Hydroponics for India-A Solution for Poverty and Hunger, Sustainability and Livelihood.
By Peggy Bradley
Institute of Simplified Hydroponics USA
And Lt Cdr (retd) CV Prakash
Optimus Interweave Australia and;
Institute of Simplified Hydroponics, India
"Poverty is the worst form of violence."
Before his assassination in 1948, Gandhi prophesied that from each drop of his blood a new Gandhi would be born on earth. His dream has been realized in leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Corazon Aquino who follow Gandhi’s non-violent movement. Now we have an opportunity to follow his lead in working to end hunger and poverty in India.
According to UN estimates, India has the most hungry people. Over 200 million, or about one-fifth of India’s population, is chronically hungry. About half Indian children are classified as undernourished with a large percentage born with protein deficiency affecting brain development and learning capacity.
Fuel costs have doubled the costs of some vegetables in the past year. This makes life more difficult for the 800 million people in India who live on less than $2 a day.
In India 440 million people languish at the bottom of the economic pyramid and about 500,000 children are born deformed each year due to vitamin/mineral deficiencies. (India Together website)
Twenty-two percent of childhood disease in India is caused by malnutrition. Half of the 2.3 million deaths of children is caused by lack of food and malnutrition.
Potential for Simplified Hydroponics
From the point of view of a family in hunger, their labour is often the only thing of value to help obtain food. Yet over their heads, there is enough solar energy to grow some of the family food requirements. The labour involved is very little, the cost of set up and operation can be just pennies.
The 400 million people without enough food can be estimated to be about 100 million families. If a simplified hydroponic garden cost $100 to set up and operate, the total cost to the country would be 10 billion dollars.
In planning a food program for India utilizing Simplified Hydroponics, the cost can be borne by or supplied by the poor themselves through microcredit that helps families start their own gardens.
A Family Garden in India
For thousands of years, the human population provided for their own needs, often with the help of a vegetable garden. In recent times, with industrialization, more and more people no longer have gardens and rely on their labour to produce money to buy food.
Most daily foods in India include basic ingredients of ginger, garlic and onion. All three of these are very easy to grow in hydroponic culture. The onions can be grown in a bed grower and produce 120 full size onions in 90 days, or about one and a third onions a day.
Ginger is grown as a bush plant in a root grower and pieces are cut off as needed. If it is used every day, perhaps two plants might be needed.
Garlic grows more slowly in hydroponic culture. It can take 180 days to produce a full size bulb from a clove. So perhaps as much as 3 square meters may be needed to produce the family garlic needs.
Tomatoes are a standard in hydroponics, very easy to grow and eight plants should provide one or two tomatoes a day. Eggplant is another very easy plant to grow and six plants should provide one eggplant a day.
Potato and carrot are also easy to grow but should be grown in deeper tubs to provide root growing room.
While lettuce is not eaten very often, the people in India gather wild greens to eat as a vegetable. These greens can be grown in hydroponic culture.
There are advantages to creating and having a simplified hydroponic garden. Right now, in India the prices of food are going up rapidly due to higher costs of fertilizers and transportation. With your own garden many of these costs disappear. The fertilizer cost for 100 pounds of vegetables should only be about $1.50.
If every hungry family is India had a home hydroponic garden, there would be 100 million gardens producing 300 million to 400 million pounds of food every day. The produced food would add 500 calories to each person's diet. With some planning these calories would be the vitamin rich and also improve the quality of life with a varied richer diet.
Some of the owners of simplified hydroponics will be likely to expand their gardens to produce foods for neighbours or nearby markets. It is possible that one out of ten can produce enough to provide the family with an extra five to ten dollars a day. This would mean that of the 400 million making less than $2.00 a day, perhaps as many as 40 million would at least double family income.
For each person now making $2.00 a day or less, most of the daily income is spent on food. With the hydroponic garden this need is reduced, and they can buy the rice, beans lentils and wheat in bulk, perhaps creating a small food supply. This increases national food security, a population more prepared for emergencies.
A reliable steady supply of fresh vegetables should improve overall health of the population. Children now suffering from malnourishment should be better developed and healthier.
As the simplified gardens become established in the country, more potential can be realized by people whose talent and ability is now under utilized. The people with gardens, and some food security, have an opportunity to increase their income and economic security.
A garden is a real joy for most families. It makes obtaining food much easier, and the quality of the food grown should match the best vegetables grown anywhere in the world. So the daily food becomes enjoyable and helps to improve overall quality of life. Favourite foods that were too expensive can now be grown for just pennies.
A garden can be started for about $100 investment and labour of about one to two hours a day. It needs a space of 20 square meters, but smaller gardens can also be built on rooftops, balconies, sunny patios.
As the gardens become established technology they can easily be designed into new housing, and retrofitted into much of the existing housing.
A garden starts to be productive within 60 days and fully productive in 90 days. With a protective structure the garden can also be productive in difficult climates of too much rain or cold. This structure may cost $100 to $400 in India.