aphid larvae.


Garlic extract for use in making a preventive weekly spray for the garden to repeal most pests.


Powdered milk for making a spray to control powdery mildew.


One roll of audio tape for placing around garden to deflect birds.


Clear plastic quart bags (6 ply with twist ties) to fill with water and hang in garden to attract insects.


Seeds to grow pyrethrum flowers to make insect spray from mature plants, basil and marigold to repel.


Total Cost:



5.      Nutrients and seeds 1st year supply

Each garden owner will need a steady supply of nutrients and some seeds as shown in Table 9. This cost can be reduced if the garden owner learns to seed save, and can be eliminated if the garden owner can switch to saved seeds and organic nutrient produced at home.


Table 7.  Micro-garden Nutrient and Seed Kit



Grow Nutrient (8 ounces), 1 each


Root Nutrient (8 ounces), 1 each


Bloom Nutrient (8 ounces), 1 each


Calcium nitrate (32 ounces), 1 each


Magnesium sulphate (12 ounces), 1 each


Variety of vegetable seeds for 3 crops, 3 sets


Measuring spoon, 1 each


Total Cost: