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How One Man Used Gandhian Principles to Help Farmers and Artisans Become Self-Sustainable

His objectives have been to develop appropriate technologies, improve product efficiency and quality, make products commercially viable, and create a strong network of the organisation, farmers and artisans within the community.

After passing his engineering degree, Shri Ram Kumar Singh had decided to work in the voluntary sector. He worked extensively in training the rural youth in various rural technologies. This gave him the opportunity to develop an understanding about rural youth and their mind set along with an idea to work for the development of appropriate technologies. In 1990, he joined ‘Centre of Science for Villages’ in Wardha. Here, under the able guidance of noted Gandhian Dr Devendra Kumar, he developed a vision for rural development with appropriate technologies so as to make the lives of village labourers, farmers and artisans drudgery-free, economically independent, self sustainable and prosperous.

In 1999, Shri Singh joined ‘Suruchi Shikshan Vasahat Trust’ (SSVT) in Bardoli, Surat. Though initially SSVT focussed on campus-based activities, Shri Singh’s vision and decision to involve the community both in development and use of technologies proved more impactful for the rural community.

In SSVT, work is carried in the three areas of technology viz. agriculture tools, renewable energy and organic farming. The objectives are to: (1) Develop appropriate technologies, (2) Improve product efficiency and quality, (3) Make products commercially viable, and (4) Create a strong network of the organisation, farmers and artisans within the community.

Agricultural Tools

The focus is on development of technology with quality and design intervention and marketing of products on a commercial scale. Research, design development, optimisation of the technologies, is done in collaboration with institutes like IIT Chennai, NIT Nagpur, NID Ahmedabad and IIM Ahmedabad.

He strongly believes that there is a need to develop simple and easy-to-adopt technologies which are viable on a small scale, energy efficient, use green practices and are based on local resources. These basic aspects have always been a guiding force to his work on technology.

He has personally developed more than a dozen tools and helped to redesign around 166 tools and accessories in collaboration with various associate and technical institutes.

With a view to increase the productivity, he improved the design of the potter’s wheel, carpenter’s band saw and blacksmith’s forge hammer by using a flywheel motor.

Development and optimisation of exclusive tools for organic farming, vermi-compost production, banana cultivation, bamboo workers, etc. considering anthropometric limitations and ease of posturing are highlights of his work.

Shri Singh also designed a set of tools for children belonging to various age groups, which are procured by schools specially imparting Nai Taleem education. The prices of tools range from Rs. 60. to Rs. 2,400.

The highlight of the Bardoli model is that farmers do not have to travel long distances for repairs. It is all is available within or nearby the village. The most important part is that the institute has become self reliant.

Renewable Energy

Shri Singh promoted smoke-less chulhas among tribal communities. Farmers’ Clubs and Self-Help Groups spread awareness about its use and benefits.

SSVT designed and distributed solar cookers. While conducting camps, it created awareness about clean energy, food nutrition and clean environment. This generated demand for solar cookers in the community.

Organic Farming

Shri Ram Kumar Singh propagated vermiculture technology among marginal communities especially women. SSVT developed vermi-compost production methods for farmers. Besides self-utilisation, vermi-compost produced in the villages has become an income- generation activity for the farmers.

Technology Transfer

Dissemination of new technologies and marketing of new products developed at SSVT is mainly through collaboration and networking with 45 farmer co-operatives (each co­-operative comprising 100-200 farmers), artisan clusters/groups, 11 field level organisations, and 7 government departments.

Cluster Development for Rural Artisans

Shri Singh is working on a cluster development model where the skills of local artisans (specially the blacksmiths) are upgraded on regular basis through training as well as better linkage support.

Nodal-Bazar-Small (N-B-S), a three-tier model of production, marketing and development is introduced. This ensures supply of better agricultural tools to a large number of small and marginal farmers in wider area. Currently over 130 artisan groups are associated with this programme. Turnover of agricultural tools doubled only in three years through this programme.

Training

Shri Singh has initiated a two year training course in skill development / agriculture tools production for rural youth. SSVT also conducts many other training programmes and camps. Around 1500 men and women are trained in the field of agricultural tools production, vermi-compost, biomanure, organic farming, renewable energy, etc. every year.

Shri Ram Kumar Singh’s work is spread across four districts of Gujarat covering around 500 villages and about 15,000 farmers and 400 artisans.

He had also worked as a Member of Monitoring and Review Committee for Centre for Sustainable Technology, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru for a project supported by CAPART, New Delhi. As an Executive Committee member of Nai Taleem Samiti, Shri Singh is presently engaged in the curriculum development of Uttam Taleem. He had also served as General Secretary of AVARD – an NGO network founded by Jayaprakash Narayan and Kamaladevi Chattopadlayay to promote voluntary action and Gram Swaraj during 2009 – 11.Treading a path and leading a lifestyle purely based on Gandhian principles, Shri Ram Kumar Singh’s work is unique in many ways.

In the year 2014, Mr. Ram Kumar Singh was honoured with Jamnalal Bajaj Awards, for Application of Science and Technology for Rural Development. 

He is a researcher, a field worker, and a trainer in the realms of appropriate technology. He has helped reduce the drudgery of the artisans and farmers. Shri Singh has developed a successful model of de-centralised and self sustainable production.

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Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation was established in 1977, in memory of Jamnalal Bajaj, a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. The Foundation aims to serve the ideals to which he had dedicated his life and promotes Gandhian constructive activities in which he was deeply involved during his lifetime.