Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Member profile

Dheeraj Singh

Organization: ICAR-Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Central Arid Zone Research Institute,India
Country: India
Field(s) of expertise:
I am working on:

rural development through participatory mode,horticulture ,processing and value addition and rural sustainability

This member contributed to:

    • Dheeraj Singh

      ICAR-Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Central Arid Zone Research Institute,India

      Small biodiversified farm for perennial food and nutritional security in arid zone: A case study from Rajasthan, India

      Dheeraj Singh,Chandan Kumar,M K Chaudhary and M L Meena

      The case study presents a precise review of Mr. Madan Lal Deora, a progressive farmer of Pali, district of Rajasthan in India who had established himself as a successful farmer adopting diversified farming system.  He had adopted multiple cropping and farming system on his farm which is 2.5 hectare in area by growing legumes, cereals, oilseeds, pulses, medicinal plants and forest plants alongwith horticultural crops including fruits and vegetables.

      The case study is an excellent example where one can find more than 100 cultivated and natural species of plants growing in close harmony supplementing each other.

      The crops include wheat (Triticum aestivum), maize (Zea mays), barley (Hordeum vulgare), oats (Avena spp.), jowar (Sorghum bicolor), bajra (Pennisetum americanum), mustard (Brassica nigra) and til (Sesamum indicum). In spices one can find cumin, fennel, fenugreek and dill in fruits the major plants are Drumstick (Moringa olerifera), Ber (Zizyphus maurtiana), Mulbery (Ficus alba), Jamun (Sygigium cumuni), Aonla (Emblica officinalis), Custard apple (Annona squmosa), Gonada (Cardia myxa) and Fig (ficus carica). In vegetables the farmer is growing mint (Mentha Arvensis), spinach (Basella alba), okra (Hibiscus esculenta), tomato (Lycopersicon  esculentum), ginger (Asarum canadense), red and green chillies (Capsicum annum),carrot (Daucus carota), coriander leaves (Coriandrum sativum) and fenugreek (Trigonella).

      The farm structure contributes to biodiversity, a diverse and esthetically pleasing rural landscape, and open space.

      In wild plants we can find Phog (Calligonum polygonoides), Angreji babool (Prosopis juliflora), Bordi (Ziziphus nummularia), Lana (Haloxylon salicorniourn),Bawli (Acaacia jacquernontii), Gugal (Cornrniphora wighti), Henna (Lawsonia inermis), Anwal (Cassia ouriculate),  Kair (Capperis decidua), Ber (Ziziphus nummularia) and Kheep growing on the farm boundary. 

      In general we can see an entire biosphere of the arid zone vegetation with cultivated plants in a small farm. The farm embodies a diversity of cropping systems, of farming systems, of landscapes, of biological organization, culture and traditions. The forested areas from which wild foods, and leaf litter are extracted, the wood lot, the farm itself with intercropping, agroforestry, and large and small livestock, the fish pond, the backyard garden, allow for the preservation of hundreds if not thousands of wild and cultivated species.

      Proper management of the natural resources of soil and, water, produces significant environmental benefits for society. The benefits of farms extend beyond the economic sphere. To begin with, Mr Madan utilizes a broad array of resources and has a vested interest in their sustainability. At the same time, his farming system is diverse, incorporating and preserving significant functional biodiversity within the farm. By preserving biodiversity, open space and trees, and by reducing land degradation, the farm provides valuable ecosystem services to the larger society. Along with agriculture the farmer is having livestock which yields milk and the dung is converted into valuable vermicompost. He had also turned himself into an entrepreneur by processing and value addition to his farm produce through a tunnel drier.  The solar tunnel dryer is a poly house framed structure with UV-stabilized polythene sheet, where products on large scale could be dried under controlled environment. The enterprise consists of different value added products of typical Indian fruits and vegetables including juice, squash, candy, powder, pickle, dry aonla, churan tablets, preserve and ladoos. All the products are purely organic have high demand in the local and regional market. Thus this model of multifunctional small farm which integrate crops, horticulture, livestock and natural vegetation is key to sustainable development in countries dominated by small farms.

    • Dheeraj Singh

      ICAR-Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Central Arid Zone Research Institute,India

      Author of submission

      Dr Dheeraj Singh, Head, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Pali India

      Title of your example

      Kitchen garden for nutritional security


      Sustainable food systems for improved nutrition

      Date, location and geographic scope of your example

      Date :Started in 2013

      Location : Pali, Rajasthan India

      Geographic scope: It was started as collaborative programme initially but have the possibility of being  adopted in most of the states of India .

      Main responsible entity(ies) for the implementation of your example

      ICAR-Agricultural Technology Application Research Institute (ATARI), Jodhpur is one of the 11 ICAR-ATARIs formerly known as Zonal Project Directorates (ZPDs) functioning under Division of Agricultural Extension in India. ATARI was the leading entity for implementation of our project. ICAR has established a vast network of KVKs all over the country under the administrative control of various ICAR institutes, State Agricultural Universities (SAUs), State Department of Agriculture, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other institutes for implementing the central governmental projects/schemes.KVK pali was the main implementing agency in Pali district of Rajasthan. It was further supported by Central Arid Zone research Institute(CAZRI)Jodhpur, RRS ,CAZRI, Pali, different government agencies and development agencies dealing in agriculture at district and state level.

      Key objectives and implementation approach of your example

      Rainfed crop production is found throughout the action site but its intensity, productivity, diversity, and system components are strongly shaped by the amount and frequency of rainfall. Mono-cropping is predominant in the project area having low yield and income. Barley, sorghum, oat, maize, wheat, gram, mustard, cotton, green gram and chickpea are the major crops. Very less focus is given on the growing of fruits and vegetables..Those doing any other kind of farming are poorly equipped and use non sustainable practices responsible for loss of soil fertility, environmental degradation, unsafe and food insecurity..the farmers are small scale in nature which means that their incomes are meager and hardly enough for initiating other economic initiatives. This is worsened during the dry seasons when the productivity of the crop is lowest- translating to difficult livelihoods. Sad but true is that bought food stuffs are never satisfying, sometimes contaminated and low in quality due to such factors as financial, handling and time between picking and consumption. Rainfall variability, soil erosion, land degradation, nutrient depletion, poor access to improved inputs, shortage of labor, decreasing land-holding size, and increased costs of production are some of the constraints reported. The benefits of community-based gardening projects likely extend beyond food security, as gardens provide fresh vegetables, and the process of gardening involves physical exercise. Family and social relationships can also be strengthened through community gardening, since community members provide advice and support to help overcome challenges and all receive the benefits the gardening project offers.

      The objectives of the project are as follows:

      • To strengthen the capacity of the women, youth groups and communities.
      • To increase the knowledge and transferable skills on issues such as cultivation, conservation, agricultural and environmental issues.
      • To increase knowledge and skills of communities to cope with the emerging challenges compounded by food shortage.
      • To promote entrepreneurial and innovation skills among children and communities.
      • To promote self-sufficiency and to alleviate the burden of food purchase so as to concentrate available income on other pressing necessities.

      The objectives of the project was to increase the number of households which sustainably produce vegetables and fruits round the year, increase the number of households producing more varieties (at least 6) of vegetables, and increase the frequency of consumption of rich food by the most vulnerable groups.  We identified local GO and NGO partners who have ongoing development programs, who have community linkages and work with women’s groups, and who have strong management capabilities. KVK CAZRI Pali provided training and technical assistance to the agriculturists and extension agents of the partner NGOs.  The KVK nursery served as a community support service network and was focal point for demonstration and training for the group leaders and household gardeners on low-cost, low-risk garden practices.  In addition, KVK acted as the source and distribution center for seeds, seedlings and saplings, demonstration of new plant varieties, and center for community mobilization and organization.   Five to ten working groups of approximately 20 people each were formed per cluster to participate in the gardening program and a group leader or selected individual was identified to manage the unit. The group leader also facilitates nutrition and health education through peer education among the groups.

      Technical assistance is provided by the KVK was based on the needs of the households and was designed to reinforce and improve existing positive gardening and consumption practices.  All activities of the project are monitored in an interactive way by the KVK, CAZRI and ATARI.  A quarterly monitoring survey of a random sample of the kitchen garden and participating households was used to gather information on nursery development, production and distribution of vegetables and seeds, household level production and consumption.  It served useful as a management tool for the evaluation and monitoring overall progress of the program.

      Funding and technical assistance of your example 

      The Kitchen Gardens Project is being funded by ATARI, Jodhpur which comes under the Ministry of Agriculture and farmers welfare. Apart from ATARI funds are also provided by ATMA under this activity for training and capacity building programmes. In addition to this ATMA also provides funding for different extension activities like demonstrations, assessment, refinement, validation, and training on technological advancement taking place in to make it more viable and remunerative. KVK Pali is also serving as a resource centre of latest agriculture technologies where the farmers can come, learn and take away the technological inputs and necessary guidelines. The technical guidance was mainly provided by scientists of KVK consisting of experts on agronomy soil science horticulture extension and home science. it was further supported by scientist from Central Arid Zone research Institute, officers from department of agriculture, department of horticulture,NABARD,cooperative society and NGOs. Further assistance was also sought from different experts from state agriculture university and different ICAR institutes dealing in vegetables.

      Key stakeholders involved. Describe the cross-sectoral coordination mechanism of your example, if any 

      The KVK scientists worked hard to build the capacity of community/ society members and made an effort to develop Kitchen gardens at every village level. The interventions like capacity building on formation of kitchen garden societies, production technologies, quality assurance, storage and marketing were regularly made for their smooth functioning.

      How your example addresses food security and nutrition challenges. Describe linkages to social protection policies / school food programs / sustainable food systems 

      In recent decades, the safe and regular access of food to many rural households has become uncertain, creating concerns of food security. Therefore, safe food production and secure food supply are critical issues for low-income countries and it is important to develop all possible methods for the production and distribution of food .Malnutrition is a serious public health problem in rural India. Local diets have undergone stark changes since the past generation. With the adoption of wheat-based food, consumption of once-popular millets has drastically reduced. Only a handful of households consume millets now. Due to lack of vegetables and proteins in diet malnutrition is a common problem which retards child growth, increases the risk and duration of illness, reduces work output, and slows social and mental development. Malnutrition among women of reproductive age is also a major problem. Improving nutritional status, including micronutrient status, can lead reduced maternal morbidity and mortality. For poor households, vegetables and fruits are often the only source of micronutrients in the family diet. Homestead production of fruits and vegetables provides the household with direct access to important nutrients that may not be readily available or within their economic reach. Therefore, home gardening is the best means to improve household food security. Equally important, home gardening has been shown to be a source of additional income, because the household can sell a portion of the garden’s produce. The additional income is generally utilized to purchase supplementary food items, further increasing the diversification of the family’s diet.  Home gardening is especially important in overcoming seasonal availability of foods and promoting household self-sufficiency. Home gardening activities are centered on women and it can also increase the income of women, which may result in the better use of household resources and improved caring practices and empowerment. This empowerment of women also addresses a priority area of poverty alleviation and provides important socio-economic returns through lower health and welfare costs, lower fertility, and lower maternal and infant mortality rates. Thus, the simultaneous impact of home gardening programs in terms of giving women a voice and promoting their full participation in domestic life can make an important contribution to the overall development of communities.

      By this project it is expected that every household learns how to establish and maintain a Kitchen garden. This garden contain skillfully mixed and diverse crops including indigenous vegetables, cereals and root crops designed to provide balanced diet to the families. It ultimately will support and contribute to a just, self reliant rural community which is social-economic and environmentally conscious and sustainable. Its execution adds value to our mandate of building capacity to ensure communities continuous learning and practice of organic farming in rural areas. Home gardens also provide a number of ecosystem services such as habitats for animals and other beneficial organisms, nutrient recycling, reduced soil erosion, and pollination. Nutrient cycling is another ecological benefit of home gardens. . In India maximum rural population have livestock in addition to agriculture whose dung and urine can easily be used for kitchen garden for better yield and quality. The abundance of plant and animal litter and continuous recycling of organic soil matter contributes to a highly efficient nutrient cycling system. Another potential benefit of home gardens is the reduction of soil erosion and land conservation. The attraction of honey bees provides added benefits including improved pollination and increased fruit dispersal .Individuals of the household, animals, and plants all maintain a symbiotic relationship within the home gardens. For instance, the plants and animals provide food and other benefits for the family and the family in turn takes care of the home gardens. Plant materials are used as fodder for the animals and animal manure is incorporated into the compost to fertilize plants, hence reducing the need for chemical fertilizer. Livestock and poultry manure can add a significant amount of organic soil matter, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus into the soil. The integration of livestock activities into home gardening can expedite nutrient cycling in ecosystem and help retain moisture.

      What are the elements needed for the practice to be institutionally, socially, economically and environmentally resilient and/or sustainable? 

      To sustain benefits, the project, provides for the farmers to learn, practice, share and facilitate circulation of the knowledge (continued learning) among them. The farmers must be enthusiastic, seek and able to collaborate with others who mean to raise their standards in a sustainable way. The mobilization planning and implementing of the project must be participatory by way of involving the beneficiaries through their elected representatives in all stages and events of the project. The organized learning groups were encouraged to interact and work together in same, similar or bigger common interest groups. That provided benefitting from one another in experience and idea sharing and networking with other agencies long after the project period. The project intends to use the whole family approach in order to enhance on its adoption by different social groups and broaden awareness, develop skills and team work in the households. It therefore worked with the men, women and the youth alike. Although there is a slight likelihood of more women participating, the project will encourage the involvement in all activities of wives and their husbands as well as the out-of school young people from the participating households. The decisions related to the selection of crops, procuring inputs, harvesting, management, and so forth are mostly driven by the consumption and income generation needs of the household. Access to best planting material suiting to agroclimatic situation and socio economic acceptance are very much required for making the project viable. Despite the fact that home gardening activities demand a lesser amount of horticultural and agronomic know-how, crop losses and other negative implications can be reduced when the household members are empowered with better skills and knowledge. Technical support is especially important when new gardening techniques are being promoted such as growing new or increased number of varieties or year-round vegetable production.  Training and other group activities around a central demonstration garden can serve to demonstrate different varieties, hybrids or other important garden techniques such as live fencing, composting, use of natural pesticides, year round production etc. Similar to understanding the indigenous approach to gardening, an understanding of the cultural context and feeding practices and constraints will guide nutrition education to achieve sustainable behavioral changes.  The garden can also be utilized as a focal point for nutrition education and social marketing to promote increased consumption of micronutrient rich foods. In addition, messages about a variety of other the issues that influence nutrient absorption and overall health such as prevention of childhood illness, timing of meals/foods, intake of tea and other factors that inhibit nutrient absorption can be presented to households and discussed among mothers and household members.

      The impact of your example on national policies and people’s lives. What indicators have been used to measure it?

      Vegetable Cultivation through kitchen garden concept has not only economically empowered marginal and small farmers but also brought social transformation in backward district (Pali) of Rajasthan. The vegetable cultivation among small and marginal farmers in the area is gaining popularity. The most fundamental social benefit of kitchen gardens is their contributions to household food security by increasing availability, accessibility, and utilization of food product. Home gardens are maintained for easy access to fresh plant and animal food sources in rural locales. Food items from home gardens add substantially to the family energy and nutritive requirements on a continuous basis. For poor and marginalized families unable to afford expensive animal products to fulfill their nutritional needs, home gardens offer a cheap source of nutritive foods. Through gardening, households can have better access to a diversity of plant and animal food items that lead to an overall increase in dietary intake and boost the bioavailability and absorption of essential nutrients. Food insecurity and economic hardships force people to consume less and to settle for food that is of low nutritional quality. Kitchen gardens overcome the adverse health effects due to inadequate intake of basic macronutrients and micronutrient deficiency by providing sufficient nutrients vitamins and minerals. More farmers are diversifying existing cropping system and adopting vegetable cultivation for higher return. In Pali, more than 60 percent farmers have adopted hybrid seed vegetable cultivation they purchasing hybrid seeds at their own cost. Vegetable crops viz., tomato, chilli, okra, brinjal, bottle guard, onion, cucumber, muskmelon, kachra and kachri were introduced and promoted in the area of 419.36 ha at the field of 443 farmers. The major interventions were seed treatment, ridge sowing, drip method of irrigation and fertigation, mulching, nursery management techniques, staking in tomato, improve varieties/hybrids and improved production technologies. For disease free vegetable seedlings and planting materials KVK, Pali promoted pro-tray vegetable seedling production in shed net house. In vegetable crops, the production varied from 240 to 290 q/ha in tomato, 155 to 184 /ha in chilli, 248 to 270 q/ha in brinjal, 268 to 300 q/ha in bottle guard, 184 to 220 q/ha in onion, 138 to 154 q/ha in cucumber, 138 to 150 q/ha in muskmelon, 120 to 125 q/ha in kachra and 105 to 115 q/ha in kachri, respectively. The initial target of the project was to reach 300 farmers and community based organizations. To date, the project has reached an average of 1260 farmers and SHG which shows that the target of reaching 300 community gardens per year has been reached and surpassed. The income due to cultivation with innovative technologies has risen and this intervention generated additional employment and income ranged between Rs. 30,000 to 1, 50,000 from 1.0 ha land.

      At various stages during the implementation of the study structured survey and evaluation of entire parameters was conducted comprising the beneficiaries and the non beneficiaries. government organizations and NGOs working in the pilot study area helped to identify the success and failure indicators and test practical solutions to these constraints.

      Key lessons (positive and negative) that can be learned from your example and how gaps, obstacles and any other adverse conditions were addressed 

      Kitchen gardens are mainly intended to grow and produce food items for family consumption, but they can be diversified to produce outputs that have multiple uses including indigenous medicine and home remedies for certain illnesses, kindling and alternative fuel source, manure, building material, and animal feed. The project has enhanced the availability of green and fresh vegetable and balance food to farmer community. It is thus, promoting the food and nutritional security to weaker society in these areas. Thus kitchen gardens in total help to:

      1. Improved food security
      2. Increased availability of food and better nutrition through food diversity
      3. Income and enhanced rural employment through additional or off-season production
      4. Decreased risk through diversification;
      5. Environmental benefits from recycling water and waste nutrients, controlling shade, dust and erosion, and maintaining or increasing local biodiversity

      A number of program constraints were discovered during the pilot study through a continuous monitoring and evaluation system.

      1. In the present design of the intervention, it is a challenge to include families with neither farmland nor homestead land and to use spaces near such households optimally, to grow food.
      2. Among several constraints, the access to suitable and sufficient land to establish a home garden along with lack of ownership and usage rights of some form as the most important limiting factors.
      3. Secondly we need a regular supply of quality seed and other inputs, without which they were unable to sustain a change in gardening practices. 
      4. The other constraints include access to capital or credit, weak extension and advisory services, access to labor, and access to markets.
      5. The cultural acceptance of home gardening is also an important constraint.
      6. Poor soil fertility, inadequate fencing and poor irrigation are other constraints.

      These issues were resolved through common cultivation in a joint way and use of common lands where sufficient facilities prevail. Local authorities and agriculture staff at was involved in the facilitation and selection of beneficiaries .Selection criteria of beneficiaries was uniform and it prioritized beneficiaries according to activeness and need. Training on vegetable production and other related topics was provided to selected beneficiaries before being supplied with garden kits.

      Other Issues

      When kitchen garden are developed which build on the traditional practices, local conditions and cultural context, they can be a sustainable means to improve micronutrient intakes of high-risk groups and improve household food security. In addition, home gardening programs can be implemented successfully and cost-effectively on a national-scale using a collaborative model that fits local conditions.

      The crucial role women play in the program activities was also identified during the pilot program.  Women are the main care-takers of the garden, which empowers them, ensures better utilization of the income from the garden for food, and increases family welfare. All these benefits are important contributions towards poverty alleviation.

      In present era farmers are hardest hit by the effects of climate change and therefore needs to be thoroughly equipped for their resilience, adaptation and contribute meaningfully to mitigation of the setbacks. The project targeted to work with the farmers to build and fine tune their capacity in managing farm resources and emphasizing on composting as a basic component to build long-term soil fertility and establish rich family kitchen gardens for each participating household. This will go a long way to improving the food/nutrition security as well as raise the incomes by growing own food as opposed to market reliance and selling of the surpluses.

      Finally, in addition to the agriculture and nutrition-related issues that would be addressed in the development of a larger-scale home gardening program, project also identified the need for adequate management and human resources to implement a large-scale community program to increase the consumption of vegetables in rural communities. 

      Sources and/ or additional background material

      Project photographs