index: the miracle of azolla
Azolla is a small aquatic plant containing abundant nutrients. The cultivation and use of this forgotten, traditional crop is providing a sustainable alternative to introduced farming and food production practices.
In recent years, the Onaway Trust has been developing closer practical working relationships with grassroots organisations in Tamil Nadu while looking at ways to reverse some of the environmental problems and investigating sustainable alternatives. One such organisation, Index for Development Exchange – INDEX, a small non-Governmental Organisation, is unsurpassed in its commitment to the nurturing and upliftment of the poor rural masses and Scheduled Caste peoples (untouchables). Ever since the mid 1990's, it has developed a number of innovative and imaginative projects amongst farmers that have proved to be manageable, cost-effective and, in many cases, self-sustaining.
Natural Resource Management focuses on ecological farming methods and INDEX have developed expertise in mobilising farmers and implementing organic farming practices. Throughout, they have promoted farmers' Eco-Clubs and organised field exposure trips for local farmers to be trained on Azolla cultivation.
Azolla can fix atmospheric nitrogen, carry out photosynthesis and uptake nutrients from its surrounding environment through its root system. It has a wide range of uses including: fodder for dairy cattle, pigs, chickens, ducks and fish; it can be used as a fertiliser for vegetables and coconuts. In some village communities it has even increased the overall milk yield.
As Meenakshi M. Sundram, Development Consultant for INDEX explains: "The Azolla Cultivation Project that we started has become a turning point in our mission to address food and fodder security issues in Tamil Nadu... Azolla grows quickly, produces high yields, does not require harvesting or chopping and can grow in the rice fields. Also known as water velvet, mosquito fern and duck weed it produces spores and grows in water or wet mud to survive and can grow well in the absence of any nitrogen source."
"It may be long before the law of love will be recognised in international affairs. The machinery's of government stand between and hide the hearts of one people from those of another." Ghandi