What began as a small NGO in a tiny district town—Nawalgarh (Rajasthan), the birthplace of many Shekhawati business families—the MR Morarka GDC Rural Research Foundation has today become a successful grassroot level implementing agency. Kamal Morarka set up the foundation in memory of his father, registering it as a trust in March 1991, to promote organic farming. He had witnessed the steady deterioration of farmlands in and around Nawalgarh due to excessive reliance on chemical fertilisers and pesticides, exacerbated by using subsoil water for irrigation which, in Rajasthan, is highly saline and has high content of dissolved solids.
The Foundation’s initial efforts were focused only on promotion of vermiculture through recycling of farm waste. Now, it is recognised as a resource conservation organisation offering solutions for sustainable agriculture and is a certification agency for organic food. Its website claims that it has “become the single largest producer of vermicast in the world... and has disseminated vermiculture knowhow to over one million farm units in the country to create a combined annual production capacity of over seven million metric tonnes of vermicast.” It has developed the technology for organic agri-inputs for farm fertility and pest and disease management, which has been disseminated to organic farmers. They are taught to produce these for self-consumption and for members of the organic grower groups (OGGs) that the Foundation has helped set up.
The Foundation began with 10,000 farm families from Nawalgarh practising organic farming; today, its organic farming programme is spread over 15 states in India, covering over 250,000 farm families. The website states, “Every month, over 10,000 farm families are being added to make this initiative become the single largest organic agriculture development and support programme in the world.”
To popularise organic food, the Foundation hosted a festival in Jaipur, where about 40 families practising ‘organic agriculture management’ were invited to cook and serve their traditional food to visiting tourists. This event has now become an annual winter feature in Jaipur and attracts thousands of local glitterati as well.
For developing biotechnology applications for organic agriculture, the Foundation’s mandate has been expanded to include scientific solid waste management and water recycling. Environment-friendly technologies to recycle these have been developed by Mukesh Gupta, executive director of the Foundation. Among its very successfully implemented urban projects is one for recycling waste water and grass waste for the 82-acre Golf Club in the heart of Jaipur.
Recently, the Foundation has started an urban outreach programme for kitchen waste management. Other than advocacy, the Foundation is focusing on training those it calls ‘entrepreneurs’, to take up the tasks together of bio-composting and waste management in their own localities. Mr Gupta says, “The Foundation views its role as that of a catalyst, coordinator and facilitator, encouraging necessary participation of the community and creating entrepreneurs.”
Anand Mani Shukla, manager, biotech division, says, “We are involved in implementing so many large projects that we cannot send our staff to undertake the huge task of waste management in your backyard. We organise waste composting training programmes for interested people, NGOs, educational institutions and women’s clubs and help them set up waste composting units, to manage their waste themselves. We want to make people aware that they should take responsibility for the waste they generate. Otherwise, cities will run out of dump yards soon.” The 3-4 day training programme of kitchen waste management entrepreneurs costs approximately Rs5,000, including the cost of a start-up kit. Says Mr Shukla, “Our main focus is organic farming; composting is a major input. Composting of household waste is a crying urban need and we are happy to undertake this training and capacity-building.”
This extension work requires people’s participation. Donations to the Foundation are tax-exempt under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act.
MR Morarka GDC Rural Research Foundation
Vatika Road, Off Tonk Road,
Jaipur 302022, Rajasthan