Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why not telecast veg.prices ?

It's a thought. They telecast gold/silver prices on daily news bulletins.Why can't they, vegetable prices? We don't buy gold everyday;we do, brinjal, beans, carrot or whatever. Prices of vegetables fluctuate. A daily telecast would help not just consumers, but small farmers who lack information on the right prices their produce fetch in the market.

Prof.E Vadivel of the Coimbatore farming university says their Extension Centre gathers the relevant market information. They have in place market analysts in 13 major vegetable wholesale centres in southern states, sending daily reports on prices of fruits and vegetables. Data so gathered is compiled for publication in the university website in Tamil and English.

But then our farming community isn't into the Internet. The university also puts out data on SMS for access through mobile phones. Dr. Vadivel reckoned that nearly 3,000 farmers access market data on their cell phones.Data on prevailing prices of as many as 50 vegetables and 20 different fruits in leading vegetable markets is made available by 1 p m daily. It is there online, waiting to be tapped by our local radio,TV channels and print media for the benefit of consumers and farmers alike.Contact information: Dr E Vadivel, project officer, e-Extension Centre - phone 0422-6611383 ; e-mail -

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Health - Failing at both ends.

The News that 50% of world's malnourished children live in India , along with the finding that India is likely to become the' diabetic capitol' of the world is significant. It means we are not able to manage Health at both ends of the spectrum. In one side we have become the 'Havenots' of the world, with suceesive Goverments both at State and Centre dubiously planning and implementing what we have achieved for our children. It is quite a shame after 60 years of Independence we have not been able to take care our children, quite a few of them die in the first year itself ( Again a record of sorts ) or if they survive death, are malnourished.
On the other side'the Haves' do not take care of their health resulting in entry of new diabetics every year. Till recently, very little was done in spreading the message the havoc it can cause.
Coupled with the fact that Asians and Indians are prediposed to certain heart conditions, diabetes will make it worse for quite a large chunk of population.
It is a paradox that we have major problems at both ends of the health spectrum with little, very little being done by successsive Governments.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

An Ideas 'Mela' in Mysore

Four-day TED-India conference to be held in Mysore (Nov.4-7) is reportedly sold out. The meet is expected to attract people from 46 countries, according to a media report. With some 40 speakers on the card, drawn from varied fields - scientist, artist, playwright, photographer, marine biologist and sports commentator - the event promises to be a mela for ideas.

As a resident of the host town, my concern, or rather my poser to organisers, is: Shouldn't local residents be allowed to benefit from the proceedings ? In a global event of this nature local enthusiasts tend to get crowded out by those from elsewhere. And, understandably, the organisers face severe space constraints, however big the venue.

Wouldn't it be nice if the they could arrange to have the conference proceedings screened through closed-circuit network in another hall - Kalamandira or some other place - for the benefit of local audience ? Or they could tie-up with the city TV channel for live-telecast of TEDIndia, as they do with Dasara concerts held at the Mysore palace grounds.

Would local residents be interested? How would TED proceedings be of local public interest ? I can't answer this question better than TEDIndia co-host Lakshmi Pratury. She says she would like those attending the Mysore conference to take back three things:
1) No one who sits through a talk or seminar is with it all the time, a hundred percent. Even if they stay focused on what they hear, for a brief moment , they should feel it is a moment when they would rather be here than anywhere else;
2) Her expectation is that on gatherings like this one meets at least one person who becomes a friend for life; and
3) Her hope is that those who sit through the proceedings would pick up an idea or two that is not necessarily related their prime interest.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Case for a farming channel

Canegrowers association in Mysore and neighbouring districts publish a farm weekly - Raitha Dwani - to share information on farming, notably, cane and paddy. The one-year-old publication plans to increase its subscribers, from 1,000 to 5,000 farmers in six months. Much too modest a goal;and, presumably, not cost effective.

Scene - 2
In neighbouring Tamilnadu they have a website - - that seeks to bridge buyer-seller gap caused by lack of information on commodity prices, poor marketing, exploitative middle-men and inadequate infrastructure. Online market such as connects buyers and sellers for meaningful trade.

The website provides information pertaining to commodity prices, cropping pattern, seeds and fertiliser availability, agro-based business opportunities, veterinary, organic farming, self employment training, herbal medicines, value addition in farm produce and farm credit.But then the digital divide and illiteracy limits the reach of cyberfarming among farmers in our country. An overwhelming majority that needs such farming guidance stay untouched.

A Tamil channel - Makkal TV - runs a phone-in programme - Uzhavar Sandhai -that covers the same ground, and, given widespread TV viewership and extensive use of cell phone even in rural areas, telefarming of the type adopted by Makkal TV has a reach among illiterate farmers.

At a recent Uzhavar Sandhai programme a farming expert,responding to viewers' questions, came up such info.:

1)Fruit-growers in Cumbum (TN), where they grow grapes on 2,000 plus acres, could come together to put up a juice-making unit. In the absence of such value-addition the farmers ae constrained to sell their produce for Rs.15 a kg.

2)Those planning to grow lemon would do well to visit Gudur (AP) a well known lemon growing area.

3) A retired army officer in Chennai has set up a unit that markets lemon concentrate in small sachets, for making two glasses of juice. The sachets can be retailed through grocery stores, pavement paan-bidi shops, and platform venders in railway stations.

4) With ever-increasing vegetable prices, people in cities take to roof-top kitchen gardening. A variety of vegetables, and spinach, can be grown on roof-top, with two fot deep soil cover. The expert on TV spoke of someone who has grown plantains on roof-top.

During an hour long programme they can't take very many questions from viewers. Besides, Makkal TV runs Uzhavar Sandhai only once a week, Friday. There may be a case for such interactive programming on a daily basis; even for a full-fledged farming channel. We have channels dedicated to healthcare, religious discourse and bhajans. Why not a TV channel to address concerns of farmers - about marketing produce, procurement of seeds, fertiliser, opportunities for agro-business, horticulture, livestock and farm equipment maintenence.

Ad. and sponsorship may be an issue that inhibits private channels. Maybe Doordarshan, which is not ratings driven, could think in terms of a full-fledged farming channel. Apart from serving the interests of farmers, such a krishi channel would get more ad. revenue for DD than the Lok Sabha channel.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Action on 'Household energy audit'

G V Krishnan, in his previous post has suggested a household energy audit with the help of school children. I have acted on this and have started a small program for school children. Vidyavardhaka school in Kuvempunagar, Mysore showed tremendous interest in the energy efficiency education program and asked me to conduct a program for 7th grade. Today was the first class and the students seemed to take it really well. Here is the presentation on slideshare.

More on this at the Sapgreen blog. Next week, I will be continuing this activity at the same school and also trying to get more schools to provide me this kind of an opportunity.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Household energy audit

Mobilising Mysore students for doing household energy audit in their neighbourhood during weekends is a good idea. But how do we make it happen? Or as Dr Bhamy Shenoy put it, who will bell the cat?

The Green entrepreneur Ashwin has offered to draft a project paper; and also conduct a pilot programme to give us a sense of its working - 'I know of a school (Vidyavardhaka, Kuvempunagar) which has many eco-conscious teachers'. He proposes to persude them to adopt energy audit procedure as part of extra-curricular activity of their students.

According to Ashwin, getting students to do energy audit in their own houses as a class project would would help us take the energy audit scheme forward.With a bit of publicity we could persuade more schools to adopt the programme.Rotary Schools and Kendriya Vidyalalya appear suitable candidates

Naveen, who has worked on projects involving students in his locality - Laughing Waters - suggests we focus on pre-defined areas,to start with, for tangible results. He has in mind apartment blocks, where kids can be put to work on collecting data on energy usage/wastage in apartments and the common areas in their residential complex.

A closer look at the use of household appliances - TV, washing machine/drier, water for bath/flushng,light bulbs - would help in drawing up a checklist for a comprehensive energy audit. Here is a link to a piece on energy saving tips.

Dr Shenoy reckons a household energy audit project ought to be promoted by Chesco. In the US,he says,the power supply companies are mandated to support such initiative. Dr.Shenoy says we can count on help and guidance from an expert in energy audit and BARC scientist,Dr D V Gopinath.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Students summer jobs

Read about a California non-profit that trains students to help neighbours go green. Training is offered to those who opt for summer vacation job,for which the
students get paid - $10 an hour. The students, after a crash-course in household energy audit, make house-calls. And each pair can do up to 12 households in a day, spending about 30 minutes going through a checklist of items that include water connections, electrical fittings, sockets used for household appliances.

Energy audit includes:
1) Checking water meter and water pressure;
2) testing faucets and toilets for flow and possible leaks;
3)suggesting installation of water-saving faucet aerators and high-pressure showerheads (done free under sponsorship);
4)replacing conventional lightbulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs';
5)checking electrical wiring,notably,in the attic;and
6)offering guidance on energy-saving practices such as solar panelling, usage of recyclable items, and tree-planting.

Sponsorship for such programme could come from government agencies related to youth welfare, renewable resources;coporate social reponsibility projects of
companies, builders and architects associations and local chambers of commerce.