Around 85 kms away from the heart of Kolkata city, Kakdwip a small town in South 24 Parganas of West Bengal has become witness to the unravelling of a brand new tale. Art of Living volunteers and teachers, in collaboration with International Association for Human Values (IAHV), Sri Sri Rural Development Project (SSRDP) and Kent have undertaken an ambitious project of improving the lives of the villagers by providing skills training.
How the difference is being made in Kakdwip
Under the project a three tier approach has been adopted to improve the standard of living and health the health of the people at large, in Kakdwip town. Mushroom farming is going to be taught to the villagers of the town. Under this skill development initiative, 50 farmers are going to be trained. Another facet of the project involves distributing filters to around 1000 families. The filters are going to be supplied by Kent. Water in Kakdwip has high iron content and some areas which are close to the see have salty water. Supplying filters to the family is going to help hem have access to water that is filtered and fit for consumption.The project is being headed by Pallav Haldar, an Art of Living teacher from West Bengal and Ramesh Raman from IAHV is working with Pallav in this noble initiative.
Another leg of the project involves teaching specially designed courses to the villagers. Two programs – Rural Happiness and Art Excel programs are going to be taught to them. In Rural Happiness Program, the participants are taught Sudarshan Kriya, a rhythmic breathing technique that helps in dealing with stress, anxiety and addiction. The plan is to organise several Rural Happiness courses, over the next few months and reach out to 1300 villagers. Art Excel is also being organised for young kids in which they are taught easy to practice meditation and breathing techniques. These processes help them to improve their focus and creativity. A similar target of conducting Art Excel for 1300 participants have been put in place. The reason why this program is going to be conducted for children is that, the Art of Living has seen a sharp decline in addiction rates in villages where the Art Excel programs have been taught. This will help to address the problem addiction which is a major cause for domestic violence and low standard of living.
How the challenges have been braved with a smiling face
Subhra ji, a resident of Alipore is the one who is supervising over the project. Distributing filters to the families does not pose much of a problem but organising courses and making infrastructure for mushroom farming is somewhat a real challenge. The sheds and other things required for mushroom cultivation is not available locally in Kakdwip. This poses a big challenge as the team needs to source these materials from Kolkata city and transportation turns out to be a real hassle. In the first leg of mushroom cultivation itself, the production got spoiled due to unavoidable circumstances.
Another challenge is to mobilise people for the courses and find a hall or place to conduct the courses. Since the course involve a lot of yoga and pranayams, given the large number of participants, it is a difficult task to find a suitable venue. But this has not deterred the team from continuing with their efforts and they are trying to find out the solutions to these problems.
100% organic – One of the many reasons to gleam.
A complete organic farming technique has been adopted. The spawns and straws required for mushroom cultivation are readily available and other ingredients like manure, water and supplements being used in framing are all organic. Sabhra ji explained why mushroom farming was taken up – “We wanted to take up a project which would show results within a short span of time. Given the high demand of mushroom in the local market and the limited resources required for mushroom cultivation, we thought it was best to take this up.” A typical shed requires an area of 150 sq ms. The best part is that they have already found a buyer who is ready to pay a decent price and purchase in bulk from them.
Progress so far
Water filters, being supplied by Kent has already been distributed to around 180 families. 15 Sheds for mushroom farming have already been constructed and the remaining 10 would also be constructed within a couple of months.
The long term plan for the project is to establish a self sustainable model in which the farmers can themselves grow the mushroom and sell the produce directly in the market. This will ensure higher margins for the farmers, due to the absence of any middlemen and hence increase the income of the village. The Art of Living team wants the farmers to set up their own cooperative within the next six months and start catering to the market demand themselves. They would always be there to guide and support the farmers.