The Vasandham Society was started in 1987 to offer basic medical facilities to people in the remote Varusanadu Valley of the Vaigai River in India. Its villages are situated on steep hillsides that are not serviced by buses due the absence of roads.
The valley was once covered in dense forest, but large areas were deforested to make room for villages and to provide land for agriculture as people moved into the area. As a result, the area has suffered soil erosion, top soil degradation and a severely depleted water table level that was aggravated by continued drought.
The Vasandham Society now operates four programmes in 120 hamlets, reaching a total population of around 60,000. As agriculture is the mainstay in this area, they include programmes to improve the villagers’ knowledge of sustainable agricultural practices and to encourage them to begin tree planting projects to prevent further soil erosion:
“We initiated a scheme in four villages, giving them seedlings to start with, and then taught them how to grow their own. We gave them training in how to use contour banding to minimise soil erosion and informed them of government schemes that provided assistance and subsidised seedlings. These projects have been a real success and we have had requests from many other villages for similar training.”
The Vasandham Society has also introduced the use of azolla to the region:
“Regarding azolla, first we produced it and fed to our traditional cows. They did not eat for the first few days and then later they started to eat. We are also making fertilizers and pesticides from cow dung, urine, pulses and leaves such as Neem leaves. We only involve the community after seeing the results from our demonstration plot.”
We have azolla we have four pits in which we grow azolla with very good result. So we given training to our community and it is now grown in two villages and four other have begun to grow Azolla.”
Kunasekaran Kathiriya (“Guna”) of the Vasandham Society contacted the Azolla Foundation in August 2013 and we are working with Guna to provide more information about azolla and how it can be used to provide sustainable agriculture to the villages of the Varusanadu Valley, including its use as a fertilizer.
Guna can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Vasandham Society also works closely with the UK’s Village Service Trust to overcome poverty, injustice and poor health in India.